Friday, May 4, 2012

So...What are You Gonna Do With that Tofu? Plus Recipe

I don't know if it is because I live in Wyoming, a decidedly non-vegan state, or because I just have a certain look about me, but it seems I am asked about tofu a lot. When I go through the checkout line at the grocery store the checkout lady will often wonder, "So....what are you going to do with that tofu?" People in line behind will lean in to hear me discuss this alien substance. Possibly they are just looking at me like I am some kind of circus performer who eats strange things, this is Wyoming after all.

tofu mysterious

I know I have discussed tofu a few different time on this blog, but I thought I would occasionally (when I feel like it) share some of the ways that I use tofu. So, for those of you who are new to tofu let's start at the terrifying beginning shall we?

What is tofu? 
Well, the answer may make your pulse race in terror---it is bean curd made from fermenting soy milk. You sold yet? Let me reassure you a bit. Tofu is high in complete protein and iron it is often high in calcium as well, but low in calories and fat.

What kind of tofu should I buy?
So, perhaps you made the decision to buy some tofu and you found yourself in the store looking at all the variety, overwhelmed. Tofu comes in silken, firm and extra firm varieties and you can even find pre-flavored and marinated tofu in some stores. Silken tofu is very soft and slimey. Usually people use silken tofu in smoothies and other recipes where it can blend down into nothingness. Firm and Extra Firm tofu are a bit more sturdy and will hold their shape better. I generally recommend that people start with extra firm tofu for cooking and to try silken tofu in a smoothie.

What does tofu taste like?
I tend to say that tofu tastes like nothing. I suppose it has a mild and identifiable soy taste. Usually people tell me their horror story of how they bought tofu, brought it home, open the water filled package and tried a bite....ummmm why? Cordelia is the only person I have ever known who enjoys just eating tofu as is. The great thing about tofu is that is absorbs the flavors around it, so you can make it taste however you like.

So, what do I do with tofu?
Well, usually I start people in at the shallow end. I teach them how to prepare cubed tofu which can be used in a variety of non-threatening ways. Here, why don't I just show you how I do it....

First you will want to remove the tofu from the package and drain away the water. Some people are really serious about pressing out the water, but I am pretty lazy. If I have a finicky looking recipe I might press and drain the tofu (gets all extra water out for maximum flavor absorption) but for today just drain off any water that it was packed in.

she loves tofu

So, then you will have a block of tofu looking up at you expectantly. Cordelia kept asking me if she could lick it, the girl is weird about plain tofu.

gleaming the cube

Put it on your cutting board and slice it (see the photo above) into approximately 1/2 inch slices, then cube it.

tofu in the pan with olive oil

Next you will want to grab a large non-stick skillet and add the tofu, a splash of olive oil (like 1-2 tsp.) and a dash of garlic powder (1/4 tsp.). You can add salt or pepper if you like, but I generally keep it simple as this tofu can go in several different recipes.

sauteed tofu

Turn the heat on medium high and let those cubes cook for about 15 minutes, move them around a bit from time to time, but don't hover and poke. Once the tofu is nicely golden it is done.

Now...what to do with this. Here are a few ways to use cubed tofu.
  • Toss it on a salad like croutons. I keep a container of it in my fridge and toss it into salads over the course of several days
  • Coat with sweet and sour sauce and serve with rice and steamed veggie
  • Toss it into a curry
  • Put it into a salad wrap
tofu wrap
We had it in a simple salad wrap (tortillas, organic mixed greens, ripe avocado, olives, tomato, tofu, vegan dressing of choice) last night, it is one of our summer favorites.


Susan Struck said...

I can testify to the fact that tofu can taste quite yummy!

Kate said...

"I tend to say that tofu tastes like nothing." I don't know how many times I've said that over the last 15 years! I've also explained that if you've had tofu in a dish and it tasted nasty, try a different recipe BECAUSE it takes on its neighbors flavors. There should be a tofu awareness day.

Victoria said...

Thank you so much for this! You know, your Blog title is a great name for a cookbook...hint,hint.
I can't wait to try this!

Emily said...

I've had the salad wrap and concur on its yumminess. :)

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I ever heard you talk about a certain food with such conviction! Tofu is a favorite of mine, and like you, I find it tastes like nothing unless you add something to it. The texture is like rubber to me. I sometimes wish they made it in smaller packages because I only eat it one once or twice per week and the whole package is too much for me. (not enough fridge and freezer space in an apartment size fridge!)

Anonymous said...

I have a question As my husband is not vegetarian and would not eat it and tofu is expensive in France how long will this keep in the fridge after it is cooked . Love the Blog and love seeing Cordelia my Grandchild live in England your Mum Dad are so lucky to have so much contact with her .

Maria Rose said...

I have kept tofu in my fridge for 5 days after opening and/or cooking. You can also freeze tofu, it does change the texture though, makes it chewier which some people prefer.
~Thanks for reading!

Court said...

Great tips and I learned stuff! I've been a mostly vegetarian (I eat dairy, eggs and fish) for twenty years and it ain't so easy in Texas. Everything is barbecue down here. I love baking it up with barbecue sauce to 'fit in'.

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