When you think vegetarian, most people think tofu. When you think tofu most people think bland white rubbery substance. This makes people think that vegetarian food is bland or must be bland. A lot of people are put off by tofu because they buy a package of it and their first experience cooking and tasting it is bad. It is bland and gross – how do people eat this crap?
I am telling you now that tofu is a wonderful white glob of protein rich substance and it can taste good. I have been cooking with it for a long time now and I am going to share with you my most intimate secrets.
No not those kinds of secrets – tofu cooking secrets!
So you are asking yourself, tofu – that must mean a lot of stir frys right? Right. But there are so many other things you can do with it. First let me tell you that the fact that it is so bland is to your advantage. Why you may ask? (Why?) Well because it will take on the flavor of whatever you are cooking. And it makes a great item to marinate as well.
My favorite thing to do is to freeze the tofu over night and then thaw it out in the refrigerator. This is going to change the texture on the tofu. The texture on the firm and extra firm is going to be more sponge like and when you cook it will give it more of a “meaty” feel. The freezing process will slightly yellow the tofu. Do not be alarmed – this is normal. If you do the same with soft tofu this will give it a flaky fishy texture.
The second tip is if you purchase the tofu that comes packaged in water is to take the tofu and squeeze the water out of it. I find the best way to do this is to put the tofu in between a couple of those 3-4 cup food storage containers , flip them so the open side is down in the sink, place a plate on top and then a gallon jug of water for a few minutes. What this will do is dry out the tofu so when you cook it will soak up all the flavors of your spices, veggies, and sauce.
I have found that when cooking tofu as a meat substitute I get best results when I treat it like I would meat. Usually I will cube or triangle the previously frozen and drained firm tofu and then put it in a plastic container, add a bit of olive oil, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt or soy sauce, and sometimes a drop or two of toasted sesame oil. I will toss the ingredients together and then put in a hot oiled wok or pan and cook it until the edges brown. After the tofu has browned I will then add fresh garlic if the recipe needs it, cook a bit more and then add the veggies and finish as normal.
Another awesome way to prepare tofu is to take the frozen drained tofu and marinate it over night. I will take a full cube of tofu, put it in a plastic container and then fill it with my favorite marinade. I also like to take one of those marinating needles you can get at your local grocers, fill it with the marinade and then poke and fill the tofu with the marinade to ensure it will marinate the whole cube. Once the tofu has been marinated I will drain the tofu trying to keep as much of the juice as possible, cook the tofu as above and use the marinade for the sauce.
For a yummy “fish scampi”, I will get a piece of aluminum foil and cup it, put a piece of thawed tofu in it, then add some lemon juice, lemon and lime rounds, a nice crisp white wine (optional), a bit of olive oil, salt, red and black pepper, green onions, fresh garlic, and a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Seal up the foil and bake in the oven at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.
Tofu can also be used to make a yummy mozzarella like “cheese”, puddings, or whatever the mind can imagine. Click to view the tag I named Tofu (imagine that?) where you can find all the recipes that have tofu in them. If you have a favorite recipe, you are more than welcome to share it here. Tofu is a gift from the gods. With time and experience you will not look at tofu as just a mound of white rubbery blandness, but as a clean white pallet in which you can let your creativity shine.