Right after Christmas, I decided to stop eating meat... well, sorta. I'm not longer eating domesticated animals. I'm still eating fish, and I would eat wild game as well. This decision is a whole nother topic all in itself and definitely not the topic of this post. It's simply a segue into the real topic - tofu. Don't be scared. I was at first, but once I realized that I had to eat and feed my fiance something, and that this weird spongy thing might have some potential, it was all ok.
So let's start with people's major complains about tofu.
Complaint #1) It has a weird texture. True, raw tofu is wet and spongy. Fortunately, most preparations of it involve cooking it. Not only that, but they should involve pressing much of the water out of it beforehand. Before you do anything with your first block of tofu, fold two paper towels and sandwich your tofu between them. Put it on a plate then place something heavy on top of it - another plate and a can of tomatoes, anything cast-iron, Goodman and Gillman's (yes, you finally have a use for it...sorry, nonpharmacists probably won't get that). Let that sit for at least 30 minutes. Now you're ready to use your tofu.
Complaint #2) It's bland. True, plain tofu is bland and boring. However, cooked and seasoned tofu is only as bland and boring as the cook who made it. (Yes, if your cooked tofu is bland, it's your own damn fault.) Because tofu has very little flavor of its own, it is a blank canvas for taking on any flavor you want to give it. So far my favorite things to put on my tofu have been Asian-inspired. It's a very intuitive place to start with it. I usually start with a prepared sauce of sorts (hoisin, spicy Szechuan, Thai peanut) and doctor it up a little to suit my taste.
Complaint #3) It's hard to cook. Now this couldn't be further form the truth. You just don't know how to cook it, yet. Hopefully that ends now.
Let's pick up our tofu where we last left it - in our MacGyver'ed tofu press. I start by slicing it at least into little filets about 1/4" thick, then go smaller depending on the final preparation. I leave it as filets if I'm serving it with a side veggie and/or starch (much like I would with a meat dish). If I'm making a stir-fry or some other one-dish wonder, I'll cut the filets into sqaures then down to triangles (2 squares per filet and 2 triangles per square). To cook it, just throw it an a hot pan. Usually I put some cooking spray down and lay my triangles just one layer deep so that they all cook about the same. Then I flip them when I start to see some color and let them get color on the second side as well. It gets a little crispy on the outside while staying soft on the inside. Be careful not to cook it on too low of heat, or it just gets rubbery.
So now here's a recipe. It's actually what I made for dinner tonight and what inspired me to right about my new culinary friend.
|Please excuse my less-than-neat presentation. I reused the bowl I mixed the sauce it. |
I probably watch too much Chopped if I actually think you care.
Get some rice cooking. I love my rice cooker - I just turn it on and let it go. It turns itself off when the rice is done.
Start with a large skillet and some olive oil over medium heat. Throw in some sliced mushrooms, and diced peppers and onion. Diced or shredded carrot also goes well in here. While the veggies are getting some color, mix up your sauce.
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (It's like Asian barbecue sauce. I thought about buying this so many times before I finally did, and I'll never let my pantry be without it now.)
soy sauce, sriracha sauce, sesame oil to taste (start with a few splashes of each then go from there)
When your veggies start to caramelize a little, dump them onto a plate or into a bowl and set them aside. Then put your tofu triangles into the pan in a single layer. By the time I managed to squeeze them all into the pan, the first ones I had put down were ready to flip. Then by the time the tofu was done, so was my rice. Turn off the heat and throw everyone in the pan - veggies, rice, and sauce - then stir it all up until the sauce coats everything evenly.That's it. Super fast. Super simple. Super customizable - Play with the sauce, use noodles instead of rice, mix up the veggies. Have fun with it. Make it your own. You might even come to like this weird little vegetarian food.