Saturday, October 11, 2008

hey, I could make tofu taste good

In a move that some people might call ironic, my move to veganism involved a move away from tofu as a staple. Because the reasons I left meat and dairy are led by environmental concerns, it makes sense also to question the soy mega-industry in America. The tofu I do buy is organic (Trader Joe's is a good source for this, cheap) but I'm wary of monocultures both in our farmlands and in my body.

BUT tofu is still a convenient, versatile source of protein for an exhausted student. And if you're gonna cook it, cook it right.

The way I start most stir-fry type recipes involving tofu is the same. Where you go from there is what changes a bland, boring basic into a culinary event. So:

Start with extra-firm tofu. I guess firm is okay too, but why not go for it and get the good stuff. It's the same price anyway. They (the vegetarian food police) say you should always press your tofu before you cook with it, to get all that extra water out. I never do this because I am too impatient and because it doesn't seem to make much difference as long as you cook it right. I do dump the block onto my cutting board and press it (over the sink) with my hand for a few seconds, like squeezing a big sponge. Good enough.

Then, heat up your biggest frying pan on low heat. My jury is still out on non-stick or not, but I use what I got and right now I got teflon. If you're working with something else, heat up the pan dry, then add the oil. It'll keep the food from sticking so bad. I don't know why.

While you're heating the pan, slice up your tofu. I generally just lay it big-surface-down and slice it into 1/2 inch slabs, but you can make triangles or sticks or whatever inspires you. Just don't make the pieces too small since you'll have to turn them over one by one later.

Add just a little oil. I can't say how much because it's a secret or maybe I just don't know. Just don't put in too much or you'll get oil burns, I promise. Make sure the heat is low. Then, lay your tofu down easy. If you can't fit it all in, put the rest in a container and cover it with water, then stick it back in the fridge and remember to use it up within a couple of days.

Let your little tofu buddies bubble and crackle for like five minutes or so, until you can see a little bit of brownedness creeping up from the bottom. Flip them over gently with a fork or a tiny, tiny spatula (I happen to have one of these for some reason.) If they stick, they're probably not ready. Listen to the tofus.

Repeat this process on the second side. Then, you can either pour in a glaze like this delicious one or toss in some chopped veggies and toss the whole thing around. I like to do both, and with the second option I usually top it off with some peanut sauce and dump the whole thing on some rice noodles.

If you know someone who "doesn't like tofu" make them try it this way. Then explain to them that's like not liking potatoes. Just silly.


Emily said...

A new Annie blog! This is my favorite tofu prep method too! In fact we're going to have it with taco seasoning (I prefer the bearito kind) in burritos for dinner tonight. And I am proud to point out that lots of tofu is actually locally made where I live, so it can add to my somewhat locavore kick.

Gordon said...

Annie, I'm proud of your resourcefulness.

Annie said...

too cool! we're going to start having taco night here at the Green House, so I'll have to try making it that way

thanks! nice to see you're reading. I'm way inspired by Lynnis's family blog

Innes said...

try mixing chunky peanut butter with coconut milk and grated fresh ginger--very easy, and very tasty!


Sophie said...

ooo... i am an tofu super fan! sigh. i want the spicy tofu sooooo badly right now. with rice.

Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.