>Soy curd or The Fearful Tofu.
>A friend got me thinking about tofu lately. Tofu’s got a bad rap in the Midwest- everyone’s scared of it because it’s “foreign” or maybe it’s just “ethnic”. In any case it’s not meat which is enough to have some shakin’ in their booties.
I have no idea why.
The thing is- tofu is boring. I mean BORING.
It has no flavor. It has no texture. It’s only really distinguishing quality is that it makes some people fart. It’s even white. How boring is that?
But if you’re a vegetarian and you’re making sure that you get enough protein (and us discerning vegetarians actually do think and plan to get enough) you end up eating a lot of tofu and then you discover that it can do so much more than meat can do.
2 chemical things to remember about tofu:
1) It is basically a waterlogged sponge.
2) It is basically cheese made out of soymilk (soymilk is mixed with acid creating curds and then extra liquid is removed- just like cheese. In fact I dare you to do a taste test of Indian paneer cheese and firm tofu and tell the difference).
Tofu comes in a variety of textures that are basically a spectrum from silken (very soft) to firm (um… firm. duh.). They’re used for different things.
Silken tofu is usually used to imitate a creamy dairy substance. It can be blended into smoothies, used instead of eggs in a quiche, made into a (actually not so notable) imitation of Ceaser salad dressing (yes I know I spelled that wrong).
My favorite way to use silken tofu? Alton Brown’s astonishing Mooless Chocolate Pie. I promise that if you make this dish and don’t tell anyone they won’t have ANY idea that it’s vegan. If you mix 1 cup of soy milk into the final product in the blender you can run it in the ice cream maker and no one will know that’s vegan either. But be careful about that tofu foolery- some people are extremely allergic to soy (pour souls).
My favorite way to use the moderately firm tofus is in a stir fry. There are two tricks to a great stir fried tofu- one is kind of REQUIRED, the 2nd just makes it better:
1) ALWAYS make sure to remove some of the liquid in the tofu. Puncture the container and remove the blocks. Place them on a plate and put another plate on top. Put something heavy on the 2nd plate (I use a glass measuring cup full of water). Leave it there for at least an hour- 2 or 3 hours is better, then pour the liquid off the bottom plate. If you don’t do this you’re pretty much just steaming a water-logged sponge in your skillet when you stir fry.
2) If you want you can marinate your tofu. Place your tofu in a shallow dish and cover as much of the block as possible with your marinade. If you can’t cover the whole block then plan to flip the tofu over at some point. The longer you leave the tofu in the marinade the better, at least an hour. Overnight if you can plan that far in advance (yeah right). I usually need at least a cup, if not 2 cups.
I tend to just throw a marinade together and make it whatever flavor I want, but I always include these things:
– soy sauce
– acid (vinegar or citrus juice)
– a little oil
– sugar of some sort
Some things I like in a marinade (mix and match as you please):
– sesame oil (LOVE)
– vegetarian Worcestershire sauce- just a few drops
– rice wine vinegar
– balsamic vinegar
– sherry vinegar
– hot sauce (cock rock sauce!)
– lime juice or orange juice
– jerk paste (be VERY careful. This is VERY Spicy).
– crushed Szchechuan peppercorns
– sherry or other sweet wine (port, vermouth, marsala)
– pomegranate juice
– liquid sweetner (maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, date molasses, regular molasses- I’ve got ’em all and I’m not ashamed).
At my local Asian market I can find these large flat squares of extremely firm tofu. I’ve discovered that these hold up really well for shish kebabs at summer cookouts (when everyone else is pigging out on their lamb kebabs or whatever. ick.).
I always make these the night before for the most oomf. I chop a whole bunch of vegetables into large chunks along with the tofu (also in large chunks) and I put it all in my biggest non-ice cream tupperware. I make a lot of a marinade (using the process described above)- at least two cups and I pour it all over the veggies and seal the tupperware up tight. I put it in the fridge and shake it around every hour or so until I go to bed and continue shaking it the next morning until I leave for the party.
I take my tupperware of vegetables and my skewers (soaked overnight of course to prevent burning) to the party and I spend a few minutes randomly skewering everything. And the meat eaters always come after my kebabs right away. Suckers.
I’ve discovered that the jerk sauce works especially well with the cookout kebabs. But again be CAREFUL. 1-2 tablespoons really will do it, and if you overdo it- you will know right away. And then you’ll know again later. Just sayin’.
So now do you think that tofu is mysterious and evil?