Tofu is so easy…(not!)…Part 1

The truth is, vegetarians can get by without tofu these days. It’s not absolutely necessary. I can go weeks without giving it a thought, and then have a week like this week when I have purchased 4 containers! I’m striving to make the perfect tofu…because somehow it always seems to taste the best at restaurants or prepared by someone else, and that is frustrating.

Here is part 1 of what I have picked up on about tofu so far. (Side note, I only buy extra-firm tofu, so these tips may not apply to the softer tofus).

Pressing is essential! I mean it really is. I have had some really bad results over the years when I did not grasp this. Some, if not most, cookbooks and sources recommend this method, which I will call the brute force method: Drain tofu, place on cutting board, lined with kitchen towel or paper towels. Place more paper towel or towel on top of tofu block, then another cutting board, then place as many heavy books on the top as you can. Maybe a chemistry book from your past can come in handy here. BUT, here is what can happen…a thunderous crash ensues, books tumble into the sink, time is spent to reassemble this craziness so you can get the extra moisture out of that darned tofu. Tofu does not seem to want to release its moisture in perfect symmetry; hence the books are always sliding off to one side. Or as happened to me once, the tofu just breaks up under this overwhelming weight into a messy heap…then it is impossible to slice or cut into nice cubes like I prefer. I don’t want “heap-a-tofu” for dinner.

Here is my latest method, inspired by Mark Bittman, whose book “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” is yielding some nice tips. He is in the gentle school of tofu pressing, pressing with 1-2 pounds of weight. Now I drain it, place the block on the cutting board with 1-2 layers of paper towel on it. I put more paper towel on top of the block and then a mini cutting board. On top of this is one nice little 16 oz. can of anything. Then I leave it alone for 30 minutes to several hours. When I pressed some moister Nasoya brand tofu last night, I replaced the paper towels a few time because they became saturated quickly. Here’s my method:

Why press? It cooks better, firms up a little better, and soaks up flavors better, which is what tofu does best. How to cook it? Lots of options there also. My favorite method I had used and enjoyed eating before this week, was pressing, marinating, and then broiling. It was time consuming and messy to clean up, but delicious. However this week I used a method I felt was less intensive (but worked for me as I was home and doing multiple tasks at once). This method can be summarized as pressed, marinated, baked. It worked just as promised, so no need to hover near the oven. My method and recipe were adapted from one of my favorite books “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I used 1 block of tofu, 1 cup of a local sweet and slightly tangy barbecue sauce, a rough 2/3 tsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp canola oil.

Directions:

1. Drain and press tofu at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes cut your block of tofu into 8 slices, as if cutting bread.

2. Mix BBQ sauce, soy sauce, canola oil. I marinated one hour.

3. After marinating one hour, I sprayed my cooking sheet with non-stick spray, and baked the slices at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I flipped them at this point, and cooked 10 more.

4. Serve any way you want! I ate my BBQ slices over plain quinoa with cooked broccoli mixed in the same bowl. I also had one slice with warm macaroni and cheese I had fixed.

The verdict: one son tried it and stated he did not like tofu, which was expected. Other son (victim of the great Tofu incident of February 2012–we won’t go into details in midst of a recipe) is not ready to eat tofu again. However, success was achieved when we rushed out to a program at the school (hence the rushed picture I took) and husband came home from soccer and polished most of it off! I had the last slice at work the next day over quinoa and the flavors were even better.

In the next week I plan to try a new recipe with sprouted tofu (supposedly easier to digest-I have to learn more about this) and tofu on the grill. I need to find out if the Tuesday Farmer’s Market is open too.

One last fun thing–I made these business cards on Vistaprint to hand out to friends in case they want to check the blog out. Just arrived today as I worked on this post. I loved the design they had with the veggies. I did black out my phone number for this picture.

I’d love to hear how you cook tofu! Have a good week.

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8 thoughts on “Tofu is so easy…(not!)…Part 1

  1. I strongly agree with your sentiment about pressing tofu. I use the EZ Tofu Press, it takes 5-15 minutes to fully dry firm or extra firm tofu. It absorbs flavors and cooks better! You also save on wasting a lot of paper towels!!!

  2. I never thought of pressing the extra firm tofu…will have to give it a try next time I make our Pad Thai…it is the only way, so far, that my husband will eat tofu. I have yet to venture farther but you are inspiring me to try marinating and baking it! Thanks!

  3. Susan, a press like EZ Tofu press is great for firm and extra firm tofu. The EZ Tofu Press is $26.99 on Amazon (free shipping); I like to press and cut, then add marinade. Used the Iron Chef General Tso’s from Whole Foods the other day, it was really really good! Just add basmati rice and broccoli!

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