Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tofu Solution

I wanted to bring to light some of the discoveries I've made over the last week regarding our favorite protein source; tofu. As you may know from previous columns, creating any kind of tasty tofu dish has been a challenge, especially when competing with some of the local restaurants and their specialized fried tofu. Well, I've learned some secrets and I hope they might help you enjoy our typically bland friend, and I've learned of a great shortcut which I'll reveal at the end of the article.

Weekend research:

What is it with tofu- seems to lack absorbancy, especially of any flavor, and loves to crumble apart in stir-fry. Check it:

To increase absorbancy, and to enhance texture, there is a two-step process.

1)PRESSING: here's what I did; take the block of tofu, and sandwich it between two big plates; on the top plate, place a pitcher of water or some other heavy item to assist in the compression. Be wary that it may not compress evenly so as not to spill your water- balance it out as you go. Give it about 5 minutes, then remove the pitcher and pour off the water that was expelled. Do this process one more time, and allow to compress for 5-10 minutes; pour off the excess and proceed to step 2.
2)BLANCHING: this step aides in giving the tofu more texture and flavor retainability. Bring a good sized pot of water to a rolling boil; I added nothing to the water; not even salt. Now, slice up the tofu into whatever sized pieces you typically enjoy; slabs if you like. Drop them into the boiling water (carefully) and be sure to separate the pieces once submerged else they will stick to each other. Blanch for no more than 5 minutes, then remove the pieces from the water with a strainer-type slotted spoon to a bowl of some sort- you will need to pour off some of the excess water after a minute or so.

From there, it is up to you, whether you like to marinate or add as you go. I actually marinated the tofu for about 30 minutes before I baked at 375degF for another 45 minutes. The marinade:

2 tblsp Braggs
1 tblspn Vegan worcestershire
1 tblspn white wine
1 tblspn rice wine vinegar
2 tspn Thai Chili Garlic Paste (make sure vegan)
2 tblspn finely chopped onion
2 tspn finely chopped garlic (1 or two cloves)

Turn the tofu once while baking; I used a medium sized rectangle pan- too big and you'll scorch the marinade, too small and the tofu won't get a great exterior texture.

Better double the recipe if you are serving 2; we killed the whole thing in minutes, along with a simple veggie stir-fry and a side of quinoa.

So, I realize and respect that the above being a bit time-consuming may not be appropriate for everybody; unless one can designate an evening to spend a little more time preparing and cooking. A “television-off” night for instance. Or have it in place of Sunday night chicken dinner. I'm telling you it comes close! And if you are a full-time vegan, what a gift from above. However I digress; back to those of you poor on time, I have a solution for you as well.

THE SHORTCUT: We found an “infused tofu” at the grocer that is pre-packaged and flavored through-out. Simply pan-fry it, and you are good to go. This stuff too, will go fast so double what you make; and enjoy it.

All the leftovers were gone by lunch today, so for dinner I'm having an enormous potato “hashbrown pancake”

that I made by grating 2 huge red potatoes from the farmer's market and frying in safflower oil with a bit of chopped onion; served with some tomato sauce and garlic. Suffering right?

PS. Almost forgot another “found”; gluten-free/dairy-free Bavarian bread.


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