Thursday, May 10, 2012

Toasty Tofu Steaks With Harissa Sauce

True confession time. I have never liked tofu. Even when others would serve it to me and swear it tasted delicious, my nose always wrinkled up as I made myself swallow the soft, rubbery, tasteless stuff. So it was, when my doctor prescribed vegan for health reasons, I tried to make peace with this block of wriggly white stuff. No luck.

Because I love all fruits and vegetables and beans and legumes and grains, eating vegan wasn't a problem. And my health improved greatly. My skin bloomed like I was twenty again. I lost weight without even meaning to. Then came the day I grew tired of the same old, same old at just about every meal. So I decided to take a closer look a the dreaded tofu.

Toasty tofu steaks
I discovered some things I hadn't known or even read about. I discovered most of them while watching the food channel during my knitting time. Every so often someone cooks with tofu. That's where I found out I could cut it into cubes and marinate it with lovely spices and herbs. That's where I realized I could cut it into steaks, toss the "steaks" in a lovely assortment of herbs and cover with breadcrumbs and fry the tofu in a bit of oil or vegan margarine.

Tofu ginger cheesecake

That's where it dawned on me that I could cut the tofu very small and add it to a big pot of pasta sauce and never have to chew down onto something squishy. That's where I saw it turned into a cheesecake that intrigued me to the point of having to make one. Oh my, was it good. Goodby cream cheese; hello tofu.
Tofu scramble with vegetables

Best yet, that is where I discovered I could use crumbled soft silken tofu mixed with leftover veggies plus spices and herbs and fry it up into an amazing look alike (and nearly taste alike) scrambled eggs.

My plan is to eventually blog all of the above recipes. The one I'm sharing today is one of my favorites because it's so quick and easy to prepare. When I first gave it a try, I was dubious. But I wasn't the only one eating it that night, so I asked my guests what they thought. Everyone agreed that the tofu steak was delicious. I had to agree. Give this recipe a try and tell me what you think.


My suggestion is to begin by making the Harissa sauce. It takes a bit of time but the end result is so worth it. This recipe makes quite a bit, so plan on storing the leftovers in your refrigerator in either a sealed jar or a plastic container.

2 red bell peppers
1 Tbs. cumin seeds, toasted
2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted
2 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted
2 tsp. caraway seeds, toasted
4 red dried chilies, seeds left inside (I don't like that much heat so I used 2 red jalapenos)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste

Put all the seeds in a dry skillet and set over a medium heat. Shake the pan now and then so the seeds don't burn. When you can smell their wonderful aroma, they are done. Remove the seeds from the heat. When they are cool enough to handle, grind them in a coffee grinder (I have one I use only for spices) or crush them by hand as best you can. Set aside.

Char the red peppers and the jalapenos on a gas flame or in an oven until they are black on all sides. Set them in a bowl and cover it with plastic to allow them to sweat. When cool enough to handle, pull the skin off by hand and remove the center and seeds. Do not rinse the flesh under water. You'll wash away too much of the fire-roasted flavor. Chop them up and set them aside.

Put the peppers and chilies into a food processor bowl and pulse them to pulverize. Add the toasted spices. Now add the garlic and tomato paste. Puree till the mixture looks homogeneous. Now add the olive oil and pulse to combine all the ingredients. Season with salt if needed. I discovered the sauce didn't need anything more, but you do what suits your own palate. Store the harissa sauce in an airtight container in your refrigerator.


1 block of extra firm tofu, any brand
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (I use the flavored breadcrumbs)
Schilling's Montreal steak seasoning

Slice the tofu block into 8 steaks, each about 3/8 of an inch thick. Slice the steaks too fat and you'll have "steak" with a squishy middle.

Firmly press each steak into the seasoned breadcrumbs till well coated on both sides. Lay the steaks on a plate or platter and sprinkle with the Montreal seasoning for a beefy taste. Allow the steaks to sit uncovered for at least an hour. They will dry out a bit and that is what you want. The end result is not only easier to pan fry, but tastes more like "meat."

Fry the tofu steaks in a mixture of olive oil and vegan margarine. I use my cast iron skillet because I can get it screaming hot. Turn the heat from high down to medium, add the oil/margarine and fry the steaks until they are golden brown on both sides. Turn often so they don't burn. The trick to making a good tofu steak is NOT to undercook, thereby leaving a soft middle. If you like a soft middle, take them off the heat earlier. I like the mouth feel of an outside crunch and a dry but meaty interior.

In the meantime, heat up some of the harissa sauce in a separate saucepan. Just before serving, spread the harissa over the steaks or serve on the side so diners can add as much or as little as desired. I served sides of corn on the cob and pan-wilted Swiss chard. Two of my guests went back for seconds on the tofu steak and since they aren't vegans, I considered it a successful dish. Truthfully, I think the harissa sauce puts this dish over the top in taste.

Vegans are always on the look-out for new recipes. Do you have
a favorite? Write and tell us about it.

1 comment:

  1. i think this sounds delicious and i will have to try it out!