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The Journal Gazette

  • Washington Post photos Many people scoff at tofu, but ease into the ingredient with a dish like Linguine with Broccoli and Tofu.

  • Washington Post There are no rules for Stacked Deli Sandwiches with Seared Tofu.

  • Herbed Tofu Mayonnaise can be used as a spread on sandwiches or as a dipping sauce for vegetables.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018 1:00 am

Tofu is nothing to fear

Ingredient should be seen as protein to be mixed into meals

Kristen Hartke | Washington Post

Kitchen 101

All tofu starts with milk from ground soybeans. Salt and other ingredients are added to form curds, which are drained to varying degrees to form products of different consistencies. Common types of block tofu are extra-firm, firm and soft. Silken tofu goes through a slightly altered process and is not drained, giving it a smooth, custard-like texture. Another more recent addition to the field is sprouted tofu, which is made with soybeans that have sprouted; proponents argue that makes it easier to digest and a better source of certain nutrients. Most tofu you're likely to see at your grocery store is packed in water, but you may come across other tofu that is vacuum-packed or in shelf-stable cartons.

For many of the most common applications (pan-frying/sautéeing, baking, etc.), you're going to want to drain and then dry water-packed tofu. You can do this by cutting it into slabs or cubes and letting it rest on a few layers of paper towels spread on a rimmed baking sheet. If you really want to press out a lot of liquid, you can wrap the block of tofu in several layers of paper towels and place it between two trays or plates, the top of which is weighted with something heavy, such as a large can of tomatoes. Another option: Set the drained and wrapped tofu blocks on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove the paper towels, rewrap the tofu with fresh ones, and microwave on high for another 30 seconds. Repeat one or two times, until the tofu is noticeably firmer.

Freezing tofu causes the water to expand, leaving behind pockets of air that allow more marinade or sauce to penetrate. Tofu that has been frozen also gets a little closer to the texture of meat, with a spongier, chewier consistency. You can freeze any type of tofu for long-term storage. Your other option is to keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week, submerged in water you change daily.

Think about blending tofu into smoothies and salad dressings. Puree it with water to add it to a batter for falafel and other fritters. Thicken soup by blending some of it with tofu and then adding the mixture back to the pot.

– Becky Krystal, Washington Post 

Here's the trouble with tofu, at least to some Western eaters: You can't dip it in nacho cheese sauce.

Or can you?

Even as people have become accustomed to the idea of drinking soy milk lattes, the idea of eating tofu – which is, after all, just coagulated soy milk – can be a non-starter for many who see it as a weirdo ingredient limited to vegans or championed by hippies without taste buds.

In Western cuisine, tofu is not only viewed with skepticism, it tends to be practically nonexistent in our culinary repertoire. Rebranding it as “bean curd” hasn't really helped its cause, either. For some, the ick factor surrounding tofu is almost equivalent to their aversion to edible insects, even though many cultures around the world happily devour both as reliable sources of protein. But once we look at tofu as a protein that can be married with many other kinds of “typical” American ingredients, including cheese, eggs and, yes, bacon, then there is no excuse not to give tofu pride of place on the plate.

For those who want to increase their intake of healthy, plant-based proteins without necessarily giving up eggs, cheese and meat, creatively combining tofu with more familiar ingredients can be a painless, and tasty, way to take a more flexitarian approach. Extra-firm tofu can be easily crumbled into ground beef for hamburgers or thinly sliced and layered with Gruyere for a new take on a croque monsieur. Some might say it's the cheese or meat that makes the tofu bearable, but – why not?

“There are ways you can use tofu that are more familiar to Western palates,” says longtime vegetarian cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon. “There's no reason you can't mix it up.”

For Dragonwagon, that might mean blending firm tofu with Neufchatel cheese for a creamy enchilada filling, or layering it with eggy crepes. The trick is in understanding that all tofu is not created equal.

“Different kinds of tofu are as different as different cuts of meat,” Dragonwagon says.

Waterpacked firm tofu can be a marvel of versatility, whether marinated, grilled, baked, fried or pureed. Silken tofu, the shelf-stable product found in aseptic packaging, is the perfect base for a rich chocolate mousse or savory egg-free mayonnaise. It is easily adapted for use in cheesecake and pudding recipes, providing a lighter take on creamy desserts that can be a godsend for anyone with a sweet tooth who wants to have their cake, and eat it, too – but with fewer calories, less fat and more protein.

So pile that tofu high, Dagwood-style, onto your favorite deli sandwich. Wrap it in bacon, as the Japanese do, or whip it into a rummy piña colada. Splash it with Sriracha, coat it in cheddar, barbecue it on a bun.

As for dipping it in nacho cheese sauce? Don't mind if I do.

Linguine with Broccoli and Tofu

To make the dish vegan, use toasted panko bread crumbs tossed with a little salt instead of the Parmesan cheese.

One 1-pound block extra-firm tofu

1 large head broccoli

Salt, as needed

1 pound dried linguine

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Drain the tofu and pat dry with several paper towels, pressing down lightly to help remove excess water, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Trim the broccoli by removing the thickest part of the stem, then cut the thin stems and florets into bite-size pieces.

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and the pasta; cook for about 6 minutes. Add the broccoli pieces to the pot (along with the pasta); cook for about 3 additional minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is bright green and just tender. Drain and then rinse the pasta and broccoli right away with cool water. Drain well.

Heat half the oil in the same pot you used to cook the linguine and broccoli, over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the cubed tofu and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown and lightly crisped all over.

Reduce the heat to medium, then return the drained pasta and broccoli to the pot, along with the remaining 1/4 cup of oil and the minced garlic. Toss for a few minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated and warmed through. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed.

Serve right away, topping each portion with up to 2 heaping tablespoons of the Parm. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

– Adapted from “From A

Monastery Kitchen,” by Brother

Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette

(Harper & Row, 1976)

Herbed Tofu Mayonnaise

This savory spread is a perfect addition to sandwiches and burgers, as a dipping sauce for raw vegetables or even a creamy sauce for a cold pasta salad. You can also change the flavor by substituting a mix of cilantro and basil for the herbs and lime instead of lemon juice, spice it up with jalapeños or Thai chile peppers, and use roasted garlic in place of fresh. The mayo can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. It will thicken and release moisture over time; drain off any liquid before using.

One 1-pound block silken soft tofu (reduced fat optional)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves (from about 2 sprigs)

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves


Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the silken tofu, oil, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, basil, rosemary, tarragon and parsley in a food processor; puree until very smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, as needed.

Makes 20 servings; about 21/2 cups.

– Adapted from “Passionate Vegetarian,” by Crescent

Dragonwagon (Workman

Publishing, 2002)

Stacked Deli Sandwiches with Seared Tofu

Sear extra-firm tofu that has been coated lightly with liquid aminos (a blend of amino acids and plant proteins) for a punch of umami; you can also treat the slices with pesto, Buffalo sauce, or your favorite marinade or dry rub before cooking to add extra flavor. How you choose to layer the ingredients is all about you – there are no rules.

For the tofu:

1-pound block of extra-firm tofu, well-drained and patted dry

Liquid aminos, such as Bragg Liquid Aminos (typically available as a spray)

2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil

For the sandwiches:

4 slices of sandwich bread of your choice, lightly toasted

4 tablespoons Herbed Tofu Mayonnaise (see related recipe)

Several leaves of green leaf lettuce

4 ounces sliced ham

1 to 2 dill pickles, sliced lengthwise into strips

4 ounces sliced salami or pepperoni

4 ounces sliced cheese (such as Swiss, cheddar or muenster, or a combination)

2 tomatoes, sliced

4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, then drained

For the tofu: Cut the tofu into 8 slices, about 1/2-inch each. Pat each slice dry, as needed. Coat each side with the liquid aminos.

Heat half the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add 4 slices of the tofu; cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown and lightly crisp, then turn them over and cook for 5 minutes on the second sides. Transfer to a plate to cool; repeat with the remaining oil and the rest of the tofu slices.

For the sandwiches: Lay out 4 slices of the toasted bread and spread each with 1 tablespoon of the Herbed Tofu Mayonnaise. Place a lettuce leaf on 2 of the pieces of toast, then add alternating slices of tofu, ham, pickles, salami, cheese, tomatoes and bacon.

Top each with another lettuce leaf and finish with the remaining slices of toasted bread. Serve right away. Makes 2 to 4 sandwiches.