meatless mondays: tofu for you…

Everyone has heard of tofu but not everybody knows exactly what it is. In fact, some people are even afraid of it! Its not a mystery food. It is simply pressed soy bean curds, made from soy milk/soy beans. Tofu has a high protein and iron content and is relatively low in fat and calories.

Because I’m a vegetarian, people assume I eat a lot of tofu and salads. While this is partially true, you’ve seen that I eat a whole heck of a lot more than that! The key to my diet is variety. I might only have tofu twice a month, tempeh once a month, textured vegetable proteins once a week, and legumes with whole grains and vegetables for the remainder of my meals.

Tofu is all about preparation. It takes on whatever flavor you prepare it with. You can make it sweet or savory, spicy or salty, and eat it warm or cold depending on the dish. It is important to drain it as much as possible beforehand (see below recipe for tips on how to press out the water). Deep frying the bean curd until crisp is the most delicious way to eat tofu, but its not the healthiest. I save that treat for when I eat out.

Tofu can be substituted for meat in a stir fry dish, smoked/braised/fried to be eaten on a sandwich, blended into a spread, used as a substitute for eggs in a scramble or an egg salad, added to soup, mixed into a pudding, or any other creative method you can think of to consume it! Of all the “meat alternatives”, tofu is probably the most simple and versatile.

Recipe: Seared Tofu

16 ounces extra-firm tofu
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 nub ginger, freshly grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 tablespoons dark sesame oil
salt and pepper

Put the block of tofu on a cutting board, propped up to slope down toward the sink (or, you could just use a plate.) Top it with a sturdy plate. Weigh the plate down with a couple of your favorite textbooks or other flat, heavy objects . Allow the water to seep out of the tofu for at least an hour. Drain off any remaining water. This will keep the tofu firm when cooking, instead of watery.

Preheat oven to 450. Combine the oyster sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, 3 tablespoons of the sesame oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl, whisking together. Adjust seasoning per your taste.

Cut the tofu into desired pieces, either 1 inch cubes for a stir fry type dish or large flat rectangles for patties/sandwiches. Toss tofu into the marinade. Coat well and allow the tofu to marinate for about an hour.

Bring a cast iron skillet or a large sauté pan to high heat and pour in the remaining sesame oil. When the oil is very hot, carefully place all the tofu cubes in the skillet (it may splatter so be careful). Cook about 4 minutes, or until the bottom of the tofu has browned. Turn carefully and brown the other side.

Pour any remaining marinade over the top of the tofu. Slide the skillet into the oven and cook for about 5 minutes.

Serve with stir fried vegetables, on toasted bread with sauteed spinach, or as a side dish.

Recipe: Broiled Tofu with Spicy Mango Sauce

2 mangoes
¼ cup water
½ cup apple cider or white vinegar
½ brown sugar
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup raisins
1 Tbs canola or olive oil
1 16-oz pkg extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
Salt and pepper

Peel and dice 2 ripe mangoes. Combine with vinegar, brown sugar, minced garlic, shredded ginger, cayenne pepper, and raisins. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add water if needed to keep it saucy while it cooks down.

Preheat oven to broil, and place oven rack in highest position. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Halve each tofu block crosswise to make pieces the size and thickness of sandwich bread. Cut each tofu piece into 4 triangles. Brush each tofu triangle on both sides with oil and a little of the mango sauce, season with salt and pepper, and place on prepared baking sheet. Broil ~5 minutes. Flip triangles, and brush with more mango mixture. Broil ~5 minutes more, until browned and crispy.

Serve tofu triangles drizzled with remaining mango sauce. Delicious over cooked greens.

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