after the recent post about tofu, i'm wondering if anyone's got any really good recipes using tofu. i love the stuff when i have it out, but when i cook it at home the results are never very good. also, what cooking websites would anyone recommend, in general? thanks! k
I make several good dishes using tofu.
-Tofu Scramble: mash up tofu with a fork and cook cook with whatever sounds good (I use spinach, green onions, red peppers, mushrooms and feta).
-Tofu with Soy Sauce & Green Onions: slice 1 block of tofu and arrange on a plate, drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with green onions. You can also add cilantro or red pepper flakes.
-Sometimes I just heat slices of tofu in a hot skillet until sort of brown and toss on a salad.
re: Jane Hathaway
i love a good tofu scramble. i think i read this on the pkg: using firm tofu, grate it (like on an old-fashioned cheese grater) and microwave it for about 30 seconds -- this helps to separate some of the liquid, this strain it in a colander or sieve. then, when you scramble with whatever ingredients you hv on hand (in a little olive oil with garlic, veggies, etc.) it will not be so watery.
re: Jane Hathaway
I second the scramble. I always underestimate how good this is -- nothing like scrambled eggs, but absolutely fantastic.
I also like it grilled, either in sandwiches or on top of salads. You don't have to marinate if there's a flavourful sauce or dressing with it.
It's good simmered, too, in any kind of broth. Pour the whole thing on top of noodles and veggies in a bowl.
I like to marinate and then bake it. This is described in detail in "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics", but basically you cut it into cubes, marinate in something teriyaki-like (or other flavorings), then bake in a single layer, stirring occasionally, till it's as brown and chewy as you like it.
My mother makes a mean mock curried egg salad with tofu.
I love the marinated, oven-baked tofu, Buttercup. You can add it to stirfries, later, or just eat it as a snack.
My marinade is just a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onion powder and toasted sesame oil (or sometimes cinnamon and cumin instead of sesame oil). Baste the tofu occasionally, while baking on low heat. You'll want to use firm tofu for this prep.
One thing I do because its easy: whisk together vegetable oil, soy sauce and bottled oyster sauce. Squeeze the water out of the tofu (I set it on a slanted board and weight it down with a plate for ten minutes), cube it, fry it until browned after sloshing it around in the sauce.
I use about two tablespoons of each of the above for one block of tofu, but proportions are approximate.
I second this recommendation. For any stir-fry, pre-frying the tofu separately is a good idea--it gives more texture and firmness. If you just toss it in with other vegetables, it never seems to cook right.
One easy quick meal is to pan fry the tofu, and then make a peanut sauce and blanch some Chinese broccoli. Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" has several peanut sauce recipes.
Or if you can grill, you can make tofu kebabs (soy sauce, sesame seed oil, chopped green onion, a little sugar, garlic marinade) with cubes of tofu, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc (Moosewood's Broccoli Forest Cookbook has a simple recipe, but you can just put the above and taste). Always a big hit with vegetarians at barbecues. You can also stick the kebabs in the oven and bake them, though the result is not as good.
My favorite recipe is steamed tofu that has been stuffed with a portion of minced shrimp. The tofu is then topped with fermented black bean and garlic.
Cut the tofu (usually a 1 lb. block) into 8 rectangular pieces. Scoop out a portion of the center to accomodate the stuffing.
The stuffing is a 1/3 lb of fresh shrimp, minced up finely and mixed with 1/2 tsp of cornstarch, a little rice wine and salt.
The black bean preparation could be bought or home made.
Divide the stuffing among the 8 pieces of tofu. Place the tofu on a plate, top them with the black bean preparation, pop into the steamer, steam for
20 minutes. (It helps to have one of those huge Chinese steamers!)
in my experience, the only way to get it to taste like it does in the restaurants is to deep fry it. then it gets puffy and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. baking & pan frying can give you great taste, especially with a good marinade or sauce as others have suggested -- but you won't have the same texture you get when you eat out.
sometimes i compromise and half-deep fry it in about an inch of oil. i guess that probably doesn't make it any healthier, but at least my kitchen doesn't smoke up as much. also, if you chop the tofu up in smaller chunks before frying, you'll get more crispy surface area, maybe without having to use quite so much oil.
also, i think some asian grocery stores might sell already deep fried tofu -- i seem to remember seeing this in the freezer section. you might try that.
anyway -- when i was a tofu novice, i found the best *healthy* way to cook it at home was to marinate the heck out of it, then bake the rest of the heck out of it. often i would also freeze the tofu first as a whole block, then thaw, press, marinate, & bake. this changes the texture to be much firmer and spongier.
there's a pretty good recipe for coconut rice & tofu in the Best of 2003 Gourmet magazine (see link). you might try those seasonings, and try cooking the tofu various ways to see what you like best. you could deep fry it, then drain and add the other ingredients per the recipe.
I LOVE tofu triangles. Is that all that restaurants do, deep fry? It's hard to believe, but I'd be willing to try it. What temperature for the oil? What firmness of tofu? Would I press the water out of the tofu before frying (they seem so juicy on the inside - is that just oil that seeped in?)?
uh-oh. now you're asking for specifics and exposing the fact that i just typed all that stuff off the top of my head! (:
i'm not sure what you mean by tofu triangles -- is that a specific dish? i've usually seen tofu on the menu with some generic name like "bean curd in homestyle sauce", something you can get at almost any chinese take-out.
i have never worked in a restaurant so i'm not *absolutely* sure that all they do is deep-fry, but i think i'm right. bet you a spring roll and a turnip cake. anybody out there know for sure?
here are my preferences for cooking at home:
temperature -- unfortunately i don't measure this. i know i should. i'm sorry. i turn the stove to somewhere between medium and medium high. then once the oil heats up (5-10 minutes), i test it with a small chunk of something, tofu or veggie. it should sizzle nicely immediately, and be beautifully golden brown in 3 - 5 minutes. if it sounds dangerously loud when it hits the oil, it probably is, so i turn it down and remove the pan from heat a few minutes before retesting. if the test item sizzles flaccidly, or fails to brown soon enough, i crank it up a tad. maybe someone who deep-fries with a thermometer could help me out here? then proceed like any other deep-frying, be sure not to overfill the pan, etc.
tofu -- i use firm or extra-firm. when i'm frying it, i don't press water out. i drain, pat dry with paper towels, and maybe pat dry once more after chopping to avoid splatters when it hits the oil. that's it. but if you try it and think it's too squishy inside, you could try pressing, or even freezing & thawing, the tofu before frying it. both of those methods will get you a firmer curd.