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Start with A Block of Tofu and.....?

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I'm a carnivore who is not at all familiar with eating tofu, however, I was given a block of firm tofu and now I need inspiration as to what to do with it. I'm pretty much open to any cuisine but please don't tell me to eat it raw :)

Any recipes so delicious that would make me want to try it? I'd like some ideas on how to utilize this that will have me wanting to consider opening up to other tofu textures in the future. I'm especially interested in perhaps doing something with soft tofu, like in a dessert if I can get past this. So, don't limit your ideas to firm tofu and to those who already made suggestions on another thread, Thank You.

How do you tofu?

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  1. I press it between two plates, with a pot of water on top, to squeeze out the liquid. Then I cut it into cubes and marinate it in soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger & garlic, skewer and grill it, and top it with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions. This is not the fanciest thing you can do, but it is pretty satisfying.

    4 Replies
    1. re: small h

      And if you then bake it in a low oven - say, 300 degrees - for an hour or two, stirring every fifteen minutes or half an hour depending on how nervous you are about burning things, the texture totally transforms into chewy, golden-brown, intensely flavored deliciousness that will be completely unlike the bland kinda slimy thing what came out of the package. I usually just improvise the marinade, although it's usually soy-based and often includes a bit of honey.

      1. re: small h

        I do something very similar to this, and it's delicious. I add a dash of rice vinegar to the marinade though and sometimes cilantro. The marinade is also great on grilled egglant or any kind of green veg. Serve with rice, brown or white. I add a dash of rice vinegar to the marinade though and sometimes cilantro.

        1. re: prunefeet

          I always forget about rice vinegar. Thanks for the reminder - it is a fine addition to many things.

          1. re: prunefeet

            Yes, I do the same thing: soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, but also add some chile oil or chile-garlic sauce for a bit of heat, and a bit of honey, which helps it get crispy and caramelized in a pan on the stove.

        2. soft tofu: combine with high-quality chocolate and/or cocoa powder, a pinch of espresso powder or a dash of coffee liqueur, and maple syrup for a rich, decadent chocolate mousse

          firm tofu: cut into triangles or slices, soak in a soy-based marinade or coat with a miso glaze, crust with a touch of wasabi and some sesame seeds, and grill, bake or pan-fry.

          ginger & citrus are always good pairings too.

          i actually *miss* tofu! it's one of those amazingly versatile ingredients that you can really manipulate to your liking in terms of flavor and texture. have fun!

          1. I really like drained tofu cut into "cutlets" (thin bricks), dipped in seasoned flour, then egg wash, then seasoned panko, then baked on a cookie sheet until brown and crispy. This is excellent with just about any sauce, including curry.

            as a side note: buttertart posted an excellent-sounding tofu recipe in response to Harters in the last "WFD" thread.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ChristinaMason

              Um, yum. How thin are the cutlets? And how do you season your seasoned panko? Just salt?

              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                i can't speak for Christina, but when i used to make them, the seasoning in the flour & panko depended on the other flavors in the dish. everything from S&P to dried herbs to curry powder or paprika to sesame seeds...

                i've found the "cutlets" work well when sliced to about the same thickness as a butterflied or lightly pounded chicken breast.

              2. re: ChristinaMason

                I saw that recipe and it's on my list of things to try...love the panko crust idea.

              3. FIRM TOFU:
                - cube and use it in corn chowder
                - cut it up and use it in pot roast
                - grill it
                - deep fry it
                - use it as a substitute for eggs in "egg salad"

                SOFT TOFU
                - puree with some yogurt and use it as part of a trifle layer
                - use it in clear both soups or miso soup
                - blend with cream cheese and use in your favorite cheesecake recipe
                - make Ma Po Tofu
                - blend into mashed potaotes

                2 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I'm liking the idea of soft tofu with cheesecake ingredients (my favorite dessert). I'll have to give it a try...

                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    since you don't need to make it vegan, use about a 1:1 ratio of tofu (if it's really wet/soft, drain it for a little while in cheesecloth) to neufchatel cheese...or half tofu, and the other half a combination of ricotta and cream cheese. in terms of flavors, i've had the best luck with lemon or orange - on a ginger, almond or graham crust, and chocolate or mocha - on a chocolate crust, of course!

                2. :)

                  I like soft tofu more. I like firm tofu is great for soup and soft tofu for stir fry. I am sure others would tell you the other way. Because firm tofu can hold its shape very well, you can add them in early in your cooking, making soup or stir fries. You have to very light handed for soft tofu, but I really like silk texture of soft soft. I usually add soft tofu in relatively late, .

                  1. My favorite tofu-centric dishes:

                    Mabo Tofu
                    Soft Tofu Soup (Korean style)
                    Pan-fried, steamed, or raw and cold with a drizzle of sauce: soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, chili, sesame oil, scallions.

                    Yum!

                    1. I press my tofu so it is nice and firm, very similar to small h's method above, except I don't weight down the second plate with anything. I wrap my tofu in a paper towel, set it on a plate, and put a pyrex pie plate on top of it. After a few hours, I drain off the excess liquid, rewrap in a new paper towel, put the pie plate back on top, and let it sit until dinner time.

                      Last night I made a really delicious and simple tofu dish I think anyone would like.

                      one block regular tofu, pressed
                      1/2 C. cornstarch
                      1/4 C. coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)

                      to garnish:

                      soy sauce
                      sri racha sauce
                      cilantro leaves
                      green onions, sliced thinly
                      toasted sesame seeds

                      1. Slice tofu into 2" squares, about 1/2" thick. Blot dry with paper towel.

                      2. Dredge the tofu pieces in cornstarch.

                      3. Heat oil in a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the tofu and fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until very crisp and slightly browned.

                      4. Serve with garnishes on top.

                      1. Press out the water as others have suggested.

                        1/2 inch slices pan fried on both sides.

                        Season with chili/garlic sauce if you like it spicy......soy sauce if not. Top with sliced or julienne ginger and green onions. Serve warm or chilled. I like to add edamame in as well for contrast in texture and taste.

                        Similar to operagirl's recipe above.

                        For Soft Tofu.....it's my secret ingredient for my meat mixture in Fried Dumplings/Potstickers. Blend the soft tofu in with your ground meats for a smoother and lighter soft texture.

                        1. I haven't tried it myself yet, but the tofu with white wine, lemon, soy and butter from Flexitarian Table got a lot of love when it was COTM. Reports in thread below -- I can paraphrase for you if you're interested.
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5148...

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: mebby

                            Yes, please paraphrase!

                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                              1 lb firm tofu, sliced into six 1/2-inch-thick slabs
                              1/4 cup dry white wine
                              1 Tbsp soy sauce, preferably naturally brewed
                              2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
                              2 tsp honey
                              3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
                              2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
                              1 1/2-inch slice fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
                              1/2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
                              pinch of red pepper flakes
                              3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary

                              Preheat oven to 400 with rack in upper third
                              Put tofu in ovenproof skillet -- should be fairly small but able to hold tofu slabs without overlapping
                              Mix wine, soy, lemon juice and honey in bowl.
                              Scatter butter, shallot and ginger over tofu
                              Pour wine mixture over and around
                              Season tofu with salt and red pepper flakes
                              Add thyme/rosemary over top
                              Boil over high heat, then transfer to oven for 10 minutes
                              Pull out and cook over high heat on stove and simmer for 3-5 minutes (until it thickens).
                              Serve drizzled with the pan sauce (first removing and discarding the herbs)

                              Since pulling this book out to check the recipe, I've spent the last hour pouring over it and marking practically everything for future meals. Don't know how I haven't cooked from this one yet!

                              1. re: mebby

                                yum!

                                1. re: mebby

                                  I love, love, love this recipe! I usually skip the herb sprigs, because to be honest, I haven't found they add much. I've cut back on the butter, and it's still great. I do recommend flipping the tofu halfway through the baking, so both sides get some time in the sauce.

                                  1. re: mebby

                                    I made this tofu recipe tonight (without the herbs) and it was excellent.

                              2. Freshness of the tofu is very important. Fresh tofu tastes elegant and slightly sweet. Old tofu tastes sour and complex. I personally like the flavor of tofu that is a little bit old, but fresh tofu is better. This is particularly true for soft tofu to be used as a custard -- it has to be very fresh. If you dislike the taste of your tofu raw, it's probably not fresh. Try to find a dedicated tofu producer if you live in a big city.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: aventinus

                                  It's not that I dislike the taste of raw tofu, it's that I dislike tofu. I'm trying to find enough inspiration to create a dish out of what I was given. Thanks but I have no interest in seeking out a tofu producer, however, that's not to say that I wouldn't try it again if I find that I like it. I'd just get it at a grocer's.

                                  1. re: Cherylptw

                                    in that case, i guess i shouldn't bother posting instructions for making your own ;)

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      Thanks but no :)

                                2. Tofu lends itself easily to Asian recipes, but here are some Italian preparations I enjoy:
                                  Stuffed mushrooms
                                  http://vegetarian-recipes.suite101.co...
                                  Tofu caccaitore:
                                  http://vegetarian.about.com/od/maindi...
                                  Tofu "meat" balls
                                  http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=I...
                                  Baked Italian tofu
                                  http://www.mamashealth.com/recipe/tof...
                                  (this site has many other recipes as well!)

                                  1. I was totally skeptical about this, but I recently made a curried tofu scramble from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking. (For those of you who might be tired of hearing me go on and on about this cookbook lately, I'm trying to cook my way through it in the interests of expanding my natural-food horizons, or something.)

                                    Anyway: IIRC, onions and garlic were sauteed together, curry powder was added, drained extra-firm tofu was crumbled in and mixed around until the colors were uniform. Then the whole thing was covered and allowed to cook for five minutes or so, after which three handfuls of baby spinach and some salt were added, the pan removed from heat and the spinach allowed to wilt. The resulting (surprisingly appealing!) stuff was eaten with tortillas and, in my husband's case, Frank's Red Hot, because he puts that on pretty much everything except ice cream. It was really quite good.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: darklyglimmer

                                      darklyglimmer, I have that book and have only cooked from it once, but I would love encouragement to cook from it more. Can you tell us more about your experiences cooking from that book? (Perhaps in another thread so as not to hijack this one...) Thank you!

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Totally! It's a newish experiment, but an interesting one. I've got to hurry and finish up before all the nice produce goes away.

                                        I'll try to post something this week!

                                    2. One of my favorite, SUPERFAST, super-tasty, AND low-cal recipes for semi-firm tofu:

                                      mix together 1/2 tsp of sesame oil, 1 tsp of maggi sauce (available at any asian market: it's the funny shaped bottle with the yellow cap), 3-4 tbsps of oyster sauce, 2 tbsp of soy sauce, hot sauce (i use sriracha -- a good spritz if you likey da spicey), and a dash of rice vinegar.

                                      dice a pack of semi-firm tofu and zap in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. poor out any liquid the tofu might have sweat out. heat up 2 tbsp of cooking oil (i use peanut oil, but you can use any oil you like) until it smokes, then pour over nuked tofu. add aforementioned sauce. add chopped scallions, a heaping helping of cilantro, and toasted sesame seeds. inhale.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        linguqafood

                                        Have you ever tried this cold?

                                        Take some soft tofu, cube it, gin up a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil, minced garlic, white pepper, and drizzle on tofu, chill in fridge for an hour or so, serve garnished with a drizzle of sesame oil and some nori flakes. (If you have access with Chinese pickled radishes or cucumbers, those are also great as a garnish on the tofu).

                                        Great great summer time dish.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          That sounds lovely, ipse. I'll have to give it a shot when I return home.... can't wait to have my own kitchen back!!!!

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Ipsedixit, this is close to how we usually do it. We use pork sung instead of nori though, and scallions instead of garlic. Hard to think of a tastier dish for less effort.

                                            1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                              Oh yeah, Chinese dried pork floss. That stuff is like crack and goes well with just about anything ... congee, tofu, egg salad, potato salad, etc.

                                              When I was a kid and we had leftover hotdog buns, we used to stuff those with pork floss and some potato salad and it was like Chinese trailer park trash food.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Haha for us it was pork sung sandwiches on cheap white bread with miracle whip. Shouldn't that be Chinese hutong trash food?

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              I love cold soft tofu with a simple drizzle of a sauce similar to this - first time I had one it was in Japan in a 7-11 type joint and it blew me away. You need to have good tofu for this - poor quality tofu will really show when you're eating it so simply.

                                              1. re: joonjoon

                                                I like adding a preserved duck egg in mine too.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                My mom is Japanese and she used to make a similar recipe in the summer. She used extra firm tofu though and used it as an accompaniment to soba noodles. She'd make the soba and run it under cold water. Then make a sauce using soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar. I think 2 to 1 ratio of soy to apple cider vinegar. The key was grating fresh ginger into the sauce, a sprinkle of red chili pepper flakes and then sliced scallions. The sauce would be used to dip the tofu into and the noodles. Mmmmmm it's so good that I want it now even though it's freaking drizzling and miserable weather tonight.

                                            3. Korean soft tofu stew
                                              http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                              Spicy and tingly mapo tofu
                                              http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/m...

                                              For a sweet version, you can try mixing silken tofu with brown sugar caramel and tapioca pearls. Warm it's good on it's own. Cold you can top with gingered mangos and other tropical fruits.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                Definitely, definitely the Korean tofu. I've made a veg version based on that recipe and it is totally crave-able.

                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                  Can't beat a good soft tofu soup. I've been making this a lot lately at home as I've had an abundance of stock (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765263). I've totally simplified the recipe and all I do is stock + garlic + pepper flake + scallions. I may add some form of protein to that depending on my mood (beef, shrimp, egg, etc). But I've found that the true beauty of a good soft tofu stock is in the simplicity of creamy tofu swimming in a delightful broth. Some times I cheat with a little MSG. ;)

                                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                                    I find the egg makes it just extraordinary.

                                                2. My favorite way to prepare tofu is to scramble it. Dice up veggies- usually I use onions, garlic, carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers. Saute the veggies till soft and then crumble in a block of drained tofu. Saute the whole mixture till it's warm- if it starts to stick add in a bit of water or tomato puree. You can vary the veggies and spices- I've made it with Italian style spices, chipotle chili powder, Asian hot sauce and soy sauce, and just plain salt and pepper.

                                                  I eat it over brown rice or in a whole wheat pita or tortilla. It's good warm or cold. My husband likes it with hot pan fried potatoes in a taco shell.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                    I like doing this with a little bit of turmeric for color. It's very close to scrambled eggs, if you squint.

                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                      The tumeric makes the tofu a pretty yellow color... I try to remember to add it.

                                                      Last night I made baked tofu 'cutlets' like someone recommended. I cut a brick of tofu into 8 equal slabs, pressed each slab to get rid of liquid. I dipped in a beaten egg white, then in cornflake crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin. I baked them at 400 in a greased pyrex for about 30 minutes. Came out great! I'm eating the leftovers cold for lunch today.

                                                  2. The absolute easiest thing to do w/ tofu is make a sandwich filler from it. I slice the block into ~3/4" slices (the measurement isn't important but getting all the slices close to the same thickness is). I put the slices on a microwaveable plate and microwave on LOW for a couple of minutes until all of it is very hot to touch. (Sometimes it helps to flip the slices over midway through to get it evenly hot.) This is to get rid of the raw, beany taste. Then I take it out, put the bottom of another plate that is the same size as the first plate on top of the tofu, bring the whole thing to the sink and press most of the water out of the tofu that is between the two plates. All you have to do after that is mash the tofu w/ a fork in a bowl, mix in 3 Tbs. of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, 1 Tbs ketchup, 2 tsp. bottled horseradish, a couple of stalks of finely chopped celery, and a large pinch of onion powder or a couple of chopped scallions. Cover & refrigerate for 1/2 hr. or more to let the flavors meld. 1 block makes 3 - 4 sandwiches worth. Assemble w/ your favorite sandwich bread & a lettuce leaf.

                                                    1. I don't think anyone has suggested freezing yet... if you freeze firm tofu then defrost it, it will have become a sponge. Squeeze the liquid out (trust me, it really changes so much it can be squeezed). Then cube or mince it and use it as if it were meat it will soak up sauce and be as yummy as whatever you cook it in.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Peg

                                                        This is very true, and an excellent tip. Thanks for reminding me of it.

                                                        1. re: Peg

                                                          The other good thing about freezing it is you then have the sponge-like texture of fried tofu (tofu puffs) without the added oil. My favourite thing to do with tofu is to marinade it and bake it, closely followed by Mark Bittman's chocolate tofu pudding;
                                                          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/din...

                                                          1. re: Peg

                                                            This is going to sound dumb, but I have heard of this trick (in Bittman) and am unsure if I am supposed to freeze in the packaging or remove from the packaging first. The packs of tofu w. water always seems so full they might burst when frozen, but no one ever mentions removing it from the packaging first.....

                                                            1. re: DMW

                                                              I take it out first, and then cut it into slabs - freezes & thaws faster that way. Sometimes I press it first, but not always.

                                                          2. I struggled with Tofu for years until I finally figured it out. Try this:

                                                            http://barbariansatthekitchengate.blo...

                                                            And there's an alternate Tofu Marinade recipe at:

                                                            http://barbariansatthekitchengate.blo...

                                                            You don't HAVE to have a non-stick pan to pre-brown the tofu, but it does seem to make it easier and I prefer it made this way, with no oil necessary to brown the tofu.

                                                            1. Try cutting it into cubes or planks, pan-frying it in a little bit of oil until it's crispy and golden on all sides, then sprinkle it with some coarse salt and serve it as an appetizer to dip in Thai peanut sauce (can buy bottled or make your own). Or you can take the fried tofu chunks and toss them into your fave stirfry, with whatever veg/noodles/rice/sauce you like.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Foodielicious

                                                                Others haven't mentioned it, but in some parts of the US, Nasoya extra firm cubed tofu is available in regular supermarkets.

                                                                Takes much of the work out of tofu prep. Of course this product may not appeal to those lucky souls who have access to freshly made tofu from a good Asian market, but for the rest of us .....

                                                                It is really easy to drain and fry or toaster-brown this product and toss into stir fries, Thai curries, fried rice, etc. Tastes pretty good.

                                                              2. Last night I made grilled tofu (non-meat)balls with a ginger-lime dipping sauce. The original recipe calls for ground pork--and that was quite tasty, I have to say--but I've been trying to get the vegetarians in my life to try new flavors, so I made a tofu version last night, too. I sliced the block of tofu into slabs (maybe seven or eight? doesn't really matter) and then pressed them, wrapped in a towel and weighted with a heavy plate, for maybe 30 min. In the meantime, I mixed together an egg, soy sauce (instead of the orig. fish sauce), sugar, finely minced garlic and shallot, sugar, and ground pepper. I then crumbled the tofu into that mixture and formed it into balls, chilling them for maybe 15 min. after that. I cooked them on the grill (oiling it first ... if you don't, they'll never come off), maybe 7 min. on each side to get nicely browned. The meatballs (either kind) were wrapped in lettuce leaves with slivered carrots and cilantro, and served with a ginger-lime (with sugar and fish or soy sauce) dipping sauce. The full recipe is on the Boston Globe's site.

                                                                You could also make these with more Italian flavors for more traditional meatballs.

                                                                Pics are available on my blog.

                                                                1. Thin tahini out with lots of lemon juice and a clove or two of garlic. Marinate tofu block for at least 2 hours. Prep grill to medium and grill, while basting with marinate, about five minutes per side, turning often and repeating until nice and charred on the outside but warm and custardy on the inside.