Tofu is a beautiful and versatile product. In the proper moderation it can add a world of good and excitement to your vegetarian lifestyle. When I use tofu I focus in on how I want my end product to be. From my chili, stews and "clam-less" chowders to my "cheese-less" cakes, I’ve run the gamut when it comes to tofu. Take the right approach and your end results will convince you that you graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. Here are some of the ways you can tackle tofu in the kitchen and 3 timeless tips you need to know when prepping, reviving or presenting.
Let’s take it to the kitchen.
Prepping - As a general rule, when working with tofu, it’s important to get to your desired texture/consistency before adding your liquid bearing ingredients. If you don’t, you’ll end up with that spongy or scrambled egg consistency many people associate with tofu.
- If you’re looking for a meaty consistency start out with the organic extra firm or firm. One of my most favorite ways is to freeze it, thaw it, squeeze it out, then use it like ground meat. This method gives it texture that holds flavor and familiarity former meat eaters love.
- One thing about tofu is that you have to season it multiple times during the cooking process; otherwise you’ll end up having tofu that tastes ‘just O.K’. We don’t want that… What we want is tofu that is so good that you and all those you’re cooking for will have to wonder if your dish is in fact truly vegetarian.
These are a few of the things you need to know in order to set your tofu apart from the run of the mill tofu. We’re talking gourmet people.
Revival – If you allow tofu a day or two to rest after being seasoned and cooked it develops more flavor and is easier to revive. Some of the best tofu out there is tofu that has been cooked and seasoned well, at least a day in advance.
- Pull those tofu leftovers out of the fridge and use them as the basis for some great inventions like: soups & stews; meatloaves; shepherd’s pies & lasagnas; chili; etc.
- Add some fresh chopped herbs and make a cold salad or salad addition out of it. It’s all about the adventure.
Reviving tofu is easier than reviving a lot of other things. It’s like a marriage and honeymoon where all of the components become one.
Presentation – Consider the plate, bowl, tile slab, etc. merely the canvas you'll use to display your masterpiece. If it doesn’t frame your dish right consider thinking outside of the box. Try a banana leaf or something equally as creative to present your finished dish on. Remember… Presentation is key. It can make or break a great meal. It’ll take the ordinary and transform it into the extraordinary. It'll even stimulate the appetite. Sometimes I like to make my tofu dish the focal point by placing it in the center of a bed of mixed greens and fresh herbs; on a bed of sprouts; or as a standalone, in the middle of a plate, atop a lattice work of sauces and a few sprigs of cilantro. I do this to add more contrast and to deepen the flavor profile.
- Try presenting it by using it as a stuffing: in a tomato (baked or raw); in an eggplant; in a roasted pepper; in cabbage, kale, collards; or, take a Mediterranean approach and stuff it into some grape leaves. It makes it interesting, attractive and gourmet.
- Try it as a meaty sauce like: in a rich & creamy stroganoff; in a meaty stew with a couple of toasted, herbed bagel slices on the side; as a succulent meaty marinara sauce over a curl of rice linguine. The list goes as far as your imagination will take you.
Note to self…
When you get into the kitchen, think of it as a time to connect your food to its final destination... your taste buds. When you start on this journey come to an agreement that you’re going to pour all of your love into your prep and in return your food is going to give you all it has to offer. You do your part and I guarantee your food will return the ‘flavor’ and you’ll be the talk in your circles vegetarian and non.
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As always… it’s been great talking with you. Until next time… bye for now.