A Day in the Life of Tofu

by Joan Greenblatt

Tofu over riceI have a real fascination for tofu, it is a great, versatile food. For a brief (and I stress brief) moment, I even thought of preparing it from scratch, then it would be availlable whenever I needed it. I don’t know when I first discovered tofu. It was probably many years ago, floating free in a humble bowl of miso soup. But since our first acquaintance, we have been growing together, year by year.

Tofu is definitely a daily staple in our home. Even my daughter, when she was young could literally eat bean and cheese burritos for all three meals, tolerated tofu in its simplest form, pan-fried with a little olive oil and soy sauce. Now as a grown woman it’s her main protein. It’s a wonderful and almost perfect combination of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Soy products have also been reported to be very good for menopausal symptoms, as well as breast cancer and osteoporosis prevention.

The recipes, which are included here are from years of experimentation and are open to full creative expression on your part. Tofu is the canvas, so to speak, and you are the artist. The possibilities are endless. I sometimes wonder if we cannot live our life like tofu, a neutral observer, having the capacity to take on what is given to us at the moment—absorbing the texture and flavor of life without interfering.


How to Buy and Store Tofu:

No one is quite sure when the Chinese began making tofu or who figured out the rather complicated process of transforming soybeans into tofu curd, but historic tomb markings date it at 220 A.D. There are a few varieties, silken or soft is ideal for custard-like desserts, soups and drinks and medium firm and extra firm are used for stir-frying, grilling and baking. Chinese-style is available in various textures also but tend to be softer than regular tofu. You may need to drain the excess water and extract the remaining water by pressing it down with a heavy can. It is best to rinse the tofu as soon as you remove it from the package, place it in a tightly sealed container, fill fresh water to the top and refrigerate. If you change the water daily, you can expect the tofu to stay fresh for at least four-five days. You can also squeeze, press, and freeze tofu to enhance its texture. Tofu has an astounding 20 grams of protein in each 1 cup serving.

Quick Tofu Ideas:

• Mash firm tofu with cottage cheese and seasonings for a sandwich spread.
• Stir dried onion soup mix or gomashio into soft or silken tofu for a veggie or chip dip.
• Add chunks of firm tofu to soups, stews, salads and stir fry’s.
• Blend silken tofu with melted chocolate or carob chips and sugar or sweetener for an easy chocolate cream pie filling.

Tofu Chili Casserole
Many years ago during my daughter’s kindergarten days, I prepared this chili for a contest held at her school during the yearly Halloween carnival. When the contest was finished (the chili was sold to raise money for the school), I went to pick up my dish, and it was all gone. I doubt if anyone knew they were eating tofu! There’s a lot of ingredients here but well worth the effort, it also makes a great side dish.

2 T olive oil
2 onions, slivered
1 green pepper, slivered
1 red pepper, slivered
5 garlic cloves, minced
¼ C fresh coriander leaves
2 T fresh parsley
¼ t turmeric
1 t Hungarian smoky paprika
1 t cumin powder
1 t coriander powder
¼-1 t cayanne pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
2 T ginger, freshly grated
1 t oregano, dried

2 carrots, shredded
2 zucchini, chopped very small
2 C firm tofu, mashed

1 cup diced tomatoes, fire-roasted, canned
1 C water or veggie soup base
1½ t salt
1 cup cooked organic black beans, canned

1 T lemon juice
a few drops of natural liquid smoke flavor

¾ C low-fat cheddar cheese or alternative cheese for sprinkling on top
2 T cilantro, chopped small

1. Saute onion, green and red peppers in olive oil, until almost tender.
2. Add garlic, herbs, and spices; cook for a few seconds.
3. Combine vegetables, stir-fry for about 7 minutes; add tofu and fry for a few minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, water or soup base, salt and beans. Cover and let it cook together on a slow heat for about 30 minutes.
5. Add lemon juice and liquid smoke at the end, taste and adjust salt, then place in an oiled baking dish and cover with foil.
7. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, top with cheese and coriander and bake another 10 minutes uncovered until most of the liguid is gone.

Olive Herb Salad
Mock Egg Salad

This is a simple staple; use it for a variety of sandwiches or topped on a salad. It is especially great for people who do not eat eggs. Olives give it a unique flavor, if you are not an olive person, simply omit them. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for about two days and pairs well with roasted red pepper slivers.

1 T olive oil
2 T red miso
2 T mayonnaise, I love the olive oil variety, or eggless mayonnaise
1 t whole brown mustard
2 T fresh parsley, chopped very small
½ t thyme, dried
½ t grated ginger, fresh or ¼ t ginger powder
¼ t turmeric powder
generous pinch cayenne
black pepper, freshly ground
¼ t salt, omit if you’re using olives

¼ C black olives, pitted and chopped
1½ C soft/medium tofu, mashed

1. Blend everything together, except tofu and olives.
2. Mix in tofu and olives with a fork, blend together well, chill before serving.

Marinated and Grilled Tofu with Thai Sauce

Tofu Marinade
1½ C light coconut milk
½ onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
½ t turmeric
1 t red pepper flakes
½ lemon zest
¼” fresh ginger, peeled
1 T kosher salt

1½ C tofu, extra firm, cut into ½” square pieces.

Marinade:

1. Process the first seven ingredients into a paste, the consistency of thin yogurt.
2. Add the tofu pieces to the marinade and toss, cover with plastic wrap and marinate at least six hours or even better, refrigerate overnight.
3. Grill tofu on a lightly oiled grill or fry pan (first remove excess marinade) grill or fry over medium heat for approximately 4-5 minutes per side.

Serve with Thai Peanut Sauce

Thai Peanut Sauce: 1 Cup
½ C roasted peanuts and 1 T canola oil or 3 T peanut butter
1-2 fresh Thai chilies or any small green chilies, remove seeds and chop
1” ginger, fresh, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ C light coconut milk
1 t Braggs Liquid Aminos or light soy sauce
1 t honey or agave syrup
1 T lemon juice and 1 t lemon zest
1 t mellow miso
2 T basil leaves and stems, very finely chopped or ½ t basil, dried

1. Add peanuts along with the oil to a food processor.
2. Blend high until the peanuts form a rough paste or use prepared peanut butter.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients; blend until very smooth.
4. To Serve: Place fried tofu over cooked rice, top with peanut sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.

Tropical Tofu Fruit Salad
This is a refreshing and not-too-sweet dessert that is a light and nutritious ending to any meal.

2 C mango, chopped
2 bananas, chopped
1 C coconut, freshly grated, trim the hard brown skin off first or unsweetened flakes
1 C oranges, chopped
1 C pineapple, chopped
1 C red seedless grapes, halved
MIX together in a bowl

Dressing

1 C soft tofu, mashed
1 T vegetable oil
¼ C orange juice
½ C honey, agave or maple syrup
½ t cardamom powder
1 t vanilla extract

1. Blend dressing well until smooth.
2. To Serve: Place fruit in separate bowls and top with dressing.