About damn time we talked about tofu here, isn’t it? I mean, right up top there, it says “vegetarian, whole foods, and local foods recipes.” And yet, it’s taken all these months for humble tofu to even get a mention. Let’s rectify that now.
You can do this tofu roasted in a sesame and soy marinade in bite-sized pieces or in planks for sandwiches. Chewy and salty, with that smoky depth sesame lends, this roasted tofu is pretty irresistible. I have to forcefully resist just snacking on it as is until it’s all gone, it’s that good. Toss the bits into salads, or fried rice, or whatever strikes your fancy.
why should i care about bean curd?
Tofu’s the much-maligned vegetarian staple, inexorably linked with dirty hippies and horribly inappropriate preparations. Let’s run down some objections to tofu and then airily explain them away.
It’s a brick! That’s unnatural. I don’t eat square foods.
True, tofu often comes in blocks. However, it’s pretty natural. It’s just a solid form of soy milk, a liquid that comes from processing soybeans. I would say the technical term, that it’s coagulated soy milk, but that will probably just drive you further away. Chinese folks have been eating it for a few thousand years.
Tofu has no taste.
Absolutely true. Plain tofu has very little flavor. You know what’s neat about a food that has no taste? It becomes a vehicle for any flavor you want to attach to it. Tofu will soak up anything you add to it, be it soy sauce in a stir fry or honey in a smoothie.
Tofu triggers my texture issues.
Many people don’t like the silky, slightly gelatinous feel of tofu in its natural or slightly cooked state. While I’ve grown to kind of like that, I prefer to prepare tofu in ways that change that natural texture. Frozen and thawed tofu takes on a chewy, slightly spongy texture reminiscent of ground beef. I like to crumble thawed frozen tofu into stir fries, for instance. Silken tofus are used in desserts or blended into thick drinks, and have a smooth, creamy texture.
Tofu is too hard to prepare.
Some preparations are extra work; others, like tossing thawed frozen tofu crumbles into a stir fry, are effortless. This roasted tofu here is the same procedure as making roasted vegetables and yields yummy bites great for salads or sandwiches.
Thus ends the tofu lecture. I promise I’ll never do it again.
I learned this method of pressing tofu (to get the excess liquid out) from Jenne Lemlin’s Vegetarian Classics: 300 Essential and Easy Recipes for Every Meal, which also happens to be the book I adapted this roasted tofu recipe from.
It’s way quicker than the “put a heavy book on top of it to press it for several hours” method you’ve probably heard of.
Here’s what you do:
Cut the block of tofu into slices the width you plan to cook. If cubing for a stir fry, this will be about half an inch. For the roasted tofu, I like making it in little chiclet-sized squares, so I cut it about a quarter-inch thick.
Put the slices on a paper towel or lint-free towel, then either put another paper towel on top or fold the cloth towel over, and press gently on the tofu pieces to release their liquid. Do this again, if you like, moving the tofu to a dry towel for the repeat.
That’s pretty much it. You can press again after cutting up the tofu into smaller pieces if you want it super dry. I’m really happy with this method of pressing tofu. It’s quick and not messy.
Adapted from Vegetarian Classics: 300 Essential and Easy Recipes for Every Meal by Jeanne Lemlin.
oven: 450 degrees
prep: 40 minutes
cooking time: 25–30 minutes
1 (14 to 16 ounce) block of extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1½ tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Cut tofu into ¼-inch slices. Lay out slices on a towel (lint-free cloth or paper), fold over or put another towel on top, and press gently on the tofu to get the liquid out. Repeat using dry area of the towel. Cut pressed tofu slices into ½-inch squares for bite-sized roasted tofu. If you’d like slabs to put in sandwiches, leave as is.
In a shallow dish such as a pie plate, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Add the cut up tofu, and with a wide spatula, gently mix to coat the tofu pieces with the mixture.
Marinate 30 minutes. Letting it sit out is fine. If you’re going to let it marinate longer (up to 24 hours), cover and refrigerate. Note: I’ve tried this with a 30-minute marinade and 24 hours. I preferred the tofu that had been marinated 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees near end of marinating time.
Spread the marinated tofu pieces on a baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
Note: If you can limit yourself to about 90g (just under a serving), this is a 100-calorie snack food.
Nutrition information: 126 calories; 9.2g fat; 0mg cholesterol; 346mg sodium; 2.4g carbohydrate; 0g fiber; 0.6g sugars; 10g protein; 0% vitamin A; 1% vitamin C; 17% calcium; 11% iron