Sunday, October 19, 2008

Healthy Habits: Don't Be Timid--Try Tofu!

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a devoted tofu fan. From my earliest days as a vegetarian, I have elected this luscious fermented soybean curd as my protein of choice. I cook with it; I eat it; I write about it--not only in these blog posts, but also in product reviews and even my college entrance essay. Yes, you could say that I am quite enamored of tofu.

Often considered the quintessential vegetarian food, tofu has been (mis)labeled as tasteless, spongy, and inedible. On the contrary, I posit that tofu is one of many super-foods; it is a versatile pantry staple that boasts myriad nutritional benefits, including:

-contains high amounts of amino acids, such as tryptophan (it's not just in turkey and milk!)

-rich in manganese, selenium, and copper

-excellent source of iron
-contains high amounts of plant-based protein
-can be high in calcium (depending on the setting process)

In addition, tofu may be used in a wide range of recipes, from burgers to brownies. Tofu is not just for stir-fry anymore. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy this culinary boon include: scrambled tofu, tofu salads, grilled tofu, baked tofu, and, most recently, in French toast!

Many are afraid to use tofu, for fear of preparing it "incorrectly" or that their meal will be tasteless. In order to encourage anyone who might be tofu-weary, I provide you with some rough guidelines on how to prepare a few simple tofu dishes.

Scrambled Tofu

As requested my Ms. Megan Ludwig, I will post a recipe for my breakfast-lunch-dinner standby: scrambled tofu.

-3-6 oz extra-firm tofu (silken provides a more egg-like texture, but regular works just as well)

-1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce

-1 clove minced garlic
-1 T tahini
-1/2 t ground or fresh ginger
-turmeric (as much as you desired for "egg-like" color)
-Assorted mix-ins: diced veggies, fresh herbs, etc. Be creative!

1. In a non-stick pan, heat the minced garlic and soy sauce.

2. While the garlic cooks, pat your tofu dry with a paper towel or clean dishcloth.
3. Add the tofu to the pan, either crumbled with your hands or diced with a knife.

4. Sprinkle the ginger and turmeric into the mixture.

5. Add any mix-ins that may be lurking in your fridge. My favorites include mushrooms, spinach onions, and broccoli, of course. (Warning: salsa is not a good choice--the flavors do not combine well with tahini).

6. When the mix-ins are heated through and cooked, evenly distribute tahini over the pan's contents. Stir to coat, and turn off the heat.
7. Load it all onto a plate and enjoy with toast or wrap it into a tortilla for a portable version!

Variations include:
Greek Scrambled Tofu

Smoky Avocado Scrambled Tofu

Cheezy Scrambled Tofu

Note: My method was inspired by the recipe from The Chicago Diner cookbook.

Tofu Salad
While this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy tofu, it hardly warrants a recipe. It's all about spontaneity! Here's the basic combination:

-6 oz. extra firm tofu (again, silken or regular is fine--whatever you have on hand!)

-1-2 T. vegan mayonnaise (I like Nasoya brand)

-assorted chopped veggies: carrots, bell pepper...anything to add color!
-1 t mustard
-Spices/herbs of choice: dill, curry powder, or basil

-a hint of agave for sweetness -other mix-ins: dried fruit, nuts

Simply plop it all in a bowl and mash away with a fork. I recommend serving it stuffed in a pita, wrapped in a tortilla, or perched atop crackers.

Grilled Tofu
This is one of the easiest dishes to make, especially if you happen to have a George Foreman Grill handy.

-any amount of tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch slabs
-combination of your favorite spices/herbs

1. Heat up the grill/panini press.

2. Place spices on a plate.

3. Do NOT dab the tofu--you need the wetness in order for your spices to stick.
4. Dredge the slabs in the spice mixture.
5. Throw 'em on the grill! Make sure the grilling surface is greased or else the spice may stick to it rather than the tofu!

Enjoy with fresh salsa, guacamole, or dipping sauce of choice. Also a great sandwich stuffer!
Baked Tofu
Ever since I bought Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, I have come to love the convenience of baked tofu dishes. Simply combine the sauce, pour it over tofu slabs, and shove it in the oven. 20 minutes later, you've got dinner!
-Tofu, cut into 1/2 inch slabs or small rectangles (kind of like fish sticks)
-sauce of choice (mine is clearly cashew ginger sauce, but you can make a Mexican-inspired mole, Asian sesame, or none at all)

1. Preheat oven to 400*.

2. Pat tofu dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth.

3. Prepare sauce as directed or desired. Err on the side of a liquidy sauce--remember it will reduce down in the baking process.
--If not using a sauce, try dredging the tofu in a spice mixture to add a little flava'.
4. Place half of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.

5. Place the tofu in the baking dish, and pour the remaining sauce over the slabs.

6. Cover with foil, and baked for 10-15 minutes.

7. After that time has elapsed, check on your tofu, removing the foil cover. Bake for additional minutes as needed.

Serve with your favorite grain to soak up the goodness!

Others have had success in using tofu in baked goods and smoothies. I look forward to doing so in the future!

For more specifics on how I like to prepare tofu, type "tofu" into the search box at the top of this page.
I realize that these recipes are very general, but I want to encourage you to customize these dishes to your own taste preferences. Get creative and get cookin'!


shelby said...

Oh tofu, how I love thee ;)

Andrea said...

beauuuuutiful post :)

i agree, tofu is so versatile - i love it!

VeggieGirl said...

Even though I can't eat soy, I STILL thoroughly enjoyed reading your brilliant post about the versatile nature of tofu :0)

Green Eyes, Green Heart said...

As a fellow tofu-obsessed girl, this post has me SALIVATING!!

eatingbender said...

I've started eating (and loving) tofu thanks to foodie bloggers like you who so fully endorse it! Thanks for all the yummy ideas :o)

Erin of Care to Eat said...

Those are some EXCELLENT ideas. I love tofu, but I've only grilled it, baked it, or blended it into a smoothie. Now I have a million other things to do with it. :)

Ruby Red Vegan said...

Awww, I feel like you're speaking right to me by putting up this post! I totally thought of you and had me some Cashew-Ginger Tofu for din din earlier tonight. :) Warm fuzzies!!!

magpie said...

YAY for tofu! What awesome ideas. I'm definitely bookmarking this post :)

Nikki Douglas said...

You are absolutely the Queen of Tofu! I had noticed that you do eat a great deal of it. I like it especially as a sandwich filling, like eggless egg salad and as a tofu veggie salad too. Also curried tofu salad is good for a sandwich. I get a great tofu dish called Yum Tofu at the Thai restaurant that I really love too.

tofufreak said...


gahhh!! my brain is exploding with happines!!! :D

ChickPea said...

Shelby: I couldn't agree more!
Andrea: Thanks! Tofu is the epitome of versatile in my book.
VeggieGirl: I actually thought of your soy problem when I was writing the post. Next time, I promise I'll write a feature post that you can enjoy.
Green Eyes: Yay! Another tofu fan!
EatingBender: That makes me so happy that you have embraced tofu too! Can you pass the word onto my family?
Erin: Yep, tofu's possibilities are endless.
Ruby: You know it! I had you in mind when I was thinking of a topic:)
Magpie: Great! Let me know if you try any of the ideas.
Nikki: You're right, I do eat a lot of it, but I try to limit myself to no more than 2 servings per day, since the jury is still out on the effects of soy. That Thai dish sounds amazing!
TofuFreak: Haha, somehow I guessed you might like this post!

Megan said...

Thanks so much for the tofu scramble recipe - I tried it and it was superb! I can't wait to make the other tofu dishes you recommend!!

ChickPea said...

Megan: So glad you liked it!! Keep me posted on how you like the other recipes:)