I’m a vegetarian and have been for years. How many I’m not sure, but at least ten. In all that time, I’ve never cooked with Tofu. I’ve bought it with great intentions and ended up tossing it when it’s past date. Now I love Tofu, and have had it baked or fried in Chinese or Thai food, but I just was stumped on how to cook with it at home.
I decided this week it was time to get over my fear, so I pulled out some vegetarian cookbooks and started experimenting. My first is pressing Tofu. Before I talk about that, I’m going to tell you a little more about Tofu.
What is Tofu?
It’s simply coagulated soy milk that has been pressed into blocks. It has very little flavor or smell of its own, and that’s what’s so great about it. It takes on the characteristics of the ingredients it’s paired with. It can be made savory or sweet, in main dishes to desserts.
It’s generally considered a healthy alternative to higher calorie foods and it’s widely used by vegetarians and vegans as a protein source. Not only is it low in calories, it contains very little fat. It’s also high in iron and depending on the manufacturing process, it can also be high in calcium and/or magnesium.
Types of Tofu
There are generally three types of fresh tofu, with a few variations among them as well as many commercially prepared ready-to-eat varieties:
Firm or Extra Firm – My favorite to be sure. Both are dense and are best when cubed and stir-fried. They can also be grilled, smoked, baked, barbecued, pickled, or added to soup. They make a great meat-replacements in recipes and have a consistency between scrambled eggs and shredded chicken. Firm tofu also packs extra protein, fat, and calcium.
Soft – This is the type you’ll use when you want the tofu to blend into your dish. It makes great faux-egg salad, can be used as a scrambled egg substitute, used in place of ricotta cheese in recipes, or pureed and used as a soup base. It’s probably the most versatile of the three types.
Silken – This can be used to make a smoothie, soup base, dips, or sauce. Its creamy texture lends itself well to anything blended like pie filling, pudding, etc.
PreparationTerriyaka Tofu and Vegetable Stir-fry Extra-firm Tofu Prepping to press the Tofu Cubed tofu, ready for marinating
Most recipes call for a little prep of the tofu before incorporating it. Most common are pressing and freezing. Pressing is simply draining the liquid from the packaging and then placing the tofu between two plates and then weighting the top plate. The top weight should put enough force on the tofu to make it bow out slightly, but not crack or break. Press for 45 minutes to 1 hour, drain, wrap and refrigerate or use immediately.
I learned the hard way, that only one can can be used on the top plate. I used two, not thinking twice about it, until I heard one go crashing to the ground about 20 minutes into the pressing. Before pressing the tofu was firm to the touch, after it was noticeably firmer and very easy to cut horizontally and then cube for my recipe.
Tomorrow I’ll share a pressed tofu recipe for Teriyaki Tofu and Vegetable Stir-fry.
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