Category Archives: tofu

Broiler Tofu with Roasted Corn Mixture

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Friends, I have a new way to cook tofu that does not involve frying it (!). Don’t worry, I’m not going too crazy—it’s still tossed in soy sauce and put over high heat with some oil—but this time in the oven.

Plus, after all that meat at Christmas in Montana (roast beef, smoked ham, scallops (brought by me from Maine), meatloaf with pork and emu, elk, venison, lamb…) I needed something a little more my usual style. Although I am intending to buy half a pig or something similar with Christmas money (thanks, grandparents!).

It’s January (happy New Year!), so you are officially allowed to begin using up the contents of your freezer. Which may include corn (straight from the cob to your freezer) and tomatoes. And, maybe your roommates are kind enough to get you a mushroom starter bucket for Christmas, so you have a fresh supply of oyster mushrooms. Handy.

Year-end is habitually a time for reflection, resolution, and anticipation. True also in the food world. We’ve been imagining foods of the future for a while now, that still have yet to come to pass, like a food pill (sure, Soylent, you’re getting there). But maybe instead we’ll go back to our ancient roots and renew some old grains, like millet. At least we made some progress globally in 2015 regarding changing diets, and feeding the world… and we’ve got more changes, like more female farmers, to look forward to.

And some food of our own, too. You can even pretend this is healthy (okay, it probably is healthy, depending on your health stipulations) and contributing to that New Years’ diet, too, if you want. Don’t give up deliciousness or you won’t stick to your goals!

I did this with the broiler but I suspect it would be just as effective in a very hot oven, and possibly more efficient. I recommend cooking the tofu in a separate pan from the veggie mix because the tofu might otherwise absorb the excessive moisture produced by the tomatoes, diluting the soy flavor (and preventing crispiness, a real travesty).

Broiled tofu with roasted tomato, corn, mushrooms
Tofu (about 1/3 lb per person I find sufficient)
Soy sauce, a few tablespoons
Vegetable oil, a few tablespoons (separated)
Corn (frozen is fine, about 1 cup)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped (frozen or canned is also fine, if you can chop them)
Mushrooms (a large handful)
Balsamic, a dash
Coconut oil, a spoonful, if desired
Salt/pepper
Garnish: cilantro and feta

Cut up the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with soy sauce and oil in a shallow roasting pan, toss lightly, and put under the broiler. Broil for 10 or so minutes, flipping occasionally, until dark golden and crispy.

Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and mushrooms and toss with corn, a little more oil, balsamic, coconut oil, and salt. When tofu is done, or if there’s room, put in a shallow pan under the broiler and cook the same as the tofu, 10 or so minutes until golden, flipping occasionally. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Toss the tofu with the veggies (lots of tossing we’re doing here), then crumble feta on top and sprinkle with cilantro.

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Tofu Eggplant Stir Fry

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Another weeknight, another stir fry. Sam Sifton of NYTimes Cooking recently re-pointed out his list of Asian essentials to make weeknight meals more easily delicious, and I am in utter agreement. Buying sesame oil, miso, and rice vinegar is well worth the initial investment.

There are a few important components of a stir fry—although if you’re in a hurry and neglect one or the other, sometimes good quick food is better than the best food (not a philosophy I generally subscribe to, but no one likes being hangry, and the beauty of stir fries is that they can still be damn good)—how you chop the ingredients, the order you put everything in the pan, and the amount of seasoning.

1. Chop everything so it’s all the same size. I tend to like long rectangular pieces.
2. Cook on high or medium high (and keep watching and stirring!), but make sure to put in the harder vegetables, and tofu, in the pan first. That way they can cook a bit before the flash-cooked ingredients, like green beans.
3. Season well! Add a variety of sauces, taste as you go, keep adding, let it cook down a bit, taste more, try something else… have fun!

I’m sure this would be better in a wok, but I don’t have one so I shall continue to praise my lovely cast iron.

An update re: life on Mars (thanks, Modern Farmer): apparently we should be able to grow crops there! But they’ll be missing some key nutrients that we may have to import, and could be lethal if we don’t rinse the soil. Wash your dirt and save your poop, kids. 

In keeping with the end of eggplant season, this particular stir fry (and another similar one the next week) made the vegetable a star, with a few chunks of crispy tofu and other veggies thrown in too. Add whatever veggies you want. I’ve been enjoying sweet potatoes recently, and onions of course, and something green like broccoli or beans or kale.

Tofu eggplant stir fry
8 oz tofu (or whatever you'll eat)
1/2 large eggplant, or 1-2 smaller ones
Sweet potatoes, or carrots
1/2 onion, or more if you like onion
Hot peppers or red pepper flakes, if you feel like it
Green beans, or other green vegetables
Garlic
Ginger
Vegetable oil
Sauces! Sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, maybe miso
Scallions, parsley, cilantro if you want

Start by chopping all the ingredients, at least roughly the same size (carrots I cut in half lengthwise, then in slivers, so you get thin half-moons that will cook quickly). Peel the ginger and mince, along with the garlic (large pieces are fine). If you have time to marinate the tofu in soy sauce, do so.

Heat up oil in the pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add tofu and a little soy sauce and fry for a few minutes on each side until slightly golden, flipping around a few times. Add the eggplant and sweet potatoes or carrots and cook for a few minutes, stirring often (you stir and it fries). At this point, start putting in a few other sauces, tasting, and adjusting. If you use miso, dissolve it in soy sauce or something else first, or you’ll get little potent chunks. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic and cook a little more, then the beans (I like my beans remaining nice and crisp). Taste and make final adjustments, then turn off the heat and add the scallions and any other last additions.

Serve over rice. Or become full picking right from the pan.

bean tofu stir fry

P.S. You can grow fruit on tiny tiny (bonsai) trees! Sounds like my dream.

Homemade Soba Noodles with Tofu Lemon Ginger Sauce

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You don’t need to make your own noodles for this. In fact, mine were far less than perfect and I might’ve been happier this go-around if I had used regular noodles. But so convinced am I of the possibilities of this arrangement that I’m sharing it with you anyway.

If you don’t feel the need to homemake everything, and want it as a quick weeknight meal, even one to feed a crowd if necessary, this is a great vegetarian (vegan even, and gluten-free if you use all-buckwheat soba noodles) dish. The novelty of this particular recipe is that both ginger and garlic are raw and in fairly large quantities—the real trick is to get the right ratio of lemon-ginger-garlic, which really you can only do by tasting and adjusting.

You could even make this with raw tofu if you were feeling impatient. Although I definitely advocate soaking and frying—more flavor and fat=always good.

What else is new(s)? How about food as the feature of the World’s Fair (who knew that was still a thing?) this year? Some pretty neat innovations if you ask me. If anyone feels like sponsoring me on a trip to Italy I’ll tell you about it…

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If you do decide to make your own noodles, you will need flour (buckwheat and regular), water, a pasta machine or lots of elbow grease, possibly some other starches, and lots of patience. Rolling out all the noodles—after having kneaded the dough for a while—does take quite a bit of time.

I’m going to cheat here and link you to the recipe I used, with a few notes here. I hate making you go back and forth but The Kitchn explains it much better than I would at this point, and the Internet has enough duplication anyway. But to add some personality, a few more specifics: you can use a pasta machine to roll it out, and it’ll make it easier on you. However, make sure not to roll it too thin—I’d only go through the first couple settings, down to 5 or maybe 4 if your pasta machine is like mine (well, my roommate’s, but that’s the benefit of living with people!) and has 7 settings, 7 as the thickest. I would also not use the cutting pasta attachment (f you have one), and instead fold and cut then yourself, to make them at least half as wide. My problem was that I made the noodles too thin, and then when I cooked and mixed them around it turned into noodle mush (they may also have been overcooked). Still tasted good though—I really like the flavor of buckwheat in this dish (can you tell that buckwheat is my new obsession?).

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Alternatively, you could just do what it says to do in the recipe and roll it out my hand. I just figured, since I had a pasta machine, may as well use it.

Tofu Lemon Ginger Pasta
1 package (~1/2 lb) tofu
1/4 cup or more soy sauce
Pasta: soba noodles, linguine, or homemade of either
4 cloves garlic or to taste
A large thumb of ginger or to taste
1/2 lemon or to taste
Other seasonings, as desired (sesame oil, turmeric...)
Bok choy or other veg
Red pepper flakes
Scallions
Parmesan cheese

Start with the tofu, since that’ll take the most time (by the way, we’ve done this before)—cut into 1-inch cubes and marinate in soy sauce for as long as you can. Heat up a good 1/3 inch (more if you can spare it) of vegetable oil in a pan until quite hot and add the tofu. Stand back and cover with a mesh protector if you have one handy, it’ll spit. Let fry on one side for a few minutes, then flip them all around, and repeat, until you have little golden cubes of tofu. Remove from the pan onto a plate lined with a paper towel. If you want to make it easier on yourself, you can just cut strips of tofu and fry those (easier to flip four strips than 20 little cubes), then cut up into cubes when you take them out. Almost as good.

Boil water for pasta and cook pasta, either while the tofu is frying (for regular pasta) or right after you take it out (for fresh).

For the sauce: mince ginger and garlic until very, very fine. This is a good use for your grater (ginger) and garlic press (garlic) (if I had a garlic press I’m not sure I would use it that often, since I tend to like my garlic chunkier and you have to take out the piece that was in the press anyway and chop it up if you don’t want to waste it. But, handy for certain tasks). Put in a large bowl and squeeze half a lemon into it. Taste and adjust as necessary—you may need to do so again after the pasta is added, since it will absorb quite a bit of the flavor. Add some sesame oil and turmeric if you feel like it.

Sauté a little bok choy or other veggies (spinach? green beans? carrots even?). Mix pasta with sauce, then top with tofu, bok choy, red pepper flakes, scallions (and/or parsley) and a little parmesan if you’re feeling it, and serve. Good warm, room temperature, or cold.

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Pumpkin Coconut Tofu Curry

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I seem to be getting in the habit of making a big pot of something at the beginning of every week, and then eating it for lunch every day. I’m pleased with it—less to think about in the morning—and surprisingly haven’t gotten too tired of the same lunch day after day. I eat pretty much the same breakfast too. I suspect that is cultural bias—same breakfast is okay but if you eat the same meal for dinner 4 days in a row there is a problem. When I studied abroad (in Cameroon) this was not the case, I stayed in a village for a week and when we made a huge pot of cabbage thing we ate it for days (lunch and dinner) until it was gone. Lack of refrigeration, among other challenges, gives you fewer options.

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Even the best curries are relatively uncomplicated. The key is sourcing good curry powder, or better yet, paste. I happen to have curry powder so that’s what I use, but if you have access to a Thai grocery store, go for the paste, because it’ll pack in more flavor.

Coconut milk is rather an odd thing. I bought normal instead of low-fat because I can’t abide by low-fat nonsense, but it might be a little too rich, so I definitely understand now why most recipes call for the reduced version. Instead, I only added about half a can and now have the exciting challenge of finding something to do with the other half. I think I’ll put in it pancakes or something. I wish I had a waffle maker.

This recipe features once again my old standard of fried tofu. I like slightly larger chunks here than in say, a pasta dish, and you can fry them even larger—in strips if you want to. It is also a good candidate to use whatever vegetables you happen to have around: carrots, radishes (traditional would be a daikon radish, but that’s not something I tend to have unless I’m planning ahead), red peppers, sweet potatoes, etc. I also threw in some green beans from my freezer because I wanted a little greenery.

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I’ve made this with and without pumpkin and I must say I prefer the latter. Just provides a little extra oomph to the sauce. Also it’s a great way to use up that pumpkin you made for cookies and only partially needed.

Pumpkin Coconut Tofu Curry
1/4 teaspoon each of curry powder (your favorite), turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika, and cardamom
1/2 an onion, sliced lengthwise
1 red bell pepper
1 hot pepper
1 large carrot
Other veggies, such as radishes
1/2 cup green beans (from my freezer, but obviously if you have fresh that's better)
A good chunk of fresh ginger, minced
A block of tofu
Around 15 oz puréed pumpkin
2ish cups stock
1/2 can of coconut milk
Scallions, for garnish

First chop all your veggies. I like them in long strips for this, except for carrots, which I cut in half lengthwise and then slice diagonally, so you get long-ish flat pieces. Put the spices in a dry pan and heat for around 30 seconds, until aromatic. Careful not to burn. Add oil and veggies and stir around, sautéing until at least the onions are soft.

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Add the pumpkin and stir around for a minute—I was hoping it would get a little browned as well, and didn’t, but I may have been a little impatient. Add the stock and coconut milk and simmer gently.

Meanwhile, chop up, soak, and fry the tofu. If you don’t want to use up a whole ton of oil that is required to properly fry things, a fairly light layer (like 1/4 inch) will do, just make sure to turn them often. Add the fried cubes/strips to the curry pot, let simmer for a few more minutes (it will be thick), then serve, preferably over rice. Garnish with sliced scallions.

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I went to a nutrition talk the other day and the man there said that organic brown rice apparently has very high levels of arsenic in it, so it’s something to be avoided. That’s what I used here, but a general note for the future. The problem, apparently, is that the rice is grown where cotton and tobacco used to, and they had high levels of toxins sprayed on them to keep away pests and the like, which rice is fantastically good at absorbing. I would assume that organic standards take that sort of situation into account, but maybe not. Regardless, maybe something to be cautious of (as if we didn’t have enough already). Sigh.

As another note, don’t forget to vote tomorrow (if you are American)! Voting is the only way you can definitively voice your opinion where it matters. Even in races that are already more or less decided, your vote will show where you want to be headed, and that will shape future political directions. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about anything, ever, because so much is affected by politics. If you would only vote based on food issues, Food Policy Action is a good place to start, although there are a myriad of issues that would benefit from more detailed research, and food is so intertwined with everything else that really it can’t be the sole issue on your plate. Get to it!

Fried Tofu with Beet Cabbage Slaw

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Look at that gorgeous color! Beets are so cool. This even has golden beets in it as well as the classic purple ones, but the pink colors kind of takes over. Yum.

This is about the only way that I do tofu. When I get tired of it, I’ll probably branch out (in fact, I’m thinking I will probably run out of all my basics to tell you about here so I’ll need to really try some new things. I’ve been wanting to get some new cookbooks too which will hopefully help). But tofu soaked in soy sauce and fried is just so good, why do it any other way?

Also, you can get Maine-made tofu! It is called Heiwa tofu. I honestly don’t know much about different varieties of tofu and what makes one better than another, but it tastes pretty good to me and I like supporting a local.

The slaw recipe came from my farmers, who publish a few recipe suggestions with each CSA. It is a very fresh slaw, letting the vegetables feature rather than the dressing. Have I told you about my farm yet? It is called New Beat Farm and is horse-powered (as in, only uses horses, no fossil fuel) and certified organic and generally just awesome. It’s a beautiful spot near Knox, Maine. I get eggs from them as well as vegetables and they are delicious.

I also added an avocado to this salad-thing. Not totally necessary, and a little extravagant since avocados do not, in fact, grow in Maine, but very delicious. There is unfortunately just no local substitute for the texture and light flavor of avocados.

Fried tofu 
Tofu
Soy sauce (you can also use something like balsamic vinegar if you want)
Vegetable oil

Slaw
About 1/2 head cabbage
2-3 raw beets
(Carrots would also be a good addition)
1 cup scallions
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

More scallions
Avocado

For the slaw (you can make this ahead of time if you want): Cut up the cabbage in thin strips. My mini food processor is not small enough to do this, but if yours is, go for it. Grate the beets (same deal with the food processor). Slice up the scallions thinly. Mix together the oil vinegar, salt and pepper.

Put everything together in a bowl and mix. Let it sit, mixing every few minutes for about 20 minutes.

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For the tofu: Cut it up in small chunks. I like doing this because it is so easy to cut in straight lines and make them all the same size. Not that it really matters (although you always want ingredients to be around the same size so they cook evenly), it’s just pleasing.

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Put them in in a flat-ish dish (I like to use a pie pan, because it is flat but wide and has some sides, unlike a plate) and sprinkle with soy sauce until there is a thin layer of soy sauce at the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for a few minutes, turning them over every now and then with a spatula, until they are all brown.

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Heat up the oil – there should be a shallow layer in the pan (I use cast iron, but then again it’s my only pan so I don’t have much choice) – over medium-high heat  until quite hot. Make sure you are wearing an apron. Carefully put the tofu into the pan. It will spit! (This might be a good place for one of those spit-guards if you have one.) You can add the leftover soy sauce if there isn’t much, but don’t add a lot of it – you want them fried, not steamed, and they can get too salty if you use too much. Let them fry for a few minutes, them turn them over with a spatula, again being watchful of spitting oil. Turn every few minutes until they are nicely golden brown on all (or at least most) sides and, most importantly, crispy.

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Now you are ready! Put some tofu on the plate (leftovers keep in the fridge and are also good cold), top with extra scallions if you like, then avocado and the slaw. I ate this kind of as a salad, I guess, but I think it would also be excellent on a sub.

Fried tofu is also good with sliced kohlrabi and parsley (and some scallions), drizzled with a little lemon or a vinaigrette. Which is what I packed for lunch at the office the other day. And then I had to take a picture at work when I assembled it. Don’t worry, no one was around.

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