If you don’t like tofu, navigating a stir-fry can be as challenging as a trip through the Amazon jungle.
Seldom does any food provoke responses as intense and diverse as tofu. Its fans are fanatics, and its haters would rather eat cement.
In the College Kitchen we strive to promote understanding and tolerance of all foods, including tofu. Higher education is a time of learning and change. Therefore, we have prepared tofu in three variations. Even the most tofu-timid can give these protein-packed eats a try.
For the Fans: Tofu Salad
Taking a walk on the bolder side of tofu-town, this dish infuses the usually mild tofu with strong ingredients. Served cold, this marinated salad doesn’t play around with the texture, leaving things as-is, which for tofu-veterans will provide the slippery, unaltered, tofu consistency.
7 oz. (about half a standard package) firm tofu
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch cube raw ginger
3 cloves garlic
2 green onions
2 cups spinach or romaine lettuce
In a shallow skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. When the oil is warm, add the sesame seeds to the oil, and toast them until they start to brown. Remove from heat. Mince garlic finely. Grate ginger. In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, adding the seed mixture. After cutting your tofu into small cubes, pour the dressing over it. Let it marinate for at least two hours. Overnight is even better. When ready to eat, prepare a bed of greens, and add the tofu. Top with chopped green onion, and serve.
For the Fearful: Fried Tofu Bites
Frying pieces of tofu eliminates the dense, moist texture and replaces it with a crunchy exterior and airy center. Throw in some spices, and you’ve got tofu so well-disguised its own mother wouldn’t recognize it.
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 ounces firm tofu
Heat oil on medium high. First, make sure tofu is mostly dry on the outside; pat dry with a paper towel if necessary. Slice it into oblong rectangles. Mix together starch and spices. Coat the tofu in the mixture, then drop the piece into the hot oil. When golden brown, remove and drain on a paper towel. Serve with hot sauce, or as an accompaniment to stir-fried vegetables.
For the Haters: Tofu and Rice Stuffed Peppers
Tofu has only a cameo role in this dish. Masking most of it in a sea of rice, the garlic-tinged tofu adds extra protein and zest to these stuffed peppers.
2 bell peppers (any color)
3 cloves garlic
4 ounces firm tofu
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 pinch red chili flakes
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup colby-jack cheese
To begin, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil on medium-low heat. Mince the garlic and add it to the oil. When the garlic begins to soften, add the soy sauce, ketchup and chili flakes. When a uniform sauce begins to form, add the tofu. Break off tofu crumbles with your fork. Small pieces should fall away from the larger piece until you can smash the last bits into tiny chunks. After you add the tofu, raise the heat to medium-high. Stir. As the garlic pieces and tofu crumbles begin to brown, you will notice them becoming a little crusty and dry. This is good. It will add an interesting texture combination to your peppers. Turn off the heat, and mix in your rice. After removing the tops and innards of your peppers, stuff them with your rice mixture. Top with grated cheese, place upright on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is slightly brown.
The biggest complaint about tofu is that it’s too bland. Think of this flavor-lacking food as your canvas for seasonings, and in no time you too will be a sucking down nuggets of your new favorite bean curd.