08 August 2010

Marinated Tofu Magic

I like seafood, but I try to avoid eating land animals on a regular basis. I mean, in the name of sampling new foods, sometimes I must, but I would also like to avoid the heart disease and obesity that can come with regular consumption. And so, for well over a decade, I have tried to find creative ways of getting enough protein into my diet without those constant stacks of chicken or beef littering my plate. Besides beans and rice, legumes, and fatty cheese-based meals (love those!), tofu seems like an obvious item on the grocery list, but it has taken me a long time to really like it. The texture is creepy, and that vague soy taste that seems to linger in the mouth is not my favorite. I have come up with some solutions: you can change the texture by freezing and thawing it (thank you Mark Bitman, for sharing your genius with the world), you can sear or fry it for a little crispness to add variety to that texture, and you can marinade the heck out of it so the flavor is not only palatable, but tasty. This is the preparation I return to again and again, it makes a great add-in wherever you would use meat in an Asian-inspired dish.

Spicy marinated tofu

Prep: When you come home with your little tub of extra-firm tofu, take it out, give it a good squeeze between your hands to remove some of the excess water, slice it lengthwise into two “steaks”, and place each piece in a sandwich-size Ziploc bag. Place baggies of tofu in freezer for at least two days. Then, you’ll need a good 1-2 days of thawing time in the refrigerator before you decide to use it. Fussy? Not any worse than thawing a roast!

So, for 1 container (2 “steaks”) tofu, thawed and pressed for an hour,


1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce

1/8 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup rice wine or apple vinegar

1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

¼ cup water

Place pressed tofu in a container with an airtight lid. Stir marinade ingredients together and pour over tofu. Cover, then gently shake to coat and set aside for 30 minutes. *If you are going to grill or sear the tofu, leave it in steaks. Otherwise, for frying or baking in the oven, I cut it into cubes before placing it in the marinade.

Cook as desired. To grill, place on a well-oiled grill or grill pan over high heat. Cook 4-5minutes on each side or until sufficiently browned. Ditto for searing on the stove (frying pan, lightly coated with oil, medium-high heat).

To fry, heat 2-3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil (watch for the shimmer) in a frying pan and cook over medium-high heat 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned.

To bake, lay out on an oiled cookie sheet so that each cube of tofu is making contact with the pan. Bake at 400˚F for 20 minutes, turn each cube, and bake for another 15 minutes or until well-browned. This cooking method will produce the most shrinkage from your tofu, by the way.

In cubes, use as a meat substitute in stir fries, Thai curries, or soups. As steaks, serve with veggies of your choice. Cold or warm leftovers are great in salads, too.