Nouvelle Tofu

An old-time health food is now available in bold new flavors.

By Lisa James

September 2009


If you were a flannel-shirt-and-beads type during the 1970s it was almost a rite of passage: The first time you ate tofu. The flavor (or lack thereof) and texture did take some getting used to. But you were into the vegetarian thing, man, and tofu’s protein power was far out.

Today manufacturers have used tofu’s blandness as the canvas for a wide flavor palette, from the black beans and cilantro of Latin America to the tomatoes and basil of southern Italy to the ginger and soy of tofu’s original home in east Asia. These modern versions are often ready to serve out of the package in salads and sandwiches or warmed for inclusion in soups and stir-frys.

If you have a little bit more kitchen time you can always turn to one of the standard tofu types. Soft or silken tofu’s custard-like consistency is a natural for smoothies, dips and such desserts as mousses and creamy pies. Traditional firm tofu can be sliced, grated or cubed, and freezing gives it a chewier, meatier texture. It is at its best when marinated; always use a nonreactive container made from glass or stainless steel. Extra-firm or dry tofu also has a meat-like bite that takes to frying or grilling.

When buying tofu always check the expiration date; it should last for a week in the refrigerator if kept covered in cold water that’s changed daily. Tofu that turns pink or smells off should be discarded.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had tofu, try some of the new flavored creations or learn how to season the standard varieties to match your mature tastes. It’s the culinary equivalent of downloading classic Dead tracks to your iPod.

ET Recipe

Fresh Shiitake Stir-Fry

1 lb firm tofu, cut into
1/2” cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, cut into
triangles
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/2 lb snow peas, washed
and stems removed
3 1/2 oz fresh shiitake
mushrooms, sliced

Marinade:
1 1” cube peeled fresh
ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup mirin*
2 tbsp soy sauce

* Mirin is a sweet, low-alcohol wine used
in Japanese cooking.

1. Place the tofu in a glass or stainless steel bowl. To make the marinade,
place the ginger and garlic in a food processor, chop, then add the
mirin and soy sauce, and blend. Pour over the tofu, cover and place
in the refrigerator.
2. Place the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the pepper and
scallions, and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
Add the snow peas and mushrooms and stir for 1 minute; then
add the tofu and stir for another minute. Cover and steam until the
tofu and vegetables are hot.

Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 173 calories, 15g protein, 7g fat (1g saturated), 4g fiber,
13g carbohydrate, 520 mg sodium

Source: Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler (Book Publishing Company, www.bookpubco.com)

Tofu Tabouli

1 cup bulgur
1/2 lb minced firm tofu
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the bulgur with 2 cups boiling water and allow to soak for 1 hour.
2. Drain the bulgur well and transfer to a large bowl; mix in the remaining ingredients.
Serve on a bed of leaf lettuce garnished with tomato wedges.

Serves 12. Analysis per serving: 95 calories, 4g protein, 4g fat (1g saturated),
3g fiber, 12g carbohydrate, 68 mg sodium

Source: Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler (Book Publishing Company, www.bookpubco.com)

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