Learn to love tofu!By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"
Few foods are as polarizing as tofu: say the word and watch as noses crinkle or mouths water. I fall on the tofu-lover side of the spectrum, but I think we might be of the minority.
Tofu, also known as soybean curd, is made by soaking, boiling, blending, and straining soybeans, then adding a coagulating agent and pressing it. Think of it like this: cheese is to milk as tofu is to soymilk.
Really whets the appetite, doesn't it?
Scratch that. Think of tofu as the other white meat. Like chicken, it's a versatile protein, a blank canvas upon which to test your culinary prowess. I have substituted tofu in just about every chicken recipe I have.
There are basically two kinds of tofu: soft and firm.
Soft tofu is great in sauces, smoothies, and desserts. We're going to focus on firm tofu, which is easier for beginners to cook. You'll find "firm" and "extra-firm" styles, but actual textures vary greatly by brand.
Firm-style tofu is best for stir-fries or for replacing meat in a recipe. These varieties take on the flavor of the dish into which they are incorporated. So you can spice, sauce, or marinate to your heart's content-you decide the flavor. Firm varieties of tofu are available in both refrigerated and shelf-stable packages. Just open, drain the water, slice, and cook as desired. If you don't use the whole block at once, cover the rest with water and store (tightly covered) in the refrigerator for up to five days, changing the water daily.
Three Terrific Tofu Tips
- 1. Press it. Tofu is packed in water, which needs to be drained before using. I also recommend pressing it for a crispier finished product and to prevent watering down your flavorings. Slice the tofu as desired, then place on a lint-free dish towel and top with another towel. Place a heavy object atop the tofu (I use my cutting board), and let it sit for up to 30 minutes. For a quicker version, you can use your hands to gently press down on the tofu to squeeze out the water
- 2. Freeze it. Freezing then thawing tofu changes the texture. It becomes denser and chewier. I crumble and sauté thawed blocks of tofu with onions and garlic, then throw them into tomato sauce, chili, or soup. It adds a texture similar to ground meat. (Place in a lint-free towel and squeeze out excess water before using.)
- 3. Crisp it. When sautéed with a bit of nonstick cooking spray or broiled in the oven, tofu gets slightly crispy and crunchy on the outside just like meat does. The texture makes a big difference in the taste. Use just a bit of oil because tofu is like a sponge; it will soak up as much oil as you give it!
Reprinted from "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" (c) 2011 by SparkPeople, Inc. Permission granted by Hay House, Inc., New York, NY 10033. Available wherever books are sold.
SparkRecipes.com editor Stepfanie Romine is a certified yoga teacher and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A vegetarian and runner, she has lived and cooked on three continents.