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Terrific tofu! - Vegan Cooking Tips

A block of tofu--who cares? Unless you're like me and can eat it straight out of the container, tofu has a rather neutral personality. But it does not need to be this way. Let's see what you can do to spark up the tofu in your life.

First, a quick review: silken and soft tofu have a texture that works well for blending, as in smoothies, and for stirring, such as mixing into soups or sauces. Firm tofu will stand up reasonably well to baking and steaming but may be a little jiggly. Extra firm tofu will stand up to grilling, slicing, and barbecuing. To make an even firmer texture, place tofu in a colander or strainer. Weigh it down with several plates and allow it to drain for at least 3 hours. You can allow tofu to drain like this in the refrigerator during the day or overnight.

All the suggestions in this article are for extra firm tofu. You can drain it or not, depending on how firm you like it. Once you've drained tofu, you have to use it pretty quickly, within a day or two. After that, it will dry out.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Find a small, square baking pan or frying pan of your choice. If you're using the frying pan, have a can of vegetable oil spray handy. Here are some tofu choices:

[1] Pour prepared barbecue sauce into a bowl large enough to accommodate the tofu. Add the tofu, cover with barbecue sauce, and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. You can allow it to sit in the refrigerator overnight or all day.

Remove tofu from the bowl and place the whole block in a baking dish. Add a little sauce. Cover and allow to bake until hot. If you'd like it a bit crispy, you can bake it uncovered. If you're using the frying pan, remove the tofu from the sauce (but save the sauce) and cut it into large squares. Preheat the pan, spray it with oil, and saute the tofu on all sides, until hot. Add the sauce, cover, and allow to cook until the sauce is hot.

[2] You can try the same technique from the previous tip with the following marinades:

a) Mix soy sauce, vinegar, a little orange juice, and a little lemon juice to your taste.

b) Reconstitute mushroom soup, add a can of drained, sliced mushrooms, and proceed.

c) Mix tomato sauce and salsa together, and proceed.

d) Buy some tandoori paste, mix with unflavored soy yogurt or soy sour cream, and proceed.

[3] For the morning, place a block of drained tofu in a microwave-safe bowl. Mash or break it into small pieces. Sprinkle with maple syrup, powdered ginger, orange juice concentrate, and some sweetener. Microwave on HIGH until hot. Enjoy! Other morning seasonings can include: apricot, raspberry, boysenberry, or strawberry preserves; sliced ripe berries and bananas; canned crushed pineapple; thawed frozen mango or fresh ripe mango; apple juice concentrate; chopped dates; and ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

[4] You don't have to cook tofu to make it wonderful. In the morning, put your tofu in a bowl, cut it into chunks, and cover it lightly with your favorite salad dressing. Cover and refrigerate. In the evening, stop at your favorite to-go salad bar and make a nice salad; remember to include lots of textures and colors. Come home, mix the tofu and the salad together and you've got dinner. If you'd like to do this with fruit, allow tofu chunks to marinate in mango juice, apricot nectar, orange juice, or crushed pineapple (or a combination). Make or buy some fresh fruit salad. Combine the fruit and the tofu, and you're done!

[5] Really, really fast: put a block of tofu in a baking dish or in a microwave-safen pan. Cover with canned chopped tomatoes, canned sliced mushrooms, sliced olives, and some salsa or tomato sauce if you have it. Bake or microwave until hot, and you've prepared dinner. Other add-ons include: shredded vegan cheese, black beans, soybeans, lentils, chopped green peppers, green peas, shredded spinach or greens, nutritional yeast, and chopped onions.

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