It’s 2011: Give Tofu a Chance

Welcome to 2011. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times; it’s gonna be one heck of a ride. I don’t make resolutions because I know myself all too well, and by that, I mean I know I won’t keep a resolution. So, none of that—“I’m gonna lose 23 pounds,” “I’m gonna stop eating so many gummies” or “I’m gonna to stop watching those trashy Real World/Road Rules challenges”—for me. If anything, I would resolve to stop making promises to myself that I know I can’t keep. Yet, there is one prevailing thought that always occurs at the closing of one year and the opening of another—Be Better! I want to be better than the year before in anything and everything. A better friend, sister, daughter, puppy handler, candy consumer. Okay, I got off-track, but you get the picture. While writing this, another thought did pop into my unresolved head—I need to try more new foods and recipes, branch out if you will. This flippant resolution is why I’ve succumbed to writing a ‘blob’ about tofu.

The typewriter I got for Christmas. His name is Geoffrey.

I’m not gonna lie—tofu is weird. Not teletubby-weird, but more quirky-weird, like tiny hats, Amy Sedaris and people who purchase typewriters in the year 2010. When you look at tofu out of the package, it more resembles something you would clean with than something you would eat. However, there are a lot of delightful, edible treats that upon first viewing would seem strange to consume, such as beef tongue, tapioca pearls and dragon fruit. All of which I’ve tried and curiously enjoyed, especially the beef tongue. Mama always said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and dagnabbit I shan’t, or my name isn’t Carol Marie Hegler Jr.

Taking this idea one step further, my personal mantra extends to not judging based on first experiences. For example, when I first tried mushrooms, I wasn’t totally turned-off, but I also wasn’t jumping around yelling, “I must have more!” In fact, it wasn’t until I tried mushrooms several times that I found myself enjoying them. Sushi also falls under this umbrella, and now I even crave it. So far the only food that I’ve not being able to accept with open arms is goat cheese, but I’m working on that one. Needless to say, my first attempt with cooking tofu was not pretty. It involved hot sauce, tempura batter and lukewarm frying oil. Twas messy and slightly foul. However, because of its reputation of being above average in the nutrition department, yielding high protein content but low in fat and cholesterol, I knew I must try and try again.

Go head clean your countertops or prepare a stir-fry with tofu.

Tofu is made from the curds (not to be confused with ‘turds’) of soybean milk in a process similar to that of cheese, meaning the curds are drained and pressed together. It is typically found in thick, rectangular blocks and has an off-white coloring. I know you are thinking where can one procure this delicious-sounding tofu that you speak of. Hear me out though. Tofu has amazing chameleon-like abilities and is capable of taking on the flavor of the food with which it is cooked. This also means that by itself, or unaccompanied, it tastes ridiculously bland although slightly nutty. I would advise one to dismiss any notion of taking a giant bite out of a raw tofu block. You will mostly definitely be disappointed.

Tofu’s most prominent feature is its texture. It is both smooth and creamy yet thick enough to slice, dice and mash into soups, stir-fries, casseroles, sauces and even salad dressings. Most supermarkets carry tofu, but you will notice that it comes in several different varieties—all pertaining to its firmness. A good way to test the firmness of tofu is by giving it a big hug. I kid. There’s soft or silken tofu, which possesses a smooth, pliable texture. This variety is commonly mashed or puréed and used in salad dressings, sauces, smoothies and desserts as a thickening element. It provides foods with sustenance or body if you will. Speaking of bodies but not necessarily mine, the other varieties of tofu are firm and extra-firm. The firm and extra-firm varieties are thicker and have a cheese-like texture. You can actually grill, bake or stir-fry these varieties.

The friendly, health-conscious folks of Cooking Light came up with this delightful little tofu recipe. It’s a perfect first run with tofu because it pairs tofu with a meat component, which allows the tofu to take on the meaty characteristics of pork. In other words, it’s a nice introduction to tofu if you’ve never tried it before. Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish from the Sichuan (Szechuan) province that can be described simply as a stir-fry. I did take the liberty to slightly tweak the original recipe by substituting hoisin sauce for oyster sauce, adding some rice vinegar and upping the amount of soy sauce and pork used. Now, if you are a tofu lover or vegetarian, you could exclude the pork all together and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. On the flip side, if the thought of tofu repulses you, then do all pork. It’s a win-win either way.

This blog is brought to you by—Amy Sedaris, people who purchase typewriters in the year 2010, and tiny hats (http://www.hulu.com/watch/180976/saturday-night-live-ladies-who-lunch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapo Tofu

1 (1-pound) package reduced-fat firm tofu, cut into 6 slices

½ cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1-2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

8 ounces lean ground pork

1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups hot cooked long-grain brown rice

½ cup chopped green onions

  1. Place tofu slices on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Place a dinner plate on top of covered tofu; let stand 30 minutes. Remove plate; discard paper towels. Cut tofu slices into ½-inch cubes.
  2. Combine broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch and chili garlic sauce, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; cook 4 minutes or until done, stirring to crumble. Add ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tofu; cook 4 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Add broth mixture to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
  4. Serve tofu mixture over rice. Sprinkle with onions. Yield: 4 servings

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2 Comments »

  1. Megan said

    Ku-dos to you. And may I say that I am inwardly, and at all times, running around with my hands in the air begging for more goat cheese. I could eat it on anything. And everything.

    • Haha! I know it’s sad that I haven’t being able to fall in like with goat cheese. Someday…someday…

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