When a recipe asks you to press tofu, it’s not trying to annoy you. It’s trying to lead you toward concentrated flavor, a custardy middle, and crusty edges.
It’s annoying, nonetheless.
Because if you’re like me, you start cooking dinner as soon as you get hungry (which is to say, too late). And it isn’t that pressing tofu is hard—you use a tofu press, or put a plate and can of chickpeas on top of it and wait. It’s the waiting that’s hard.
Luckily, a few months ago, I found a supermarket shortcut to avoid all of this: Trader Joe’s Super Firm Tofu. While other tofu varieties, like firm and extra-firm, swim in a kiddie pool of water, this kind comes tightly wrapped in plastic, like cheese.
Its texture is as creamy as cheese, too. It is dense and concentrated, but not dried out—the sort of squidgy firmness that I’m going for every time I press tofu in a hurry (and end up squashing the block into a million little pieces by mistake).
After cubing it, I like to blot the super-firm tofu with a towel, to get it even drier. But from there on, it’s full speed ahead with whatever is for dinner that night. Here are four likely contenders:
Grilled Peanut Tofu
Peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, and chile sauce are the base for this grilled tofu. You can turn the planks into a sandwich (pickled vegetables on top would be great), or make cubes instead and toss onto rice.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.