I remember the first time I tasted tofu. I was eleven years old and my dad, on a constant health food kick, brought some home from the grocery store to top a salad with. Always a curious eater, I popped a raw cube in my mouth: it was water-logged, jiggly, and bland. I was repulsed.
Fortunately, I'm a firm believer in second chances.
Over a decade later, I can't get enough of the stuff. It's the queen of cheap protein, with a package of pressed tofu (5 servings) running you about $2.50. It's versatile and loves getting dressed up. It's even inspired world-famous bands to sing its praises.
First, you need a primer, then you can get cooking. You're not afraid of a little bean curd, are you?
Tofu, like most foods, tastes really good when it's fried. I love what Madhuja does in this Japanese Style Fried Tofu recipe; top it with Sriracha and garlicky baby bok choy for a spicy, flavorful meal. Add it to a rich coconut curry or a lighter summer one and spoon it over rice. Rub mustard all over it and arrange it on top of your favorite vegetables. Throw leftover cubes in soup or scatter them on salad. The Kitchn has a guide that'll show you how to get your technique down pat. Now fry, fry away.
When I get home from work exhausted and ravenous, I turn to tofu scrambles for a quick and comforting meal. Grab a pack of tofu, drain the liquid, then smash it up with a fork. Chop and sauté whatever vegetables you're in the mood for, season them, and then throw in the crumbled tofu. Make sure you have turmeric on hand to add color to the tofu, and keep sautéing it until it starts to brown. Here's a recipe reminiscent of huevos rancheros, and another that's a little lighter. Serve it piping hot with bread or homefries, ketchup or hot sauce. Use it to replace eggs in a breakfast burrito. Eat it standing up straight from the pan with a big wooden spoon, pausing only to take swigs of beer. You get the idea.
The ultimate sandwich filler and salad topper, baked tofu requires a little extra time to prepare. You've got to be patient; pull it out of the oven too early and you'll be missing the whole point. Here's what I like to do: slice slabs of tofu and slather them in barbecue sauce. Bake them, and eat them hot out of the oven with collard greens that have been braising while the tofu cooks. Make a whole package, because the leftovers taste great in a hamburger bun with an ear of corn on the side.
Tell us: what are your favorite ways to prepare tofu?
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).Order now