Happy October, all! How was your weekend? Mine included a Friday night showing of Gone Girl, which I implore you to go see immediately. I read the book last summer, so I didn’t remember much, and Jackie hadn’t read it – and yet we both spent the entire 2+ hours on the edge of our seats. The author wrote the screenplay, which is very unusual and made for a killer adaption (pun intended!). My weekend also included some betting on horses at Keeneland race track in Lexington, KY for a friend of Nash’s birthday, a haircut, apple picking with my cousins big and small, yoga, and other weekend things like cleaning. It was a busy one.
After a long day of drinking and betting on horses on Saturday, we were all ready for some R&R in front of the fireplace that night. We ordered some Thai takeout, and I went with my usual red curry with tofu. It hit the spot. So much so, in fact, that when I got home on Sunday and noticed that the two packages of tofu in my fridge were about to expire, I decided to recreate it for dinner.
When I tell people that I love tofu, they usually look at me with a puzzled face and ask if I’m a vegetarian. The answer to that question is definitely no. But just because I can’t imagine life without bacon (bad Jew) doesn’t mean there isn’t room in my heart (and belly) for vegetarian sources of protein. Because here’s the thing – tofu, when prepared well, is freaking AWESOME. Take, for example, the chopped salad at Northstar Cafe. Ashley is a genius and turned me on to subbing out the boring turkey in favor of their amazing tofu. The person taking our order always thinks we are vegetarians and asks if we want the bacon omitted, and we say “heck no!”.
After people get over the idea that I’m a bacon-and-tofu loving girl, the second question they usually ask is, “how do you make tofu?”. That, my friends, is a very important question. Because as much as I love good tofu, poorly prepared tofu can leave you running for a cheeseburger. I first started making tofu when I read about it on my favorite healthy-living blog, Kath Eats Real Food. For years I mimicked her method of baking tofu in the oven, which resulted in chewy pieces that I would add to salads, stir-fries, and even sandwiches. As of late, I’ve been taking the lazy route and stir-frying my tofu right on top of the stove. It’s faster and easier when I’m making a stir-fry, like I did last night – it’s a one-pan dish and is just as tasty.
Regardless of how you cook it, the first step is always the same, and always very important. I neglected to snap a photo of the tofu container, but I always purchase “extra firm” tofu – the firmer, the better. Remove it from its packaging, drain the liquid, and wrap in paper towels. Place the wrapped tofu between two plates, place in the fridge, and put something heavy on top. In my case, the fifth Harry Potter book – it’s my least favorite and is plenty long enough to press my tofu adequately! Leave in the fridge for as much time as you can. I did this around noon yesterday and didn’t remove that evening, about 8 hours later. You can press for as little as 15 minutes and you’ll be fine, but the more liquid that drains out, the firmer, chewier tofu you’ll have.
When you’re ready to begin cooking, unwrap the tofu from the paper towels and place on a cutting board. The next step is to cut your tofu into cubes. Personally, I like mine on the big side – just like Northstar’s – but you can cut them as small as you like. I usually start by cutting into four sections like below, then cutting each of those lengthwise and then cutting them further into squares.
While you’re cutting the tofu, heat some oil in a wok or similar high-heat skillet. My new thing is this coconut oil from Trader Joes – another blog-reading discovery (I just noticed that the expiration date passed – oops). The coconut gives the tofu so much flavor and is a nice change of pace from more traditional cooking oils. When the oil is hot, add the cubed tofu and stir-fry away, making sure to toss the pieces around every minute or two to prevent burning.
In about 20 minutes, maybe longer, the tofu will have a nice golden coating on most sides and will be chewy and flavorful. For some reason my tofu fell apart more than usual last night, so this photo doesn’t quite do it justice, but when ready your tofu will look something like this:
Once the tofu is cooked, about 20-30 minutes and golden brown, I remove it from the pan and set aside. Depending on what you’re doing with the tofu, the process might end here – package the tofu up to add to salads, etc. later on. But in the case of last night, I wanted to make tofu curry like the takeout I had the night before. After removing the tofu from the wok, I reheated a little more coconut oil and added some sliced stir-fry veggies: carrots (pre-julienned from the grocery store), onions, and red/orange/yellow peppers, which I stir-fried for about 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, I made some frozen broccoli in another pan (Trader Joes has the best) before adding it to the wok with the rest of the veggies as well as the cooked tofu.
And last, but definitely not least – the curry sauce! I was lazy and used bottle red curry sauce (also from TJ’s!), but you could most certainly create your own. I like their’s because it’s thick, creamy, and a little spicy. I added the whole bottle since I was making enough food for an army. I also added a few squirts of sriracha for extra goodness! By itself, tofu doesn’t have much (if any) flavor, but it’s like a sponge and will soak up whatever is available – and this sauce hits the spot. While the stir-fry was frying away, I cooked some white basmati rice. I considered simply heating up a microwave packet of brown rice, but since I was making so much stir-fry and it would take some time to cook, I decided to go all-out with basmati. It was a good decision – it was slightly sticky, sweet, and just what I was craving. I served the tofu and veg mixture over the rice and topped with crunchy bean sprouts, salty peanuts, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It was very tasty, and despite the massive quantity I served myself last night (that is a large bowl), I had leftovers for lunch today and will again tomorrow. It’s warming, flavorful, and healthy – look at all those bright veggies and healthy protein! Remember, this is just one way to prepare tofu – you can marinade it before stir-frying or baking, dip it in egg and flour and bake like coated chicken, etc. Tofu is extremely versatile and the texture is additcing. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself craving it more than meat – I know I do!
Got tofu questions? Ask them here! For those of you who are already on the tofu train – what’s your favorite way to prepare it?