Tofu. There I wrote it. My first recipe is tofu-based (or “two-foo” as Erica Weidner, contestant on “Worst Cooks in America” mispronounced it repeatedly a few weeks ago). People cringe when I say it. I am often apologetic when I suggest recipes with tofu in them. I always throw in the caveat “you can substitute chicken!” because tofu IS like chicken. The taste is subtle and it takes on the flavor of whatever I cook it with. It is versatile. It is a respite from beans for vegetarians.
There’s another word . . . vegetarian. Scott and I have been vegetarian for more than 20 years now. Inspired by John Robbins, we chose to pass on the pot roast . . . the turkey . . . the steak in the late 80s. So, tofu it is. Sometimes.
I have developed an affection for these soy bean cakes though – especially firm tofu cut into slabs, blotted dry, cubed and pan-fried in some oil over medium high heat. It develops a pleasing crispy, chewy texture. Then, if you dunk it in a coconut curry sauce . . . well, then you have a little bit of heaven in a bowl.
Coconut Curry With Tofu and Lime
adapted from This Can’t Be Tofu! by Deborah Madison
Serving Size : 4
1 carton firm tofu with about 1 TBS of peanut or vegetable oil to pan fry (Of course, you CAN substitute chicken . . . maybe about a pound of already cooked chicken?)
1 can coconut milk mixed with 1/2 cup water or stock (I use water with about 1/4 tsp. Better than Bouillon for that nice umami flavor)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons curry powder (I use 1 tsp. mild and 1 tsp. that is spicier)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water (I have a block of this kicking around in the back of my fridge. We bought it years ago at our local international grocery . . . it keeps indefinitely and is worth buying if you plan to do any Asian or Indian cooking. If you can’t find it easily, there are substitute suggestions online.)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, diced small
2 scallions including the firm greens, chopped
juice of 1 lime
mushroom soy sauce, to taste (Mushroom soy sauce gives another hit of that umami or savory flavor. It is one of my secret ingredients. It elevates dishes from somewhat flavorful to bursting with flavor. It makes the difference in soup as well.)
Drain the tofu, pat dry with paper towel, then dice it into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat oil to medium high in a heavy skillet (I use cast iron). Brown tofu turning occasionally to get as many sides as possible. Set tofu aside.
Combine the next ten ingredients in the skillet. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Add the tofu, lower the heat, and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and scallions, and simmer 5 minutes more.
Add the lime juice. Season to taste with a teaspoon or more mushroom soy sauce. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro over basmati rice or noodles.
Note: Both Scott and I are professors, so the letter grades make sense to me for now.
Luca (8 year-old foodie): D (“It was too spicy.”)
Alia (4 year-old food terrorist): A (“It was very good!”)