Before you cook tofu, you might want to know what it is. Tofu is soy bean curd that has been pressed into blocks. It is lightweight, with a spongy, porous texture. It has very little flavor. It is widely used by vegetarians as a meat substitute since it is high in protein and low in calories and fat.
When purchased fresh, it should be used right away. Any unused portion must be refrigerated in fresh water, which should be changed daily to extend the tofu’s life. Tofu can be frozen, but the consistency will toughen slightly, making it chewier than normal. Pre-packaged tofu has a longer shelf life, but the fresh version tastes and cooks better.
Use firm or very firm tofu for cooking. If your tofu seems to have absorbed too much water, wrap it in a lightweight towel and squeeze out the excess water. When used as a meat substitute, tofu’s texture and porosity is a distinct advantage. It absorbs flavor from the foods surrounding it, increasing its versatility.
While you won’t find slabs of tofu roasting on barbecue grills in back yards, tofu can be cooked in most of the same ways meat is cooked. It’s popular to marinate tofu prior to cooking, to load it with flavor that will be sealed inside by cooking. You can marinate the tofu all night long or just dip the pieces into room-temperature marinade immediately before preparing. Thicker marinades take longer and should be kept in the refrigerator.
Boiled tofu is a great addition to Asian soups, like Hot and Sour or Egg Drop. The tofu needs to be boiled for 20 minutes. To more closely simulate the texture of meat, boil it slightly longer. That will stiffen the edges of the tofu cube.
To grill tofu, it’s best to freeze it for 2 days prior to slicing and marinating it. Try a barbeque sauce or soy sauce marinade. After grilling, serve with vegetables and rice or couscous for a satisfying light meal.
Slice tofu into strips about one inch by one-half inch. Marinate them in soy sauce for the kids. Then fry them until the outside is crispy. For more adventurous tastes, try a marinade with cumin, red pepper, ginger, or a curry. Fried tofu goes well with pasta, rice, or stir-fried veggies.
When baking, tofu can replace numerous dairy ingredients. It can substitute for eggs, milk, yogurt, or sour cream. Pureed tofu can also replace eggs in cookie recipes, creams in cream sauces, mayonnaise in dips, and milk in mashed potatoes.
Benefits of Cooking with Tofu
Tofu is such an effective meat substitute, it is better than meat in some ways. It is not only high in iron and B-vitamins, it also contains stockpiles of calcium and manganese. When cooking, remember that you’ll get a lot of mileage from a little tofu. Just because you’re substituting it for meat, don’t eat a meaty portion. It is best in small amounts, with an adult portion being usually less than 4 ounces.
Tofu is easy to digest and has low cholesterol. It’s easy to work tofu into your favorite recipes. It’s a healthy choice whether you’re a vegetarian or just need a break from meat.
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