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First, I would like to bust a myth; vegans do not live off tofu alone.  (Gasps fill the internetz.)  Varying your diet is a good thing!  However, tofu is a good friend of mine.  So after some cooking advice requests from friends that resulted in a tofu night as well as inspiration for a student newspaper article I wrote, I’d like to share a little on how to prep tofu.

Tofu can be prepared in about a gazillion ways.  Today, I’m basically going to share just one way to prepare it for two different dishes.  For these dishes, you will want to buy regular extra firm tofu (not the silken kind…it’ll crumble easier, so it isn’t very beginner-friendly.  More on other types of tofu to come later).  When you open a package of tofu, it’s a good idea to rinse it off first.  Any leftover uncooked tofu (assuming you have leftover) should be stored in the fridge, covered in water.  The water should be changed every day.  The packages say that they keep for 3 days after opening, however that looks as though it doesn’t account for the whole storing in water thingy, and I’ve had tofu stay very fresh up to a week after opening.

Both of these recipes are created by basically frying tofu cubes in a pre-heated pot or pan with a little oil.  The trick to doing this well is not to get flip-happy; let the tofu turn golden on the side that’s facing down before you stir it!  I cook tofu on medium heat to make it a little chewier on the outside, but some people prefer it cooked on a lower temperature.  Also, this can be done in a non-stick pan without oil too, and you will still get nice, golden tofu.  I will often skip the oil when I make myself lightly stir-fried veggies and tofu in a non-stick pan for a quick meal.  Actually, if you’re not worried about getting the outsides golden, then just lightly heat your tofu cubes and call it a night (half the time, I don’t really care if the tofu in my stir-fries is golden on the outside).

Tofu marinates very well.  Try putting it in a marinade for at least an hour, and it’ll soak up a bunch of flavour.  Also, being meat-free, you can re-use the marinade as a sauce for the same dish later.  Glee!

When cutting tofu, make sure you don’t cut it into pieces that are too small or too thin.  I would guess that a good rule of thumb is to keep everything at least a centimeter thick, or it might crumble badly while cooking (which can be a desired effect at times).  Also, if cooking tofu to add to veggies or the like, cook the tofu first.  You may even want to cook it and set it aside while the veggies cook, and add it back in after if you fear it’ll end up getting too beaten up in the stir-fry process.

Ready for some recipes now?

Miso French Onion Soup

Since this one’s supposed to be richer and almost gravy-like, I would cook it with the oil and the sugar, however if you were wanting to make a healthier version, by all means skip those two ingredients and cook the tofu and onions in a non-stick pan.  I didn’t bother with the bread or the fake cheese on top, because I personally was in it for the rich broth and excessive amount of onions myself.  That and soggy bread makes me irritable.

(Serves one.  Multiply for more.  I’m actually guessing at the measurements a bit, just so that you know.  I never measured this one out.)

– 1/2 onion, chopped in fair-sized pieces

– 1/4 block of tofu

– a little cooking oil (not pure olive oil, as it’ll heat too hot, and have the wrong flavour)

– a small spoonful of not-so-refined sugar

– Freshly ground pepper.

– 2 cups water or veggie broth

– 2 tbsp of miso paste (or to whatever strength you prefer)

– (oh, and if you want some greens, wilt a little bok choy greens in here too!)

Fry the tofu and onion together in the oil, adding in the sugar to speed up the caramelizing and browning processes, and give everything a slight glaze.  Season with pepper.  It should look like the picture below, where the sides of the tofu are slightly brown in places, and the onions are turning transparent.  Note that for the onion’s sake, you’ll need to stir this more often than you normally would stir tofu, but the sugar will help with the browning so it’ll be ok.

tofu-and-onions

Add the water or broth, and heat until warm, but not boiling.  Remove a little of the warm water or broth and stir it into the miso paste.  Add the miso to the rest of the soup and stir well.  Again, make sure none of this ever comes to a boil, or your soup will be bitter.

Tofu Stir Fry

Of course there’s never been one true way to make a stir-fry, but some people like a place to start from.  This is the stir fry from our tofu night.  Serves fourish.  Again, sorry for the not so exact measurements.

– a block of extra firm tofu

– cooking oil (optional)

– Green onions

– broccoli

– Chinese bean sprouts

– bok choy

– carrots

– any other veg your heart desires (am I missing anything we used that night?)

for a simple sauce:

– soy sauce

– lime juice

– a little not-so-refined sugar or maple syrup, but keep this to a minimum

– freshly grated ginger

– fresh or powdered garlic

– dried chili (we used 2 chilies)

– a little corn starch

Cook the tofu either in oil, or in a nonstick pan.  Note- if you’re using a really nice wok (like somebody’s…you know who you are…) you won’t need much heat to do this, so keep it on medium-low!  Warm up the wok to medium-high, and tir-fry the veggies for about 3 minutes (or more if you’re not into crispy veggies, but I urge you to try it).  Add a sauce, such as the one I described above (blend everything together before adding), or just a little soy sauce.

Sorry there’s no picture…we kinda forgot the camera part-way through cooking.

More tofu tutorials in the future.

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