Monday, April 2, 2012

Tofu: What the hell is it?

Tofu (Bean Curd) is the product of coagulated soy milk. 

The process of making Tofu is actually very similar to that of making cheese from cow's milk. Soy milk and regular milk are both just stable emulsions of protein, water and oil.

In order to make cow's milk cheese, the proteins in the milk (curds) must be separated from the water (whey). Once the curds have been separated and the whey has been drained off, you are left with the solid protein portion which can be pressed into blocks giving us the foundation for every single type of cheese imaginable.

The same process can be applied to soy milk; that is the mysterious secret of Tofu.

Now I can hear you saying, "That's great, Adam, but what the hell do I do with this mysterious bean cheese?"

I'm glad you asked. The following recipe is a very simple example of substituting Tofu for meat. The result is a surprisingly satisfying vegan snack, featuring a crispy outside and a pleasingly chewy, chicken nugget-y inside.

This recipe, and many others, call for the Tofu to be "pressed." 

How to press Tofu: Open the package and drain the liquid; wrap the block of Tofu in several paper towels, or a clean kitchen towel, and place on a cutting board. Place an unopened soup can, or other slightly heavy object, in a bowl with a flat bottom and rest it on top of the block of tofu for 15 minutes. The object of this process is to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. This is especially important for recipes where we want the tofu to remain firm. 

Breaded Tofu Nuggets

                1 package Extra firm Tofu, pressed
                ¾ cup bread crumbs
                1 teaspoon dried parsley
                1 teaspoon garlic powder
                1 teaspoon onion powder
                ½ teaspoon black pepper
                1/3 cup soy milk
                2 Tablespoons mustard
                Olive oil for pan frying
1.       Slice the tofu into chunks and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
2.       While the tofu is chilling, combine the bread crumbs and seasonings in a mixing bowl; in a separate bowl whisk together the soy milk and mustard.
3.       Remove the tofu from the freezer and dip each piece into the milk and then into the bread crumbs to coat thoroughly.
4.       Fry each piece of tofu until golden brown.

I served this to my vegetarian class with a little bit of ketchup and it was a big hit. Even the clients who usually don't go for my veggie recipes came back for seconds!

These nuggets can also be baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees if the frying doesn't appeal to you. 

Anyway... this is far from the only way that Tofu can be enjoyed. After pressing the Tofu you can marinate it in a little bit of soy sauce and bake/fry/stir fry/mold into the shape of a turkey/throw at your little sister (or brother)/dice it up and put it in a salad or simply enjoy it by itself.

I like to cut my Tofu into meaty slices and sprinkle a little kosher salt and fresh black pepper over it, then drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top: Delicious.

As always, BE CREATIVE! As long as you enjoy the results, there is literally NO wrong way to prepare a meal for yourself.

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