Making tofu tasty Versatility: Some serious seasoning makes the humble soy curd the main ingredient in a high-flavor soup, salad or stew.

October 28, 1998|By Deborah Madison | Deborah Madison,EATING WELL

The funny thing about tofu is that, despite its long history as a dietary staple (records of its use date back as far as the 10th century) and the news touting it as a nutritional powerhouse (it's packed with protein and disease-fighting phytochemicals), it is still a culinary laughingstock.

But the joys of tofu are no joke. All it needs is some serious seasoning. Pair it with the rich spiciness of coconut-curry broth, the salty sweetness of miso or the nutty bite of tahini and ginger and you may just find yourself eating tofu for the pure pleasure of it.

Tofu, like other protein sources, is a perishable item that must be handled with care. Store tofu in the refrigerator (unless sealed in aseptic packaging). Once it's opened, keep it covered with water and change the water daily. Unsealed tofu will keep for a week to 10 days, though it should not be used after the freshness date stamped on the package. Only use tofu that is creamy-white and virtually odorless.

Coconut-Curry Tofu Stew

Makes about 7 cups, for 6 servings

2 bunches scallions, trimmed

1 14-ounce can light coconut milk (see note)

3-4 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1-2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic

1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 3/4 -inch cubes

4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each

1 yellow bell pepper, halved and thinly sliced

1/4 pound mushrooms, such as shiitake or white, stemmed and thickly sliced (3 cups)

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

4 cups coarsely chopped bok choy (green part only) or spinach

salt to taste

Cut scallion whites and about 2 inches of the greens into 2-inch diagonal pieces. Finely chop remaining scallion greens; reserve separately.

In a Dutch oven, combine coconut milk, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, brown sugar, curry powder, ginger and 1 teaspoon chili paste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add tofu, tomatoes, bell pepper, mushrooms, basil and scallion pieces. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add bok choy (or spinach), cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender. Adjust seasonings with soy sauce, chili paste and salt. Garnish with reserved chopped scallion greens. Serve immediately.

Note: Look for light coconut milk in the Asian section of your market.

Make it a meal: Serve the stew over basmati rice.

Per serving: 200 calories; 15 grams protein; 11 grams fat (3.4 grams saturated fat); 15 grams carbohydrates; 365 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 4 grams fiber

Warm Tofu Salad With Sesame-Ginger Dressing

Makes 4 main-course servings

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon tahini

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

1/2 tablespoon peanut oil

4 cups shredded napa cabbage

2 cups watercress, trimmed

1/2 cup sprouts, such as sunflower or alfalfa

In a blender or food processor, combine garlic, jalapeno, ginger and soy sauce. Blend until finely chopped. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the mixture to a small bowl. Add water, vinegar, cilantro, tahini, sesame oil and sugar to the blender and process until smooth. Transfer dressing to another small bowl and set aside.

Cut tofu in half crosswise, then in half lengthwise to make four pieces about 1 inch thick. Prop a cutting board to slant slightly over the edge of the sink. Cover board with foil. Rub both sides of the tofu pieces with reserved garlic-ginger paste. Place side by side on the board. Place a second sheet of foil over the tofu. Set another cutting board or a baking sheet over the foil and weight with a heavy object. Let drain for 30 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat peanut oil over medium heat. Add tofu and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Combine cabbage and watercress and divide among 4 dinner plates. Place tofu over greens and drizzle with reserved dressing. Garnish with sprouts. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 255 calories; 21 grams protein; 15 grams fat (1.9 grams saturated fat); 14 grams carbohydrates; 315 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 4 grams fiber

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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