If you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least. –Herman Melville
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent much of February wandering away from dinner recipes in favor of chocolate, desserts, and other sweet treats thinly veiled in the form of energy bars. I have an incredible sweet tooth, always have, and while I rarely deny it, I also require the occasional self-inflicted kick in the pants to jump back on the savory train.
I’m happy to announce that I’m changing course and steering in a more savory direction.
The decision is only a day old, made a day after Sunday’s post; but as luck would have it, Sunday’s omelet fits. A cheese-filled omelet was one of my mother’s go-to dinner recipes, especially when the endless laundry, chauffeuring, and whining of her three children (who, me?) were driving her batty. So if you find yourself stifling a scream at the end of a long day, try making an omelet; it works wonders.
I’m taking a gamble, and beginning with a few tofu recipes. I know, is it an offer or a threat? It all depends on your experience with tofu.
I understand the hesitation; I, for one, had a horror of tofu for many years. But I’ve since come around, and I relish the delicious challenge of winning over other tofu-phobes.
My tofu journey began in my childhood home. My mother is an adventurous cook. She entered married life with little more than brownie-baking experience, but slowly taught herself to cook, beginning with doctored Rice-a-Roni, then working her way up to elaborate and exotic recipes from Sunset, Bon Appetit and Gourmet. We loved her endeavors.
But then, on an otherwise uneventful night in the late 1970s, she made a bellicose choice: she prepared tofu soup.
Rebellion ensued. I have no idea what the soup tasted like (my spoon never entered the bowl), but I do have a distinct visual memory of its contents: broth, greens, and albino tofu cubes floating across the surface. We thought it looked like whale blubber, and would have none of it. In a rare move, Mom raised a white flag: she poured the soup down the drain, pointed us towards the cereal boxes, and abandoned the scene.
The soup was the subject of much teasing and ridicule for years to come. But by the time I entered college, the memory had faded, my tastes had changed, and my curiosity for unusual food had blossomed. So I gave tofu another try, specifically at a Chinese restaurant in a bowl of Szechuan noodles. Filling, meaty, and permeated with the spicy-sweet flavors of the dish—what had I been so afaid of?
It wasn’t long before I brought tofu into my own kitchen. I was largely motivated by the nutrition and cost (super-healthy and inexpensive), but it was the ease and flavor possibilities that cemented my new affection. Tofu can be used in countless recipes (e.g., extra-firm tofu in place of meat, fish or chicken, silken tofu as the base for desserts and sauces). It isn’t just for vegetarians; it’s for anyone who likes to eat delicious food, especially delicious food that’s also quick, easy and healthful. And just like chicken, beef, lamb or fish, it just comes down to finding dishes that appeal most to you.
Good grief, how I grow preachy; my apologies. That’s my cue to move on to the recipe, a delectable Asian tofu salad
I’ll be back tomorrow with another easy tofu dish, along with a side of tofu factoids (I know you’re counting the seconds). Eat up!
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
- 5 cups arugula
- 1 cup coarsely grated carrots
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Wrap tofu in several layers of paper towels. Place on a dinner plate. Cover with a second dinner plate. Place two or three heavy cans on top. Let drain for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the green onions, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, , maple syrup, ginger and hot suace.
- Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Brush all sides with some of the dressing, then arrange in single layer on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Turn cubes with a spatula and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- In a large bowl, tos together the arugula and carrots; drizzle with desried amount of dressing to coat. Divide among plates, top with tofu, drizzle with additional dressing, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.