Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crispy Tofu Asian Salad

When people tell me they don't like tofu, I always say the same thing: "It probably wasn't cooked right". Tofu is like a neutral-flavored sponge so if you don't like the taste of tofu it's more than likely the marinade or sauce it was cooked in that is to blame. The texture of tofu can also make the difference between disgusting and delectable.  Most dishes tend to be best when prepared with tofu of a certain firmness: silken tofu is best for soups, frosting and baking while extra-firm or firm is holds up to grilling, scrambling and cooking in sauces for longer periods of time.

Before cooking, these last two types of tofu need to undergo some extra prep: some of the moisture needs to be pressed out so that your favorite sauce or marinade can seep in. To do this, take the tofu out of the package and wrap it in a clean dish towel or some paper towels. Set it on a plate and put another plate on top of it. You then need to add some weight to the top plate, either by using more plates, canned goods, a few textbooks or any other heavy object. If you don't enjoy piling stuff on top of your food (who doesn't?), you can buy a tofu press, which I still haven't found necessary.  For best results, press your tofu for 30 minutes to a couple hours. If you've had textural issues with tofu I promise that going through this extra step will help, perhaps even tremendously.

The tofu I put in our salads tonight started off under a stack of plates. It then spent some time in the oven until it was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, like a much healthier version of deep fried tofu. I piled the tofu atop some spinach, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, carrots and onion. I added some almonds and sesame seeds for some extra crunch, protein and calcium and drizzled the salad in an amazingly tasty miso dressing. The result was the perfect antidote to a weekend of excess.  

Crispy Baked Tofu
Adapted from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"
Makes 9 slices
  • One 1 lb / 455 g block (or one package) extra firm tofu, pressed and cut widthwise into 9 slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Brush the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil. Place tofu slices in a single layer in the pan. Brush each slice with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, flip the slices and repeat the process on the other side.
2. Bake for about 1 hour in the oven without bothering to flip it. The tofu is done when it's golden brown and crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Blot the tofu with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve it as is, sliced into strips, in a salad or a sandwich, with a dipping sauce, or any other way you'd like.

Miso Sesame Dressing
Makes a little less than 1/2 cup 
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar (another mild flavored vinegar would also work)
  • 1 teaspoon red miso (another type of miso would taste just as delicious)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt or soy sauce to taste (I didn't add any since the miso I used was salty enough)
Mix all the ingredients together (I did this right in my measuring cup). Mix with a fork or whisk until the dressing is emulsified and the miso has disolved. Taste and adjust the oil to vinegar ratio or the seasonings. Pour over your favorite salad.

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