I’ve decided to start a new series of expository recipes for basic staples of vegetarian cooking. I wanted to start with tofu because it seems to be one of those ingredients that non-vegetarians generally seem wary of/outright turned off by. This doesn’t need to be true! Pressed and oven roasted tofu has become one of my favorite meals– and this is coming from an entire childhood without ever trying it. (By the way, my favorite foods for the first 16 years of my life were cheesesteaks and cheeseburgers, both of which I still really, really like.)
Anyway, I want to prove that homemade (and non-deep fried) tofu dishes can be pretty tasty. Here’s what you do:
1. Freeze extra firm tofu (in its package); this is very important because it will make the texture denser and more meat-like. Actually, freeze it, defrost it, and then freeze it again if you have the time. (I usually only do this if I’m cooking for a dinner party and I want to be sure of a good consistency.)
2. Defrost in the refrigerator over about 24 hours or defrost in the microwave (this takes +/- 10 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. Just keep adding time until you feel that the package’s water is liquid again.) Drain off the water.
3. Press the tofu. Place 3 layers of paper towels on a plate and put the block of tofu on top. Put another 3-4 layers of paper towels on top of the tofu block, then a heavy plate or frying pan on top of the paper towels. Place something heavy on top of the plate/pan. (I used a full tea kettle as you can see, but a couple of canned goods or a heavy jug work just as well.) Press for 20-30 minutes (or if you don’t have the extra time like me, lean on the plate and press hard). Drain off the water and replace paper towels as you need to.
4. Cut the tofu into blocks or triangles.
Success! You’ve just pressed tofu. Now for the marinating/roasting:
There are a variety of different marinades out there that you can buy or make yourself. Here’s what I made for dinner last night:
3 tablespoons each of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spicy mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2-3 teaspoons curry powder, black pepper, garlic powder, thyme, ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tofu in medium sized bowl. Whisk together the above until you have a vinaigrette sort of consistency happening. Pour over the tofu and mix around to cover. The tofu will soak up the marinade pretty quickly, so add more balsamic vinegar (or double the above recipe) to have even coverage. Re-spice according to taste (I like to add quite a bit of black pepper and ginger.) The tofu will really soak up the marinade if you let it sit in the fridge overnight, but I usually let it marinate for 20 minutes and then roast. When ready to roast, spray a baking sheet with olive oil and place the tofu pieces evenly across it. Roast for about 15 minutes on each side. (If things get a little burnt, this is ok. The charred bits are actually the best because the vinegar will make them taste sweet.) After roasting on the second side, remove from the oven and loosen with a spatula. Serve warm with rice and vegetables as a main dish (this is just one suggestion) or with soy or mustard sauce as an appetizer. These sometimes end up tasting like chicken nuggets– it all depends on the marinade.