What is it About Tofu?

What is it about Tofu that brings out such passion in people? Tofu is, after all, a bland soy product that takes on the character of whatever food it finds itself associated with- a veritable Zelig of gastronomy.

My husband didn’t exactly recoil at the thought of eating tofu. He loves Asian cuisine which uses a lot of it. But he never ate it at home. I didn’t care. I can cook anything (Ok, I was not successful when I tried to make phyllo dough from scratch. I don’t mean Baklava, I mean the dough. It is incredibly difficult to make.) but I don’t cook that often. As a child, I listened to my mother complain every day about how she hated to cook. It wore on me. I don’t iron either. (Same reason).

Which brings me back to tofu. My husband started eating it for health reasons. So I started looking for a good recipe which, to me, means something he’ll eat plus it has to be easy and fast.

All of the recipes I saw contained directions for draining the tofu and getting the water out. Yikes, what a bunch of messy chemistry experiments! I was directed to wrap the tofu in paper towels which I don’t use, or cloth towels, to soak up the moisture. Some directions recommend strainers and colanders in addition to the towels. What a waste of time.

Here’s how I do it to make oven baked tofu nuggets. I open and drain four 1 pound packages of extra firm tofu. I grab two loaf pans. I place two, 1 pound blocks of tofu into each loaf pan. I nest the pans and place a third pan on the top. Then I place a 5 pound dumbbell in the top loaf pan. If you don’t have a dumbbell, use something else.

I let the tofu sit for a few hours and drain off the liquid.

Next, I line a pan with parchment, spray it with cooking spray, and sprinkle it with a layer of tofu coating. This is kind of like a Shake-n-Bake for tofu. There are a lot of recipes on the Internet, like this one and this one. If you want your tofu crispy, I recommend you use cornstarch as your base ingredient. A little baking soda helps add crispiness too, but not too much. You can add spices to the mix. I use powdered garlic, onion flakes, and a wonderful salt-free mix from Pensy’s Spices called Mural of Flavor. You can add sesame, flax, or poppy seeds, red hot pepper flakes, nutritional yeast, seasoned breadcrumbs and panko-use your imagination. I’ve also used leftover rice from takeout meals. It gets crispy when you bake it.

Add the tofu cubes, sprinkle on more coating and toss to cover. I like to bake at 400 F for an hour. You can stir the tofu after 30 minutes to insure even cooking. I turn off the oven after an hour and let the oven’s residual heat crisp up the tofu even more. Store in refrigerator in a covered container.