Why does everyone have tofuphobia? People get so freaked out by it. Let’s take care of that once and for all…
Tofu is a bit of a weirdo cause it’s not meat and it’s not quite a vegetable either. That alone is confusing. Then there’s that wet, squishy flip-flop texture. But once you accept tofu for the unique breed that it is, you’ll realize that it’s just as approachable as a potato. How so? Because it’s actually one of those things you can season and cook (or not cook) however you want. Sometimes I’m feeling a little Mexican tofu. Sometimes I’ll go Asian style. Sometimes I get really lazy and just cube it up and toss it around with some bbq sauce. I’ll even eat it stark naked (the tofu not me eating the tofu while naked) over a salad.
A lot of people ask me for advice on cooking tofu. Things like: How am I supposed to flavor it? What’s the best way to cook it? How do I keep it from falling apart? Answers: Season with anything. And broil it, fry it, bake it grill it or even eat raw.
Now that falling apart thing…well, that’s a little trickier. But I’d suggest starting with a firm variety. Tofu comes in a few different forms: Firm, Extra Firm or Silken. Silken is really soft and creamy and is great for blending to make puddings, sauces or using as a non-dairy base for soups. It’s great stuff, but too slippery to cook any other way in my opinion. If you want something you can actually chew and stab with a fork, you want to go for firm or extra firm tofu. I prefer extra firm, and if you’re just starting to cook tofu, you probably will too. It’s a lot easier to handle.
We’ve all seen our share of tofu dishes that resemble last week’s newspaper left out in the rain. The key to avoiding that is to dry it out a bit before cooking. You have to remember that the tofu you’re using was packaged in a liquid filled plastic container and has probably been in that container absorbing its contents for quite a while. So it’s essentially water logged. This is starting to sound gross. Scratch that…
The best approach I’ve found to removing some of that excess water is to slice your block of tofu right down the middle like you’re filleting a fish.
Then lay it open like two pieces of sliced bread on top of a couple paper towels. Place a couple more paper towels on top and firmly press out some of that water.
Remember, tofu likes a gentle hand so pat, pat, pat…press, pat, press…never smash!
When I first started cooking with tofu, I’d usually broil it with a sauce of some kind. Always a safe option. But now that I’ve entirely lost my fear of the stuff, I do crazy things…like grill it! (it’s actually not that complicated at all)
I think grilled tofu results in the best texture. You get those nice crispy grill marks and a dense texture that’s more satisfying to eat. The trick to grilling tofu is to actually grill it twice—once to get it firm and absorb the smoky flavor and then a second time after adding the sauce.
Here’s how I made my sweet mint grilled tofu:
After patting out the excess water, I brushed it with a little olive oil, sprinkled some salt and pepper on it and grilled both sides until they had some light brown grill marks. (about 6 minutes per side).
Then I took it off the grill and slathered it up in the sauce (garlic, olive oil, lemon, fresh mint and oregano, salt, maple syrup and cayenne pepper).
Then I threw it back on the grill for another couple minutes per side and brushed it with the remaining sauce before serving.
So how do you feel? Ready to do this whole tofu thing?
RecipeCoop+prep time: 35 mins. Red pepper flakes are also a good sub for cayenne pepper.
- 1 package firm or extra firm tofu
- Juice from one lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small clove garlic
- About ¼ cup olive oil
- Big handful of fresh mint
- Small handful of fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/6 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Dice up a handful of mint and oregano and a small clove of garlic. Combine with cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes), lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and your maple syrup. Whisk it together really well or just throw it in the food processor if you have one. Set aside.
- Cut tofu block down the center and place both pieces between couple paper towels. Press firmly to remove excess water.
- Brush both sides of tofu with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and place on the grill. Grill both sides until they have light brown grill marks.
- Remove from grill and slather both sides with mint sauce. Put back on grill for two minutes per side. Top with any remaining sauce before serving.