July 11, 2012
I have to admit, that while I was the one who had chosen to use tofu as the subject for this month’s cooking quest, I wasn't particularly excited about it. My encounters with tofu over the years have been seldom. An occasional stir fry, maybe a smoothie, but that's basically it. If I’d go out to eat, I wasn't ordering tofu, and ditto for my grocery order. Still, I had set this goal, and I wasn’t going to give up easily. I asked my local storekeeper where the tofu was kept, (I told you I never used it!) and was surprised to see that it was actually a fridge item. I later learnt that there are non refrigerator kinds too, but this was the kind my local grocery stocked.
As I stared at the shelf I realized that I had made a mistake. There were so many different versions and options that I should have done my homework first. How on earth was I supposed to know which type I would need? Firm, extra firm, medium and soft. Uh oh. I panicked. Then I did what all smart shoppers do. I bought one of each (at least I wasn’t in the shoe store, right?), and I optimistically decided that I would simply test them all!
Next day was tofu testing day. I first did a scientific research study by going out for lunch with my friend Dassi, and ordering none other than tofu stir fry. (It was, of course, a business expense.) The dish was actually good. Very good. My hopes began to rise. Maybe this experiment wouldn’t be so bad after all. I knew tofu was high in protein, with other healthy benefits, and that made it even more intriguing. That white, spongy looking mass wasn’t exactly what I would imagine something healthy to look like.
So, the cooking began. I perused some recipe books, checked out some websites and read the instructions on the package; I was ready to begin. I decided to start with the extra firm tofu and attempt to recreate the tofu dish that I had tried in the restaurant. I didn’t have all the vegetables they used in the house, but I had some asparagus and mushrooms in my refrigerator, and thus the Tofu Stir Fry with Asparagus and Mushrooms was born. When marinated, tofu will take on the flavor of the juices it sits in, and it absorbs the liquids, making it soft and flavorful. It was actually a big hit, with… me. I would be lying if I said my kids liked it. My husband wouldn’t even try it, but you know what? I really enjoyed it!
So…next up were the medium and firm tofus. It was Friday and I needed a dessert for the Shabbat meal. I didn’t want to do a tofu cheesecake, as that wouldn’t be too original. I had been to Florida a few weeks before, where we had stopped at a bakery called the Rolling Pin. They had a few items that looked positively dairy, which were, in reality, pareve. One of them was a cherry “cheese” strudel. Of course that was the one item in their bakery that I didn’t try, but it inspired me to make my own. I have to admit it took 3 strudels to get the right consistency and level of sweetness, but I think we hit a home run with the third one. I learnt by trial and error, that the trick to using tofu (especially the firm and extra firm) is to squeeze it out with a paper towel before you use it.
I was really under pressure to get this article done, and the soft tofu was still waiting its turn! We had some out-of-town guests visiting for a few days, so when they were eating lunch out on the deck, I quickly dumped some frozen fruit with the soft tofu into the blender for a cool, quick dessert. I wish all recipes would be that easy to develop. The Tofu Smoothie was an instant success, and just for the record, my kids couldn’t get enough of it! It has a creamy, smooth consistency and is the perfect finale to a barbeque dinner, or just a great, anytime snack. Thus end my experiments in the tofu field. Having said that, I still have about 4 packages of firm and extra firm tofu left in the fridge. Hey… you never know! J