Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Food We Choose (and my favorite grilled tofu recipe)

One of my readers suggested I write something about issues related to how our food is produced – raising of crops and livestock, food processing, etc. I’ve decided not to do so. For now, I want this blog to be about enjoying food and cooking, not a commentary about what we should or should not eat or why. I will say these issues are very important to me. Food production methods and the impact on our environment are the reasons I stay on a mostly vegetarian diet. I will ask that you think about where your food comes from; consider using organic products; and consider buying from local farmers. I understand that buying local and organic can be costly and somewhat inconvenient, and it may not be an option for you/your family at this time. But at least be aware of what you’re actually getting for the food dollars you spend – the impact on the environment, the economy, and the nutritional value. If you want more information, I have provided a few links on the side bar under the heading, THE FOOD WE CHOOSE. It’s up to you. I’m done.

Now I want to talk about tofu. I happen to like it, but let’s not pretend it’s a meat substitute. It’s a decent protein source, and when prepared well, it can be really enjoyable, but you’re never gonna fool anyone into thinking it’s chicken or steak. It’s not meat; it’s soybean curd.

Tofu itself is bland, however it absorbs the flavors of seasonings and marinades very well. Asian restaurants, where I generally substitute tofu for meat in stir-fry and curry dishes, seem to do the best job preparing tofu. Marinated and stir-fried, it can be very flavorful. Fried tofu is also good, and the frying adds a little bit of a crusty, chewy, even meaty texture.

My favorite way to prepare tofu at home is marinated and grilled with green beans and onions. I think the key to success is to remove excess water from the tofu before you start. This allows the tofu to absorb all the flavor of the marinade. The original recipe, from Vegetarian Times, calls for arugula for the salad. I find that my family is happier with mixed greens with just some arugula. I’ve also found that frozen green beans work just as well, if not better, than fresh green beans, so that’s what I recommend. Finally, I’ve always prepared this on a rectangular, stovetop, cast iron grill pan. Feel free, however, to try it on an outdoor grill, using a perforated rack to cook the beans and onions.

Spicy Grilled Tofu & Green Bean Salad  PRINTABLE RECIPE

15 oz extra-firm tofu
5 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp mirin
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (I use one from Huy Fong Foods)
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 Lb frozen green beans
1 medium yellow onion - halved and cut into slivers
5 oz mixed greens

1. Wrap tofu in paper towels or a tea towel and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Re-wrap in a fresh, dry towel and allow to set for about 15 minutes.

2. Mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, and garlic in a 9" x 13" inch glass baking dish.

3. Unwrap tofu and pat dry. Slice into 3 pieces horizontally and then cut each of those pieces in half. Add tofu to marinade, turn over to coat, and let sit for 15 minutes.

4. Heat a cast iron grill pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Spray tofu with cooking spray on both sides, and grill until browned and crusty – 3 to 4 minutes per side.

5. Arrange greens on a large serving platter, and place grilled tofu on top.

6. While the tofu grills, add beans and onion to remaining marinade, and toss to coat.

7. Grill beans and onion, turning frequently with tongs, until beans are tender and browned – 8 to 10 minutes.

8. Arrange beans and onion on top of tofu. Pour any remaining marinade over salad and serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment