Monday, February 2, 2009

Let's Make a Tofu Dinner: Step-By-Step Tofu with Coconut Rice

Many people are intimidated by tofu, and I can see why. It's hard to imagine that a mushy white block of curd can somehow be transformed into a meal of gourmet proportions. It seems as though all the recipes you find on the web leave out a few steps and that mushy white block of curd still remains mushy and white even though you've tried frying it, baking it, marinating it, sauteing it... To make this easy, I'm going to give you a step-by-step play on how to make a simple tofu dish, full of flavor, and free of cruelty. It's in three parts, just to make it easier on you. This dish only takes about 30 minutes to make, from start to finish.

Coconut Rice:
1 1/2 c. Basmati rice
1/2 (regular-sized) can coconut milk
2 c. water
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. turmeric

1/2 can coconut milk
1 1/2 Tb. tamari or soy sauce
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 tsp. chile paste (such as Sriracha)
1/4 tsp. turmeric

1 block extra-firm tofu
1 red pepper
1 onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
oil to saute

Ready? OK! To make this meal we got a planned procedure from start to finish:

1. Drain tofu and place on a plate. Top with another plate and set something heavy on it. I usually use my glass sugar jar. The tofu needs to drain at least 15 minutes.

2. Rinse rice.

3. Bring rice, water, coconut milk, salt, and turmeric to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 20 minutes.

4. While rice is cooking, cut up your veggies. Slice the onions and peppers. Set aside.

5. Prepare the sauce. Mix the coconut milk, tamari or soy sauce, brown sugar, chile paste, and turmeric. Set aside.

6. Heat a skillet on medium with a little oil.

7. Give the tofu one last drain, then cube it and add to the hot skillet, turning up the heat a little if necessary. Brown on ALL sides. Remove from skillet and place on a plate.

8. Add the sliced onions, peppers, and minced garlic to the hot skillet. Add a little more oil if necessary, then saute over medium-high until golden and delicious-looking.

9. Add cooked tofu to the skillet. Add the sauce to the skillet and stir.

10. Check on the rice. Has it been 20 minutes yet? Is it done? If so, turn off and remove from heat. Keep covered.

11. Let tofu, onions, and peppers simmer on medium-high until the sauce is thick, about 5-10 minutes.

12. Spoon rice onto plate. Spoon tofu mixture over rice. Serve with a little more chile paste if desired.

There you have it. 12 steps to delicious tofu! And you thought it would be complicated. I wish I had seen a step-by-step tofu method when I was first looking to cook it. The first couple of times it didn't turn out that good! Lol.

Here's a few tips to use when you're working with tofu:
Always brown it first. It helps the tofu firm up and absorb flavors better, and it helps get rid of excess water.

Simmer, simmer, simmer. Simmering the tofu for at least 10-15 minutes helps it absorb sauce and flavor and make it oh-so-yummy.

Drain it! At least 15 minutes, or until water stops coming out of it. If you walk away from the kitchen for an hour it'll still be okay.

Baking tofu is a GREAT idea. It helps lock in flavor and add texture. Here's an easy baked tofu recipe. 

There's also rumors you can freeze it, but I haven't experimented too much with that.

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