I was really nervous trying this week’s new food. Not only had I not made any new recipes since the operation, but I’ve never made tofu of any kind, much less this specific recipe. I had gotten a stack of vegetarian cookbooks from the library to read during my recovery, and had purchased a package of tofu with the regular grocery shopping a week or two earlier, so all I had to do was find a recipe for tofu in one of the books that sounded tasty and not too complicated to prepare.
The cookbook I ended up choosing was Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin, and the recipe I chose, Roasted Tofu, sounded relatively safe and easy. Misleading, perhaps, but that’s how it sounded. I would have made it earlier in the week for dinner, had I read the directions more thoroughly in advance and realized that the recipe requires a marination time of 30 minutes to 24 hours. Ooops! That’s not a recipe that’s getting made at 5:30pm on a weeknight. Finally, Thursday night, I prepared the tofu and let it soak until Friday afternoon, at which time I prepared it for dinner.
Roasted Tofu (Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin, p. 189)
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu
- 1 1/2 tbsp tamari soy sauce (I use San-J‘s gluten free version.)
- 1 tbsp Asian sesame oil
- 1 tbsp dry sherry
“1. Slice the tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place them on a clean cotton towel or on paper towels. Use another towel or more paper towels to pat the tofu very dry. Cut each slice in half vertically, then cut the pieces into triangles, or cut the slices into 3/4-inch cubes.
2. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and sherry in a large bowl. Add the tofu and use a rubber spatula to gently toss it with the marinade. Let marinate at least 30 minutes, or cover and chill for up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
4. Place the tofu and its marinade in a single layer in a large shallow baking dish. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden all over. Shake the dish after 15 minutes to prevent the tofu from sticking. You can serve the tofu warm, but it is even more delicious when cooled to room temperature and then chilled until very cold, about 2 hours.”
First I sliced the tofu block according to directions. Then I dried it. According to other reading I’d done, drying the tofu (and doing it thoroughly) is an extremely important step in having tofu with a pleasing texture as well as taste. I placed the 1/2-inch slices on a double layer of paper towels, around the (raised) edges of several plates, laid more paper towels doubled-up over the pieces, and then put another plate on top of the towels. Then I weighted the whole stack down with a heavy jar or can, to press some of the fluid out and drain the fluid into the center of the plates. While they drained that way, I prepared the marinade. I realized that I didn’t have any sherry, but I’d waited long enough to try this recipe, so I just substituted some sweet cooking rice wine. I thought it would be an appropriate substitution, given the rest of the ingredients were Asian as well.
Once the marinade was prepared and the tofu pieces had drained for several minutes, I lifted the upper plates and paper towels off, and dried each piece individually also, by pressing between more folded paper towels. Once each slice was dried, I followed the directions for cubing them. Then I tossed the cubes in the marinade, covered, and refrigerated it all overnight.
The next day when I got the tofu out to bake, I realized that the pieces had absorbed all of the marinade. I wasn’t sure how the baking would work with no extra liquid, since the directions specifically called for pouring the extra marinade into the baking dish with the pieces. However, fortunately the tofu didn’t burn, and barely even stuck to the pan, especially after I used a rubber spatula to turn over all the pieces. (I opted not to toss them, as directed, since the pan was not very large, and the sides were shallow–I was afraid the tofu would go flying onto the floor.) I baked the tofu for the full thirty minutes, then left it out for about twenty minutes to cool down. Once the batch had cooled, I put in a sealed container in the fridge to chill, and served it about two hours later.
The author recommended this recipe as a good introduction to tofu for someone who has not tried it before, and she was correct. The recipe wasn’t astoundingly delicious, but it was good. The little tofu nuggets had a pleasing flavor, and were surprisingly addictive. The texture was somewhere between soft and chewy, neither too dry nor too squishy. As part of a meal, they were satisfying as well as tasty, and they were gone quickly once we started eating them. Brian said he’s eat them again, if I made them. And as long as I have plenty of time to prepare them in advance, I would make and eat them again too.