Tofu get’s a bad name, but really, it’s one of the most versatile foods to eat. It can take on the flavor of anything you’re cooking it with, allowing it to take the place of almost any “meat” you want to substitute it with, and still get that protein. The reason it gets a bad name is because you’re probably not cooking (or preparing it) properly. Just like you would cook any other type of food, you have to learn the basics of it first. The first time you cooked chicken you didn’t just throw it in the oven and hope it came out tasting good!
5 Basics to Tofu
- Not all tofu is the same. You can’t just go and pick up any package of tofu. First, make sure it’s non-GMO and organic. One of my favorite brands is Nasoya and you can find them in most health food stores. There are many different kinds: silken, soft, medium, firm and extra-firm. For beginners (and what I usually use most of the time) go with extra-firm.
- Press out the water! One huge mistake beginner tofu cooks make is to not press it. You have to get the water out. Try this: use a plate with paper towels on it. Then place the tofu on the paper towels. Then press down hard on the tofu using another plate or hard object. Drain the water away. Wait, and press again. If you plan to become a full-blown tofu eater, you can always buy a tofu press.
- You need to cut the block of tofu. You can’t just throw the full block into the deep fryer or pan, you need to slice it up first. Usually long, thin rectangles for sandwiches or cubes for frying.
- Season your tofu. Would you ever sear a steak without seasoning it first? Same goes for tofu – show it a little love. Or, you can get your tofu pre-seasoned, like this chipotle-seasoned Nasoya tofu.
- Cook it well. As in, well done. Make sure to brown each side, or have the fryer turn it a golden brown to ensure crispiness. Just as learning to cook any “meat,” preference and taste will come in time – but that’s why practice makes perfect.
Now that you’re prepped your tofu, I’ve offered you two of my favorite, easy tofu-beginner recipes to try. Whether you’re a rugged Pittsburgher or recently gone vegetarian, these are simple delicious dishes to get you started:
Pittsburgh Style – Crispy Deep-fried Buffalo Tofu
The next time you go to throw in some chicken wings or fries in that deep fryer, throw in some tofu as well. The trick to good tofu is to dry it out. Not all things are good dry – pools, cake, sex – but tofu is. In fact, you want it dry, extra firm and with the least amount of water possible to get that real crunch factor. Probably my favorite brand of tofu, Nasoya makes the firmest tofu with the least water.
1 pack Nasoya Tofu, chipotle for extra heat
1 cup Frank’s Red Hot
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup flour (and any other dry spices you want to sprinkle in – salt and pepper, paprika, etc).
Canola Oil for the deep fryer or skillet
- Before you throw the tofu in the fryer, make sure you press it and drain it or it will come out tasting soggy. And no one likes soggy anything.
- Cut the tofu in to cubes, but not too small or it can overcook too fast and you have over crispy tofu.
- I like to dust my tofu in a seasoning before crisping it up – just like you would your chicken, roll it in flour or cornstarch for an extra crispy layer. Place the tofu cubes in a bowl and cover it with flour (and other dry spices you might like – salt and pepper, paprika, curry, you name it!). If you want to get really wild, try using bread crumbs.
- Throw those bad boys in the deep fryer, but keep an eye on them to turn golden brown. Don’t over cook them. (Don’t have a fryer? No worries – a pan with an inch of oil works just as well!)
- After they’re done, pat them dry from the oil gently with a paper towel before tossing in your favorite hot sauce. Of course, the real Pittsburgh way is the melt a half stick of butter in a cup of Frank’s Red Hot… yum. Don’t forget that deliciousness, it’s actually tofu you’re eating!
Tofu, Chorizo And Avocado Zucchini Frittata
If you really want to go the full vegetarian route, and still have something filling and protein-packed, the best option is to always go with a frittata. You literally can’t mess this up, and you can easily get creative, throwing in whatever leftovers/veggies you have laying around the kitchen. What you DO need is a good cast iron skillet (which you should be using anyways! Those others ones are bad for your health). For this one, I had some extra fresh chorizo laying around, so I threw that in, too!
*Adapted from Ali Maffucci’s Insprialized
Organic Olive Oil
1 block Nasoya Tofu, cut into cubes and dried
fresh local chorizo
1 avocado, cubed
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 medium zucchini, spiralized
3 large eggs, 3 egg whites, beaten
Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat the skillet with olive oil and place on medium heat. When water flicked onto the skillet sizzles, add the tofu (and I also added some left over chorizo into mine – don’t be afraid to toss in some of your own ingredients!), avocado, and garlic and cook for five minutes or until the garlic starts to brown. Add the zucchini noodles and toss to combine.
- Pour the eggs over the noodles and season with salt and pepper. Cook for two minutes to allow the eggs to set on the bottom, and then transfer the skillet into the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs have completely set and start to brown on top and edges. Viola!