As a non-vegan, non-cook, Jennie (the Officer) confessed to me recently that tofu is super intimidating.
What's the difference between silken tofu and other tofu? What do you do with it? What does it taste like??? How do you prepare it?
All excellent questions.
Let's start with the basics. Tofu tastes like... nothing. Really. It tastes like whatever you make it taste like. (So, to those of you who say that tofu tastes like sh*t, you're doing it wrong.) I've used regular tofu as a sandwich filler, like a mock-egg salad, and as a taco filling. I've marinated and grilled up tofu "steaks", and cubed and fried it for salad (see Lemony Tofu Skillet Salad). Silken tofu is, well, silky in texture. I've used that in desserts, like "cheese"cake, and in sauces (mmmm, Alfredo) and dressings.
What I'm calling "regular" tofu (I'm not sure it has an official name) comes water-packed in a plastic package. The varieties include soft, firm, and extra-firm. For most recipes, I use firm or extra-firm. (On this blog, I will always explain which kind I used and why). This kind of tofu has a sort of spongy texture. You can achieve a denser texture, however, by pressing excess water out of it.
[I also read in a cookbook once that, if you first freeze the tofu overnight, then defrost and press it, you will get a better, even denser-er texture. I've actually done it before, and unknown cookbook author was right. But really, who has time to "plan ahead" like that? Certainly not me.]
You can buy fancy tofu presses (google it, if you feel the need), but it works just as well to press the tofu between two plates with a heavy object on top (try a large can of tomatoes or something. Do not use a bottle of wine. Trust me on this.). Just let it sit for about 15 or 20 minutes while you're prepping the other ingredients. Drain the water occasionally. Try to keep the tofu block intact.
*A quick note before we get started: Turmeric is an herb that is used to make the tofu (and everything else it touches) yellow. (In fact, that's where mustard gets its color from.) It doesn't have much of a flavor, but it is a natural anti-inflammatory, so that's cool. Up until today, I have always used turmeric in my scrambled tofu. Unfortunately, I couldn't find mine for the life of me until about an hour after I was done cooking. Anyhow, use it or don't use it, it won't make much of a difference. I just wanted you to be aware that your dish will look waaaay more yellow than mine if you use it.
*PPS: I talked too much about tofu and forgot to educate you on the awesomeness that is nutritional yeast. If you're unfamiliar with it, read this lovely piece, thoughtfully put together by Susan from fatfreevegan. (What can't that woman do?!)
12 oz firm or super-firm tofu, pressed
1 small onion, chopped (or 1 cup frozen chopped onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded carrots
1 small red pepper (or pepper of your choice), chopped
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (more, if you're an addict like me)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp soy/almond/other milk
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Sprinkle of dried cilantro, if desired
Press your tofu. (You know how; we just talked about this above.) While it's pressing, chop veggies, if need be. In a large skillet pan or wok, saute onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of water on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add carrots and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes more. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time if veggies are starting to stick. Add beans and stir to mix well. This is what we've got so far: