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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tofu is not as boring as I thought, in fact . . .

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Tofu Steak
. . . it can be pretty amazing.

But "delicious" and "tofu" are not words I ever dreamed of pairing not too long ago. I had enjoyed fried tofu in Pad Thai and other dishes where it was tossed in for good non-animal protein, but I had never even considered eating it as its own course, big and geometric on the plate. That texture, and the blandness. Bleh. Once again, my ignorance of what has been enjoyed for 2,000 years is mind blowing. When ignorance leads to aloofness, or worse, arrogance, it's not good. And, it can prevent you enjoying tremendous offerings. This is how I was about tofu. Then a few months ago, my boss (who lessened my ignorance of Early American Lit eons ago) took me to lunch at Omi, a terrific Japanese restaurant near the university, and since Don and I were on a path to eat less of the beef steak variety, I saw tofu steak on the menu and the description convinced me to try it. After the first bite, I thought I'd die (from enjoyment, not from choking). My boss, Steve, looked incredulous at my enraptured face, and when I offered him a bite, he declined and started off on something about Nathaniel Hawthorne and witches . . .

With tofu steak, the outside of the tofu is delicately crispy, while the inside is creamy. Those textures coupled with the sweet-savory sauce are a winner (you can leave it savory without any sweetness if you prefer, as in the original recipe, below. Also, If you don't like mushrooms, just leave them out.)

Now, whenever Don and I go for sushi and rolls, we also get tofu steak. In fact we love it so much we decided we ought to learn to make it at home. We dug around for a recipe online, and so I want to share the one we picked and tweaked, because it's so simple and yummy, and I want you happy. Making it together takes about 10 minutes prep (mostly chopping) and 10 minutes cooking; Don sautés the tofu, and I make the sauce. Tofu may be bland alone, but it absorbs flavors beautifully, so I'll keep trying new dishes. Maybe you have favorites you'd like to share.

The online recipe is here. Our tweaks in autumn rust. Here is a podcast of me reading the recipe. . .  Just kidding!


Tofu Steak With Japanese Mushroom Sauce (or without mushrooms, if you prefer)

Yield: 4 Servings - We halve the recipe for the two of us, since this doesn't keep well.


Ingredients


4 firm tofu - we use soft tofu, which gets crispy outside and stays creamy inside
1 c fresh shiitake mushroom
1 c fresh enoki mushroom
1 pk regular white mushrooms
- we use whatever mushrooms we have on hand
1/2 green onions
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sake (Japanese rice wine)
- we don't have sake and use Sherry
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2/3 c dashi (Japanese fish stock) - I need to find some of this, but we use about 1/3 c fish sauce mixed with 1/3 c veggie broth
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste (Whenever we've eaten tofu steak at several sushi places, it has been sweet, though this original recipe does not call for sugar.) 
          2 teaspoons cornstarch
         a few teaspoons cornstarch on a plate.

         1 teaspoon salt


        4 tablespoons vegetable oil



Instructions

1. Place a clean cloth towel in a shallow plate (something like brownie
pan would be good) and put Tofu on it for 30 minutes to drain water. Wipe the surface of Tofu with paper towels and sprinkle some salt (to make the surface of the steak crisp and brown when done.)



2. Cut off the stem of mushrooms and slice them. divide Enoki into small
bunch. Cut green onions in 2 inches long. Finely chop garlic.



3. Dredge Tofu in cornstarch on a plate covering all sides 
and ends with cornstarch. Put 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a
 frying pan and fry all sides of Tofu in medium-high heat 
(we slow it down a little and sauté on medium heat),
until Tofu turn golden brown. Put them on serving plates.

We buy packaged soft tofu in water and cut it in half for two people,
halving this recipe. After draining per #1, we cover all surfaces
with cornstarch and sauté all six sides of the oblongs
(what are oblong "cubes" called? Oh, Don says they are rectangular prisms.)


4. Wipe the frying pan with paper towel and add another 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil. Saute garlic and the mushrooms in medium heat quickly. Add Sake, soy sauce and Dashi stock and bring it to boil. Add green onions. We wait and add the green onions at the very end, since we like them better barely cooked. Dissolve cornstarch in 2Tbsp of water and add to the sauce. Stir from the bottom of the pan and pour it over the cooked Tofu. Serve while hot! (4 servings) We cook the sauce in a separate pan while sautéing the tofu.
NOTE: Dashi is the basic soup stock used in most Japanese dishes such as
Miso Soup and Udon. You can get the powdered stock called 'Hondashi' in any Oriental stores. Substitute it with chicken stock or veggie stock if you like. Shiitake and Enoki are very expensive in the U.S., but they are very flavorful. Try not to cook them too long.


Allow me to share one more great tip for preparing tofu for adding to stir fries and soups. Rather than frying (I'm trying to use less oil), you can bake it and get that nice fried texture. I found the instructions here.

BAKED TOFU: Buy one pound of extra-firm tofu and bake it in the oven using this easy method: Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius); cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slabs; marinate it for a few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of honey, and some minced garlic; then spread the tofu on an oiled baking sheet and bake until crispy on the edges and golden brown (about 25 to 30 minutes).




It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual health, 
to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, 
who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities 
he must go out of himself to appreciate. 

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne


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58 comments:

Bonnie said...

mmmmm...yum

The Solitary Walker said...

You've almost converted me. Almost. Guess I should try the recipe first.

Deslilas said...

For tofu as for our "escargots" the important point is what is around.

Helena said...

Looks so delicious. I have to try that recipe sometime. And the autumn pictures are beautiful too.

Claudia said...

I'm still as you were before your moment of enlightment. Bleh. But given your enthusiasm I might try it one day when I'm feeling brave. After all tofu is low in calories, contains a lot of iron and calcium, and contains little fat.

Lovely layout in this post and precious photos, as always!

Expat From Hell said...

We are huge tofu fans, as well! Next time you are at the sushi-ya, ask for age-dofu (it's usually an appetizer). If you really want to get adventurous, you can ask for natto (fermented tofu). But be prepared for a real sensory experience. Now, I have to try that steak thing! Thanks for the good post.....EFH

João said...

Yammy, Ruth...as good as golden brown sounds.

Ruth said...

Bonnie, wish I could fix you some.

Ruth said...

Robert, if you ever go out for Japanese, maybe you can look for it there first, before going through the trouble of making it at home.

Ruth said...

Daniel, c'est vrai.

Ruth said...

Helena, if you try it, please tell me how you liked it.

Thank you, the farm is spectacular right now, as is everywhere around us here at the moment.

Ruth said...

Claudia, be brave with Ana. She is of the next generation, and I bet she'd be game. Two chefs are better than one. Oh, wait . . .

Thank you, I notice that you too are enjoying autumn.

Ruth said...

Kent, thank you, I will look for age-dofu. And yes, I've seen the fermented kind and wondered about it. It's worth a try once, right? The nice thing is that it isn't expensive to experiment with tofu.

Bon appetit! Or as we say in Turkish, Afiyet olsun!

Ruth said...

João, really? You think you'd like it? Yay! Man, the outer crispness of the tofu is soooo good.

Nancy said...

Well cooked and delicious tofu is incomparable, Ruth! Thanks for encouraging the non-tofu lovers to give it a try. I try and usually fail, but I don't offer recipes - maybe that's the ticket!

Oliag said...

I don't think I can say I love tofu but I can say I enjoy it when it is cooked right. It is not easy to get the right texture and this is the way I prefer too...crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside...so I will gladly try your recipe. Since some family members are vegetarians I'm always looking for new dishes to make...and Mr O and I have cut way back on red meats and fats too... Thankfully red wine is considered good for you:)

Pat said...

I'm game to try it, but I don't know if I can convince my husband! It looks good here!

Love the leaves photos!

George said...

While I'm not a great fan of tofu, your photograph and unbridled enthusiasm has closed the sale. Before trying it at home, however, I think I will try the restaurant version. My wife and I are essentially pescetarians, so new vegetarian recipes are always welcome.

California Girl said...

I bought several vegetarian cook books about 14 years ago while still living in San Diego. I was going away on yoga retreats and trying to improve everyone's diets. The choices then were not so great or else I picked a couple of lousey ones. Anyway, I really wanted to make tofu recipes and get us off meat but I couldn't cook it to save my life! I have, over the years, paid attention to the plethora of vegetarian/vegan books out there and know there must be great choices and recipes but I've yet to try it again. Your recipe does sound good, particularly the sauce.

Babs-beetle said...

We tried Tofu some years back, and didn't like it, though you make it sound very tasty.

I know we are supposed to be drawn to the leaf in your second pic (which I was), but what is the large orange thing in the background?

Friko said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, you excellent woman.

I find milk and milk products indigestible, my intolerance to them is growing. Although I bought a packet of tofu, it sat in the larder until it finally passed its sell-by date. I take soya products instead of anything dairy, of course; consequently, I have been upping my meat consumption for calcium.

A lose-lose situation. I will try tofu again and this time it will not get shoved to the back of the larder.

rauf said...

mouthwatering tofu, feel like eating drondkindandank chair, all the leaves, everything is looking so yummy Ruth.

Ann said...

Sorry Ruth,

I don't eat tofu. As a child in Borneo, Tofu was very cheap and we had it often.

Now, Tofu in the western world is so expensive, I refuse to buy it.

I eat a lot of veg.

ds said...

Well, I would try this, but alas Mr. L-S's idea of the perfect meal remains steak (rare), baked potato and broccoli. He only touches tofu when he makes hot and sour soup.

We are, however, great mushroom lovers. Shiitakes are practically a staple (they go wonderfully well with broccoli ;) )!

Ruth said...

Nancy, frankly I have no idea what got into me when I tried this at the sushi-ya (thanks, Kent, now I sound sophisticated :), but I'm glad I tried it. I think tasting it at a restaurant first is a good idea. When they fall in love as I did, they'll be falling over themselves to make it at home.

Ruth said...

Oliag, I also suspect there must be different grades of tofu. Maybe I'll even develop a tofu palate and become a tofu afficionado, I might become a tofu guru, a master! I can dream can't I?

Hear, hear about red wine (which I like much better than sake; but there is something about drinking hot sake with a Japanese meal that feels very nice).

Ruth said...

Pat, if you just make one, for you, and tell him he can't have any, he won't like it, and then moan and groan in ecstasy, see what happens. :)

Thank you, the leaves are pretty photogenic at the moment.

Ruth said...

George, that is fair enough, and I will look forward to your report after trying it at a restaurant. I hope you can find it.

Thank you for a new word in my vocabulary: pescetarian.

I am trying to be patient for you to post something at your blog after your short pause is over. I had a sudden dread yesterday that it might be more than a pause . . .

Ruth said...

California Girl, I find that testing and experimenting with recipes takes a lot of work, and if you don't know what the result is supposed to be, the motivation factor is low. We were very motivated to find this flavor and texture that we had fallen in love with, and that made such a difference. When we got it right, so that it tasted every bit as good as the restaurant's version, we couldn't believe it! Please let me know if you try this and what you think.

Ruth said...

Babs, if you and Mo see this around in your restaurant visits, give it a try. It's very inexpensive.

Those orange things are GI GAN TOR pumpkins! Don grew a variety that gets humongous. One of these days I'll take a photo of him, or Bishop, sitting on one so you can see the proportions. (You should have seen him moving them up to the shed where they are, first in the lawn tractor trailer, then offloading them . . . slippery devils; I was nice. I only laughed, and didn't take his picture.)

Ruth said...

Hi, Friko, you are welcome! I hope you will try this recipe. But please buy a new package of tofu first. :)

I am hearing that milk products are about the worst things we humans can consume. Seriously. There is a great deal out there, in fact, that says milk products are the worst source of calcium, and that fruits and vegetables are the best source. Here is one web site that talks about it.

Ruth said...

rauf, eat the tofu, but please don't eat the boondabomback chair, or the leaves.

:D

I heard some chef talking on the radio yesterday when I was driving to Peter's birthday dinner, and the chef was saying he uses wood chips to flavor food. I don't mean in the fire on a grill, but in the seasoning itself. I was pretty surprised, and then I had to stop the car and get out, or I would be late. I don't know how he does it. I wonder if you can flavor food with leaves?

Ruth said...

Ann, it's great you eat a lot of veggies. I've been eating a lot more of them than I used to. I bet no one is ever going to tell us to stop eating vegetables because they're bad for us, unless of course it's because of how they're grown.

Ruth said...

DS, I understand. And mushrooms go wonderfully well with steak too. I am a big lover of ribeye steak. Recently Don and I decided to go have our first steak in six months, at a place that had a phenomenally delicious rub recipe. The management must have changed hands, and the steak was inedible. Was I disappointed!

Susan said...

I love it when a trusted friend takes the fall for me. ;) I may try this, but I'll have to make something else for David. He will NOT put a bite of Tofu in his mouth. Maybe I'll try it out on Jaye and Kelly..they've been trying to go veg. Your photo certainly does make it look very appealing.

Love the leaves pictures!

Susan said...

re: your comment to ds....or maybe you've just lost your desire for large hunks of fatty beef!

Shari Sunday said...

I'm still not sure about tofu but I love the leaves! I assumed those big round orange things were plastic until I read that Don GREW them???

willow said...

I'm a huge fan of tofu! Thanks for this recipe. Looks and sounds dee-lish!

mystic rose said...

I dont like Tofu, but man, you are making me so hungry right now!!

Babs-beetle said...

Oh yes, photos please. It looks huge, and you totally should have taken shots of the slippery pumpkins ;) I always snap those kind of things, then I have to promise Mo that I won't post them on my blog :))

Jeanie said...

Ha! One day I am going to do a post on rediscovered foods -- those we snubbed as children or discovered later, but avoided as adults! You capture it perfectly!

Cait O'Connor said...

Your passion has almost persuaded me to try it....almost.....

Ruth said...

Susie, yes, make it for Jaye and Kelly, and maybe even Matthew will try it. :)

As for that steak that was inedible, you could be right in part about losing a taste for it, but really, it was really nothing like its former grandeur. At least we won't be tempted to go back for it!

Ruth said...

Oh come on, Shari, you don't want to share tofu on your Sunday Suppers blog??

Yes, Don grew those babies, big as baby elephants.

Ruth said...

willow, I hope you'll try it and like it!

Ruth said...

Mystic, you could go make some biryani with mushrooms, or mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. :)

Ruth said...

Oh, Babs, I was so comfy in my wicker chair on the porch, feet up, reading Zorba the Greek. I waited and watched him on each of the 3 deliveries, and giggled and guffawed. Not only did I not help him (don't know what I could have done really), but I was even too lazy to get up for my camera. I too have said to Don what you say to Mo. :)

Ruth said...

Jeanie, great idea, but for me I would happily never rediscover canned peas or canned lima beans.

Thank you!

mystic rose said...

Ruth,

I made turkish REd Lentil Soup and Shepherd's salad yesterday for dinner. Kids loved it!

Ruth said...

Cait, go on, you could even have it for breakfast as a switch from porridge and Chocolate Weetabix! :)

Ruth said...

Mystic, thank you thank you for reminding me about red lentil soup. I used to make it every week in Istanbul, and now . . . almost never! And it's so easy. Why can't we have a Turkish restaurant here? Well there's one, sort of, in Ann Arbor. I do make shepherd's salad often, especially when Inge and Lar come.

Oliag said...

I wasn't thinking! Of course hot sake with the tofu...I love hot sake!

deb said...

I like tofu, and some of my kids do...
but I've never eaten it as "steak" .
I'm completely intrigued and will try your recipe.

and I see you agree re this spectacular fall. those chairs look so inviting...

Loring Wirbel said...

If you want to make Pei Wei style tofu, slice it thinly, marinate it in chili-oil/Hoisin, and freeze it. After a few hours, thaw it just enough to separate the slices, then sautee it rapidly at high temperature. Not quite the same texture as Pei Wei, but close!

Ginnie said...

Ruth, I totally lost it when your boss "declined and started off on something about Nathaniel Hawthorne and witches . . ." HAHAHAHA! Then again with your "Just kidding" about the podcast of you reading the recipe. How fun. I actually like tofu and know I would enjoy tofu streak. Well, I'd at least want to try it. It really does look good. :)

Terresa said...

I so love your food posts, a recent one (oatmeal) coming to mind. I'm not organized enough to see a pattern, if you post on a highlighted food each week or if is it random. Either way, I enjoy each post and come away, schooled.

PS: My mom in law is a fan of tofu, myself, not so brave but girding up the courage. :)

Vagabonde said...

Well, I don’t know, Ruth. When we went to The Farm to visit our friends from San Francisco, who are totally vegetarian, they served us tofu in a variety of ways and I liked it a lot. I even bought their tofu cookbook. Then I started reading reports on tofu and the brain. If you Google tofu + brain aging, you will see many reports on it. I did not read all the reports, but right now in our home we don’t need more brain problems. (they said: “…consumption was independently associated with indicators of cognitive impairment and brain atrophy in late life. ..”) Maybe it is not so, but I don’t want to take a chance. I’ll cook it once in a while, but not as much as I intended when I bought the cookbook. I need my brain.

caroldiane said...

my, you do collect interesting comments don't you?! I copied your recipe then got caught up in the brain aging discussion and headed off in an entirely different direction! I think I will try the tofu and live dangerously. Thanks! xo