Tofu is an affordable, quality source of protein that is actually quite easy to prepare. Tofu is made from the "curd,” a milky liquid, extracted from mature soybeans, that is then pressed into “cakes.” Soybeans are a complete protein and contain all eight essential amino acids needed for a strong, healthy diet.
There are several different types of tofu available. With ‘extra firm,’ ‘firm,’ ‘soft,’ and ‘silken;’ you will want to make sure and use the proper type that your recipe calls for. In general, use ‘firm’ or ‘extra firm’ when you want your tofu to hold its shape during the cooking process. ‘Soft’ tofu can be easily crumbled and used as a substitute in recipes calling for ricotta cheese or cottage cheese. While ‘silken’ tofu, due to its more creamy texture, should be blended and used as a thickener for soups and smoothies or even used as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream.
Tofu should be stored unopened in the refrigerator until ready to use. After opening, leftover tofu can be stored in a sealed plastic container with 2-3 inches of water for up to five days. To insure freshness, change the water daily. Tofu can also be stored unopened in its original package for up to five months in the freezer.
Before using, tofu should be drained and pressed, to remove excess moisture. To do this, simply drain the water and cover the tofu with a paper towel. Place wrapped tofu on a plate and top with an additional plate. Allow tofu to sit for 10-15 minutes to press out any reaming water.
Being naturally bland on its own, tofu lends itself to many recipes and flavor profiles. With its porous and sponge like texture, tofu will absorb marinades and seasonings quite well. Use caution and avoid marinades with oil, as the water in the tofu will cause the oil not to stick. To help achieve a crispy texture, toss your marinated tofu in cornstarch right before cooking.
This spinach and tofu bake is a great recipe to try if you are new to tofu, as the tofu is blended to create a creamy texture without the addition of milk.
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes Serves: 6
1 (8.0 ounce package) soft or silken tofu, drained
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes, cut up with juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 (10.0 ounce package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/3 (cup) shredded Swiss cheese
Place tofu in blender; blend until smooth. Smooth consistency is important to the appearance of this dish. Sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add tomatoes and oregano. Boil at least 2 minutes. Stir in tofu, rice, spinach, 1/4 cup of cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place in individual ramekins or put it all into 1 1/2 quart casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She knows how to get food on the table in a pinch while sticking to a budget. Currently, Chef Heather serves as a freelance writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.