Vegetarians, Day 2: Ooe, Eee, Ooe, Killer Tofu!

Day 2

Last night we decided to host our friends for dinner, and not only cook a vegetarian meal, but also attempt to cook tofu. For the first time. Ever.

It was a pretty gutsy (read: dumb) move since they have been vegetarians for years and have cooked tofu a million times. But this experiment is about taking chances and they agreed to be our guinea pigs.

One of the first roadblocks I ran into was not knowing there were so many different kinds of tofu. Soft (which looked liked ricotta cheese in a tube *shutters*), Medium (a slight step up in hardness, but still not necessarily solid); Firm (a solid, sponge-like block in water); and Extra Firm (like Firm, but tougher and less water content). Un/Fortunately I had already blindly purchased the firm variety, not knowing there was a difference, so that’s what I went with.

Then I discovered a long-held debate in the Tofu World: To Press or Not to Press? In Western culture, people generally prefer to press to get as much water out as possible so that the tofu itself is harder and so they are avoiding a spongy texture. But according to a YouTuber I watched who is from Korea, they don’t mind the spongy texture and therefore they don’t press it. Since I’m neither Korean, nor really know what I’m doing, I went with a happy medium: squeezing the tofu between two cutting boards once or twice. Was this the right thing to do or even the right method? Probably not. I could make a whole other post on the varying methods for how to press, including stacking books on top … (which just seems dangerous, but ok).

Next , it was time to transform the tofu from a tasteless, egglike mass into something resembling food. I chopped it up into cubes and put it in this marinade to sit overnight:

  • Oyster sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Maple syrup
  • Ginger
  • Garlic

I discovered the next morning that the tofu sucked up most of the marinade. So my effort to press it now seemed moot. Maybe that’s why Koreans don’t bother.

Finally it was time to bake it. I found a recipe that recommended coating the tofu in cornstarch to help get it crispy and baking it at 350 degrees. But here’s the part that killed me – it said to cook it for between 20 and 45 minutes. That’s a big range. How would I possibly know when it’s done?! 

In the end, I cooked it for 30 minutes total, flipping at the 10 minute marks as suggested. The tofu did not turn out crispy, but it also wasn’t terrible. It held its shape and tasted like the marinade. For being my first time cooking it, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here are my general observations about tofu:

  • You really have to put some time and work in to make it taste good.
  • It’s not a very forgiving product to work with (cutting, pressing, etc).
  • I doubt I will become tofu’s biggest fan by the end of this experiment.

P.S. Who can name the cartoon this clip came from?!

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CSA Recipe: Roasted Beets & Sweet Potatoes

I recently signed up for a CSA through the Intervale in Burlington, VT and I’ve become obsessed with it! I get an assortment of vegetables each week, and also get eggs/yogurt/salad dressing OR cheese/bread/pesto along with it. Everything is organic, even the bread and yogurt, and it’s all ridiculously tasty. Since we’re getting so many different vegetables that I normally never cook, I’ve been looking all over the internet and in cookbooks for different recipes. I’ll be sharing some of my favs here!

Recipe: Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes
CSA Vegetables: Beets, Sweet Potatoes

I had actually seen a recipe on Food Network for sweet potatoes and beets, but it called for bacon lardons…and, well…I know I am going to lose some of you by saying this…but I’m really just not that into bacon. There, I said it.  I also had to look up “lardons” and wasn’t super into the definition: “Narrow strips of fat used to lard meats.” Ummm, barf.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 3 beets, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the chopped beets and sweet potatoes on baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and drizzle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 until vegetables are golden.

Step 6: Eatttttt

P.S. Aren’t beets a sexy vegetable? Turns out the Romans used them as aphrodisiacs. Beets contain boron, which help in the production of human sex hormones. Ow, la la.

One last word of caution: you might want to wear gloves. Beets stain everrrrything.