Once again the star of the show…TOFU …which can be made into a totally delicious sandwich filling or dip in a few minutes. Simple, nutritious and tremendously versatile is our not so secret ingredient. Tofu is a solid protein-packer, which has the ability to take on the flavor of any spice or herb because of its bland taste and variable texture. The food celebrated around the world for centuries in Japanese, Chinese, and Indonesian cultures has fed and charmed the masses because of its affordability and means of production.
Let’s walk down the nostalgia trail for a moment and go back to the late 60’s when tofu was not a well known entity in this country, and was just getting its baby legs during the Aquarian Age. The Woodstock generation was exploring many things at the time including experimental food choices. Many of us eschewed “juicy” meats realizing it came with the vital fluids of the slain animal along with the fear the poor animal experienced at death. Not so tasty when you acknowledged the origin and process of that cruel industry, as well as the karma factor.
Manufacturers would at that time send to the health stores big white buckets filled with tofu in clean water and you would scoop out the desired number of blocks with a plastic bag on your hand and put them in another plastic bag for safe transport home. Once there you were obligated to find an appropriate holder either plastic but more preferably glass to store the curd, and to remember to change the fresh water daily. Imagine some pioneers making it from scratch, an almost pre-diluvian process of sorting, soaking, boiling, stirring and pressing the soybeans until the end product was finally ready for presentation many hours later. Only the purists will attempt that these busy days but they do get respect for their dying art and hands-on approach.
This month we will focus on the more popular and modern form of the soybean curd. Readily available today in refrigerated plastic packages packed with water with a freshness expiration date, tofu is found in every supermarket, health food store, and specialty shop. It comes in an assortment of textures from soft to firm and every classification in between, sometimes rated with numbers from 1-6. My favorite is the low-fat variety (any texture) which may be a little more challenging to find but worth the search. The fat value is cut approximately in half but the high protein value stays the same. Not to bore you with the facts of the science of tofu components, suffice it to say that the white refrigerated chunk of heaven supplies a huge amount of calcium, magnesium and a very easy to digest and assimilate vegetable protein.
Depending on the recipe you are preparing, the choice of the texture is important. For stir-frying or pan sautéing (Please notice deep frying is not in my vocabulary!) choose the firm or extra firm variety which can be sliced or cut into chunks without crumbling and retains its shape. It is also the best format for any tofu that will be marinated for later use. For the tofu scramble recipe given in Dec. ’12 PPR archives, use a medium or soft form which breaks up easily and incorporates with the veggies that it will marry.
For this specific spread recipe use either the firm or medium tofu and you should mix it by hand until the desired consistency which may vary with individual taste. The beauty of this dish is the compliment of just about any combination of vegetable ingredients that you have on hand. Remember that creativity counts and presentation (see picture)
rocks! This is the way I traditionally create the dish into a creamy, mellow yellow, light and yet filling spread begging to be in your lunch pail. It’s too dignified for a brown bag. It may look like egg salad but it is superior in every way. Analyze where the oblong shaped ivory colored hard shell with the possible embryo inside it originated from days ago and think of the clean and healthy alternative from a low on the food chain bean.
Terrific Tofu Spread
1 = 14 oz. packet of tofu (low fat/ firm or medium)
½ cup celery chopped fine
½ c. green pepper diced
¼ c red onion and scallions mixed
¼ c. fresh parsley chopped
1 teas. turmeric spice
1 tbs. soy sauce (tamari) low-sodium to taste
½ teas. white pepper
½ c.”Vegenaise” (no egg mayo.)
Optional: mustard powder to taste
To prepare: Rinse the tofu. Cut the block in half through the middle. Blot almost dry with white paper towels. Mix all the ingredients by hand until the desired texture is created. Refrigerate to let the yellow color from the turmeric emerge. Serve on whole grain crackers or bread with lettuce, tomato and pickle.
Note: No animals were hurt during the making of this dish.
You can decorate the tofu spread as you wish and let the PARTY begin!