I will never forget my first time cooking with tofu. I was a sophomore in college and the dish was stir fry with tofu. Clueless, yet lucky enough to choose the right kind of tofu for my purposes, the extra firm variety. I drained the water out of the package and plopped the cold, wet block of tofu down on my cutting board and proceeded to cut it into 1" cubes. I chopped up some veggies too, and added everything all at once into a hot skillet. A few minutes later I had a pool of water in the bottom of my skillet. I clumsily drained the extra water out of the pan and continued to cook the mixture of tofu and veggies. When it was all said and done, by the time all of the water cooked out of the tofu, the veggies were obliterated.
I did not give up on tofu after this experience, but I did alter my technique. From then on the tofu always went into the pan first and cooked for 15 minutes or more on its own, until the water evaporated out and it started to crisp up. I was so proud of myself for conquering tofu.
A few years and many stir fries later my tofu world was turned upside down when someone gave me a copy of Vegan With a Vengeance. Not only did I discover there are many other uses for tofu beyond stir fries, I also learned that I should have been pressing the water out of the tofu before cooking it. Pressing goes like this: wrap the block of tofu in a clean dish towel or 3-4 layers of paper towels. Place wrapped block between two clean plates and balance heavy objects (books, pans, weights) on top and let sit for one hour to drain.
It was a tofu epiphany. Since then I have been doing the tofu draining balancing act, and as far as I knew things could not be better. Then a month ago came the game changer, the perfect tofu draining tool, resulting in the densest, and most perfectly chewy tofu I have ever experienced. The gadget I am referring to is the TofuXpress. For a month now I have been enjoying better drained tofu which fries up faster and soaks up marinades better. I cannot imagine going back to the old balancing act method!
This is the TofuXpress in action. I was surprised by how sturdy this little gadget is. Constructed of thick plastic and a heavy duty spring -- you can really feel the force when you press the top piece down into place. Water starts pooling in the container instantly, and in an hour or less the tofu is well drained. For an even denser tofu you can leave it to drain for longer. The TofuXpress can also be used to press water out of other foods -- I am excited to try it out on frozen spinach, a food that I have never figured out how to efficiently press the water out of.
Now here is the really exciting part. TofuXpress is hosting a giveaway so that one of you can give this awesome gadget a try! More details on how to enter after the recipe.
I was excited to try marinating some tofu that had been pressed in the TofuXpress. I decided on a Thai red curry marinade and for a Valentine's Day twist I used heart shaped cookie cutters on the tofu. You could skip the hearts and cut the tofu into slabs instead (12-16 pieces per block), but then you will want to do 1-1/2 or even double the amount of coconut breading to make sure you have enough to cover all of the tofu.
So often Thai curries involve veggies and tofu stir fried in oil and then immersed in a thick, coconut milk based sauce. My method involves using steamed veggies and a light drizzling of sauce, and the shining
Thai Coconut-Crusted Tofu Hearts
Will need a 3" and a 1" heart cookie cutter
1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed
3 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 tsp creamy peanut butter (organic preferred)
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 cup lite coconut milk (or 1/4 cup regular + 1/4 cup water)
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter (organic preferred)
1/2 cup lite coconut milk (or 1/4 cup regular + 1/4 cup water)
1 tbsp lime juice
heaping 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1-1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1-1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional, omit to keep this dish mild)
steamed veggies and rice
Press tofu for 1 hour. Cut the block of tofu in half, depth-wise. Cut one 3" heart out of each of the two halves, and as many 1" hearts as you can fit (2-3 per block). Then cut each of your hearts in half depth-wise again, so that each heart is about 1/2" thick. You should have 4 large hearts and 8-12 small hearts. (Be sure to save your tofu scraps for tofu scrambles!)
Lay tofu hearts in a single layer on a rimmed baking dish. Whisk together marinade ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and then pour over the tofu. Flip the tofu to coat, then cover and refrigerate overnight (or for 1 hour if you are in a pinch).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet. Mix the coconut breading in a small shallow bowl, and set up your tofu and baking sheet nearby. Pick up the tofu one piece at a time and use a spoon to scrape off excess marinade leaving it behind in baking dish (reserve this, you will be using the leftover marinade in the sauce). Dredge the tofu hearts through the coconut breading on both sides, being sure to coat the edges as well, and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of the tofu is breaded. Spray the tops of the tofu hearts with a bit of cooking spray before putting into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, and then flip, spray, and bake for 15 minutes more.
While the tofu is baking make the sauce. Whisk in the additional coconut milk, peanut butter, and lime juice into the leftover marinade. Transfer to a small pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat until you are ready to serve.
Prepare the rice and steamed veggies also while the tofu is baking. I chopped up a broccoli crown and 1 large carrot. In the last 2 minutes of steaming I added a can of straw mushrooms and a can of baby corn just to heat them up.
Serve rice and veggies on the bottom layer, drizzle with sauce, and top with one large tofu heart and 2-3 small hearts.
Congrats if you made it through this super long post! Your reward is this super awesome TofuXpress giveaway. There are many ways to enter, please leave a separate comment for each. You must live in the United States to win. The winner will be selected using a random number generator. The contest closes at midnight on February 20, 2011, and the winner will be announced on the 21st.
For your first entry leave a comment telling me about your favorite tofu dish. For up to seven additional entries you may choose to do any or all of the following:
- follow @tofuxpress on Twitter
- like TofuXpress on Facebook
- subscribe to the TofuXpress newsletter at www.TofuXpress.com
- follow @ordinaryveg on Twitter
- like The Ordinary Vegetarian on Facebook
- tweet about this giveaway, including a link to this post and @ordinaryveg
- post about this giveaway on facebook, including a link to this post and @The Ordinary Vegetarian