One of my very best friends introduced me to tofu back in high school. Rather, her mother introduced us to tofu when she made some kind of amazing stroganoff with it. I thought tofu was the bees knees, but then my friend and I tried to replicate the stroganoff and it turned out ... scary. Then there was an incident with a tofurkey. I tried a few more times to understand tofu, but it just didn't happen. My tofu-loving days were over, or so I thought.
I was feeling brave a few weeks ago, and I purchased a block of extra-firm, organic tofu from Trader Joe's. I put it in our cheese drawer so that it could judge me every time I opened the refrigerator and told it today was not the day. I don't know what to do with tofu! I did consider carving a turkducken out of it, but I don't have the time or skill. My aunt told me of how at her local Farmer's Market there was a stand that sold "fried chicken" tofu, and even bought us some to try when we visited. It was neither fried or chicken, but V. devoured all of it. Now I knew I had to face The Block.
Today was the day. (The tofu and the toddler were both very excited.) I did not want to make some meat substitute, thinking I might have better success at enjoying the tofu if it wasn't impersonating something I already love. I also realize that I enjoyed it more because it wasn't burnt to the bottom of a pan, covered in some Lipton Secrets powder and sad, over-boiled noodles.
First I set to making cubes out of the tofu. I sliced it into quarters, pressed it with a towel, and cubed it up. Then I set to making a marinade.
about 4 TBS soy sauce
1/8 tsp dried mustard
1 TBS garlic (the kind in the jar, already crushed to a pulp)
1 TBS rice wine
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
a few cranks of fresh black pepper
2 TBS water
and I intended to add dried ginger, but I became distracted by my lovely assistant's demands for "noke!" - or milk.
(It is a marinade, and I know I used a little extra soy sauce at the end. Just wing it.)
I let that sit for about 40 minutes. Longer would have been better, but I wouldn't have let it sit for more than a few hours. These are pretty strong flavors.
Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and baked them for 25 minutes at 400F on convect. I considered turning them half way through, but that assistant of mine is pretty clingy today. They came out just fine.
While those were baking, I boiled the marinade down into a sauce for dipping. Mmm.
And wouldn't you know it, they were delicious and fun.
I used chopsticks, and started to stack mine. V., not to miss out on a block party, started stacking hers using her fork! That's one step closer to getting her to actually use the fork to eat, so I was pretty excited.
Lunch did take unusually long to eat because we were playing with our food, but it was delicious and we both worked on our fine motor skills. Building a tofu castle with uneven cubes with chopsticks is harder than you think.
This was quick, easy, and delicious. That's the kind of meal I like.
Future brainstorms for tofu:
A marinade including honey. Maybe even apples, for Rosh Hashanah.
Next time, I'll make vegetables to go with it. I dropped the ball this time.
Cut the tofu into different shapes. It was firm enough that cookie cutters would work, and maybe a melon baller, if I pressed the tofu a bit more. Great for learning shapes!