Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tofu is My New Friend

In the past, I scoffed at tofu… it seems fake, it doesn’t have any taste, it has a weird consistency and a funny texture, IT’S TOFU, it is yuck. (Confession of an ex tofu-hater: I talked smack about tofu even before I actually tried it.)

Just a couple of months ago, I finally decided to give it a try. I had it in a Thai dish with stir-fried veggies and another Thai dish with peanut sauce. *Hmmm… not as bad as I thought… pretty decent... I kinda like it!*

One afternoon, I decided to cook with it and found out that it really is just an edible sponge that absorbs whatever delightful sauces you make it with, and the soft texture is actually quite pleasant. Tofu and I are starting to get to know each other and I’m still embarrassed about my naiveté over my new friend’s capabilities.   

Today, I’m going to share the first tofu recipe that I made… and I guarantee there will be more to come!

I forgot to add the garlic and ginger to this ingredient photo op.

Spicy Braised Tofu with Ground Beef  (Makes 4-6 servings)
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Asian Cooking)

Beef Marinade
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 lb ground beef

16 oz firm tofu
½ cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt

Braising Sauce
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ tbsp chili paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp cornstarch
dash of freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp minced green onions, include white and pale green parts (you can use more to your liking)
1 ½ tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced

Prepare the marinade in a large, glass or plastic bowl. Stir the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil together. Add the ground beef. Mix well, making sure to coat the meat evenly. Set aside.

Put 1 teaspoon salt and ½ cup chicken broth in a small sauce pan. Add water until the pan is ¾ full. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. After this mixture starts boiling gently, turn the heat down to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu and reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 6 minutes. Using a flat and wide slotted spatula, transfer the tofu to a plate. Press out the excess liquid from the tofu by weighing it down with another plate. Set aside for about 30 minutes to make sure most of the liquid comes out and pour off the excess right before stir-frying. Then, cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes.

Prepare the braising sauce in a small bowl, by whisking ½ cup chicken broth, chili paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and ground pepper. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef and the rest of its marinade. Stir-fry until it just turns slightly brown, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium then add the garlic and stir it well into the beef, add the green onions and ginger and stir-fry for another minute. Stir in the sauce and simmer until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the tofu, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered. Stir gently, occasionally, making sure not to break the tofu into small pieces. The dish is ready when most of the sauce is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and serve immediately.

This is wonderful served over rice and a side of steamed vegetables.

...with leftover potato masala (I overcooked the potatoes, so it was more like an Indian version of mashed potatoes)...

...with delicious stir-fried veggies made by DFJ, basmati rice, and an old sourdough bread... DELISH!

Do you have any delicious tofu recipes to share? I would love to try it!  

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