I have to admit, it took me a long time to warm up to tofu.
When I first revamped my diet in accordance with the NAG principles, I had never eaten tofu, let alone familiarized myself with the many varieties in which it’s available. My naturopath touted the truism you hear so often: “It’s basically flavorless on its own, so it absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with. ” Great!, I thought, I’ll make some tofu tonight! , and went out and bought some.
Back then, I didn’t know about the importance of buying organic tofu, or which type to buy, so I just got any old extra-firm. Went home, and created some kind of pseudo-stew (the ingredients of which elude me now) and tasted it. Bah! Feh! Ptewie! I couldn’t even eat one full mouthful.
No taste, you say? Absorbs the flavors of whatever it’s with? Uh, sorry, no. Tofu tastes exactly like what it is: cooked, compressed soybeans. Ugh.
It took me several months of experimentation, some great cookbooks, and a dogged determination to finally hit upon a few recipes I could actually eat and enjoy. Over the years, tofu has become one of my very favorite foods, a staple in our home, despite the many controversies swirling round it.
The trick, I’ve found, is to use assertive flavors that can complement and conceal it. Pressing the tofu helps considerably, as that causes the water to exude, thereby leaving little gaps for the sauce to sneak its way in and become absorbed. Baking firm or extra-firm tofu in a hearty sauce is useful, too. (Now, desserts are a whole other matter, and they most often require aseptically-packaged silken tofu. But depending on the dessert, you can choose anything from Soft-Silken to Extra-Firm Silken. Occasionally, cheesecakes are good with Chinese-style, water-packed firm tofu. Some souffle-type desserts are best made with medium tofu. Okay, got all that? Quiz to follow).
I’ve said this before, and it truly bears repeating: I’m a very lazy cook. Not the best trait for someone whose dietary restrictions require that everything be made from scratch. Consequently, I try to find shortcuts where I can. Use the food processor instead of the hand grater; make up huge batches and freeze for later re-heating; or, as in the case of this morning’s breakfast, recyle up leftovers whenever possible.
[Yesterday's Simple Sauteed Greens]
I enjoyed some simple sauteed greens for dinner last evening (yes, that’s all I even wanted, after a mid-afternoon chocolate frenzy), and so had a container of pre-sauteed broccoli rabe hanging out in the fridge. The saute was super-easy: sliced garlic, olive oil, chopped rabe. That’s it. I also noticed some leftover canned crushed tomatoes being stored in a glass jar. I’d been hankering after a tofu scramble for several days, so thought this would be a great opportunity to whip one up (no matter that the house is still not unpacked, and I’m hosting what will probably be my last-ever at home cooking class tomorrow evening–none of which is prepared yet).
Tofu is a wonderful scrambled egg substitute, I find, especially when it’s crumbled (as here) rather than cubed. This dish provides complete protein courtesy of the tofu, high-protein pine nuts, and the greens. You’ll also be acquiring a surfeit of minerals here, due to the many trace minerals in the greens and the high iron in the raisins. Garlic and tomato round out the dish for antioxidant benefits–and the many anti-bacterial, anti-viral qualities of the garlic are a true boon this time of year (at least, for those of us enduring a cold, wet winter, such as we get in Ontario).
You’ll find this dish is still quite saucy, so decrease the tomatoes if desired. The combination of herbs works wonderfully with the pine nuts and raisins, the sweetness of which act as a perfect counterpoint to the bitter greens and slightly acrid tomato. If you find broccoli rabe too bitter, I think chopped chard would be excellent here, too.
As I said, I ate this for breakfast, but it seems to me most people would find it suitable as a dinner dish or even a side dish.
Mediterranean Tofu Scramble
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 block (about 450 grams) organic extra-firm tofu
2 cups organic crushed or ground canned tomatoes
1/3 cup raisins
about 2 cups chopped sauteed leafy greens (chard, collard, broccoli rabe, etc.)
salt to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat in a nonstick frypan. Add the garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the pine nuts, then sprinkle with the herbs and spices and continue to saute another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the crumbled tofu and stir to coat. Pour the tomatoes over all, combine well, then stir in the remaining ingredients.
Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until heated through. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings. This may be stored in the refrigerator up to 4 days, or frozen up to 3 months.