A Chameleon Called Tofu

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by isa, Feb 7, 2002.

  1. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    10
    A chameleon called Tofu

    By Rachel Travers, Globe Correspondent, 2/6/2002

    ''Tofu is the Zelig of foods,'' says Dana Jacobi, author of a new cookbook, ''Amazing Soy.'' ''It can go anywhere.''

    Like Zelig, the Woody Allen character who could turn into the kind of person he was near, tofu is a chameleon.

    It's this flexibility that appeals to chefs who are hiding tofu in plain sight, or who are sneaking it into unlikely dishes. Boston and Cambridge restaurateurs have been using tofu for years. Most say they're cooking for customers who want it.

    ''What matters most,'' Jacobi says ''is making dishes with good texture and flavor, not `good considering it's tofu.'

    ''One must never be culinarily tone-deaf, as the counterculture was that gave tofu dishes a bad name,'' she says. ''Pleasure first, and health will follow.''

    Also known as soybean curd, tofu generally has a cheese-like texture, made by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant. Harder tofu comes dense and solid, and it can be sliced to fry or grill. Softer tofu is rich in B-vitamins and can be easily blended with other ingredients. Silken tofu can replace sour cream in sauces and dressings. Clever use of a touch of acid, like lemon, can neutralize any heavy flavor of beans.

    The Soyfoods Council, an industry organization that is promoting soy, recently led classes on tofu and other soy ingredients at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif.

    So tofu is catching on in some unlikely places, too. Jerne, the restaurant at the new Ritz Carlton in Boston, serves two tofu dishes for lunch. The chef, Jorg Behrend, offers a vegetarian bento box that includes stir-fried tofu. He also makes a baked tofu sandwich on rye with portobello mushrooms and slow-roasted tomatoes. ''I carry tofu because I have vegetarian guests,'' Behrend says. ''Tofu gives us a little bit to play around with other than just pasta.''

    Another tofu sandwich is on the brunch menu of Butterfish in Cambridge, where the chef and owner, Chris Bussell, grills the tofu and serves it on sourdough with red chili sauce.

    ''I like it because it's an alternative protein source that you don't often see in a fine dining atmosphere,'' he says. ''It's very versatile, it picks up flavors very well. And it's light.''

    Raymond Ost, owner of the Alsatian restaurant Sandrine's in Cambridge, has been serving a tofu entree for more than a year. Tofu has nothing to do with Alsatian cuisine, but Ost's restaurant draws many vegetarian customers. At first, he says, ''I thought it was too Asian.'' But he cooked with it and found he liked the way tofu absorbed flavors.

    Last year, Ost offered a puff pastry entree, a vegetable Napoleon with marinated tofu. This season he's serving a spaghetti squash ''Bolognese,'' made entirely with vegetables, including pan-seared tofu. Ost serves 20 to 30 tofu entrees a week.

    Tofu's ability to absorb spices and flavors is why you will find it on the menu of the Moroccan restaurant Argana, which opens this month in Cambridge. The owner, Redwan Rouzky, says that though tofu is not part of Moroccan cuisine, it can be found even on menus in Morocco today.

    Rouzky's newly created menu includes pan-seared tofu marinated in Moroccan spices, served with mashed, seasoned chickpeas and spinach salad.

    Michael Schlow, co-owner of Radius in Boston, has a different take. ''Tofu has a really bad connotation. It's a challenge to debunk the myth and make it work,'' he says. Schlow was inspired by a crispy block of deep-fried, stuffed tofu that he had eaten at a Malaysian restaurant. The texture of the fried tofu interested him, so he began working with it.

    He fried the tofu to give it crispy edges, then marinated it in soy, reduced mushroom stock infused with lemon grass, Thai basil, mint, scallions, and olive oil (Schlow decided against sesame oil, which he thought too obvious), and with a touch of mustard for sharpness.

    Schlow matched it with sliced lobster tail, which has a similar consistency and firmness, along with snap peas, cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots, and slender French green beans.

    Now that tofu has been paired with lobster, the field for this Zelig of ingredients is wide open. Is foie gras next?

    GRILLED TOFU SANDWICH
    Serves 3

    FOR THE SANDWICH

    1block firm tofu
    1 teaspon chopped ginger
    1teaspoon soy sauce
    2 teaspoons sesame oil
    2 tablespoons peanut oil (for frying - optional)
    6 slices sourdough bread
    Extra sesame oil (for sprinkling)

    1. Slice the block of tofu horizontally into thirds, and transfer to a shallow bowl. In a small bowl, mix the ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Pour the mixture over the tofu.

    2. Heat a grill or warm a heavy skillet. Add the peanut oil to the skillet, if using. Grill or fry the tofu on both sides, turning carefully.

    3. Grill or toast the bread, then sprinkle it with sesame oil.

    4. Place a slice of tofu on one side of the bread and top with red chili sauce.

    FOR RED CHILI SAUCE

    2 tablespoons canola oil
    2 dry poblano chilies, chopped
    1small onion, chopped
    1clove garlic, chopped
    11-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
    1cup white wine
    1 cup vegetable stock
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    Dash of sesame oil
    2 tablespoons rice flour (or rice pancake mix)
    3 tablespoons water

    1. In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the chilies, onion, garlic, and ginger for 5 minutes or until they brown slightly. Add the wine and simmer 2 minutes. Then add the stock, sugar, salt, tomato paste, and sesame oil. Simmer 5 minutes.

    2. In a small bowl or cup, make a paste from the rice flour and water. Whisk this mixture into the chili sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.

    3. Allow the sauce to cool. Puree it in a blender and use as directed.

    Adapted from Butterfish

    The Boston Globe
     
  2. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

    Messages:
    9,204
    Likes Received:
    65
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Thanks for the grilled tofu recipe, Isa! I love to grill marinated tofu slices in a lightly oiled pan on low heat until they're crispy on the edges. Very satisfying and light.
     
  3. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    10
    I should confess 'm not a big tofu fan Mezz but because of your comment I might just try it.
     
  4. chiffonade

    chiffonade

    Messages:
    846
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    My favorite way to eat tofu is probably the least healthy...LOL. I love Thai Salad and it calls for strips of fried tofu.

    If there is enough flavor generated by other ingredients in a tofu dish, I find the tofu lends more in the way of mouthfeel than flavor. Not to mention the added nutrition!
     
  5. ruth

    ruth

    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    10
    I AM GREATLY THANKFUL TO THOSE WHO ARE USING THAT MYSTERY MEAT. ME I LOVE THE STUFF AND THE MORE PEOPLE,CHEFS, USE IT AND EXPAND AND DEBUNK ALL THOSE NAY SAYERS THE BETTER. THE MAIN REASON TOFU IS SO GOOD IS THE SOURCE OF PROTIEN IS A NON SAT FAT. FOR ALL THOSE THAT THINK A DIET LOW IN SAT FAT MEANS CHIX AND FISH WELL YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY ALL BE CONSUMING A BASIC VEGETARIAN DIET WHERE THERE IS NO OR NIL SAT FAT. THIS IS WHY I DISAGREE WITH MR ATKINS HE IS SLOWLY KILLING PEOPLE.
     
  6. markdchef

    markdchef

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    10
    Always good to hear about chefs using tofu.

    I love to cook with it and to consume it.

    working on a Tofu "Scallops" recipe right now.

    I made the most amazing Non-Dairy Chocolate cheesecake with tofu which will be featured in my upcoming cooking classes.

    Tofu truly is an amazing ingredient to use in cooking. It is like an artist's canvas.
     
  7. ruth

    ruth

    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    10
    I WOULD BE MOST INTERESTED IN SOME OF THOSE RECIPIES IF U ARE WILLING TO SHARE THEM. IF SO COULD YOU E-MAIL THEM TO ME AT "[email protected]. SORRY I CAN'T ATTEND YOUR CLASS.