Ingredient SpotLight

When many people hear the word "tofu" they think of a spongy white cube of tasteless stuff ... and that's in many ways true. But I like to think of it as a sponge that's great at soaking up fantastic flavors, taking on delightful textures and becoming a great source of lean protein in a world otherwise filled with lesser choices.

You are likely to be faced with two main choices when you find tofu at the grocery store: firm tofu and silken tofu. (There's also soft tofu, which is less frequently available.) Firm tofu is my choice for most cooking and silken tofu is what I like adding to creamy dishes like pudding and smoothies. For me, a block of firm tofu is just a vessel waiting for flavors to be added. This starts by removing the tofu from the water-filled tub it is sold in and carefully slicing it into 1/2-inch slices. I then set it between layers of paper towels and gently press some of the liquid from it. (If you've got about 30 minutes to spare, set the paper-towel wrapped tofu between two cutting boards and set a can or two of beans on top to get a better result.) After some of the liquid has been removed, the tofu is ready to accept marinades and other sauces that transform it from a bland block of white stuff to a flavor delight.

As for which flavors to use, the sky is the limit. I'm particularly fond of Asian flavors and the recipe below is a great example of a tried and true weekday dish at my home. However, any flavors that appeal to you can be imparted when we're talking tofu. And it's good for you. It's a great source of high quality protein and calcium, while being relatively low in calories and fat. Add to that the fact that it's easy to flavor and cook, and you've got a match made in heaven!

Simple Tofu and Veggie Stir-fry

  • 1/2 block firm tofu -- sliced 1/2" thick and pressed (see description above)
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 T. chili garlic sauce
  • 1/4 c. peanut oil
  • 8 oz. broccoli pieces
  • 1 red pepper -- sliced into strips
  • 8 oz. mushrooms -- quartered
  • 1 medium zucchini -- halved and sliced

Cut each tofu "slice" into 4 strips and further cut each of those strips into 4-5 triangles.

Combine the soy sauce, honey and chili garlic sauce in a shallow bowl and add the tofu. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.

Heat the peanut oil over high heat in a large skillet. Remove the tofu from the soy sauce mixture and add it to the hot oil, reserving the soy sauce mixture. Stir fry the tofu until a golden crust forms. Remove the tofu to a plate and add the prepared vegetables to the skillet. Stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Return the tofu to the skillet and add the reserved sauce and stir fry for an additional 3 minutes. Serve the stir-fry over hot cooked rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes