Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tofu - Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With!

Tofu has a bad reputation. Tasteless. Bland. Rubbery.

Tofu is made from soybeans, water and a coagulant, or curdling agent. It is high in protein and calcium and well known for its ability to absorb new flavors through spices and marinades. Due to its chameleon-like qualities and nutritional value, tofu, a staple of Asian cuisines for hundreds of years, has recently become popular in Western vegetarian cooking.

There are two main kinds of tofu, silken or soft tofu, and firm or regular tofu.

Silken tofu, also called soft, silk or Japanese-style tofu has a softer consistency than regular tofu and will fall apart if not handled carefully. You may notice that silken tofu (soft tofu), unlike regular tofu, is sometimes packaged in aseptic boxes that do not require refrigeration. Because of this, silken tofu is sometimes sold in a different section of grocery stores than regular tofu, which is packed in water and requires refrigeration.

Both silken and regular tofu can be found in soft, medium, firm and extra firm consistencies. They are made from the same ingredients, but they are processed slightly differently, and are not interchangeable in a recipe.

Salad dressings, sauces and desserts usually use silken tofu for a thick and creamy texture. Silken tofu in an aseptic container has a shelf life of up to a year, unopened. Once opened, submerge any used portion with water in a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to a week.

Regular tofu, also called Chinese-style tofu or bean curd is more common than silken tofu and comes in a plastic container in the refrigerator or produce section of most grocery stores. Firm or extra firm regular tofu is best used in stir fries, tofu bakes or any dish where you will want the tofu to retain its shape. For recipes that call for crumbled or mashed tofu, such as mock ricotta or scrambled tofu, firm tofu will work just fine, though medium or soft tofu will have a smoother consistency.

Tofu is a product best experimented with. Some weekend day when you have some time, get yourself a carton of tofu, a recipe that intrigues you, and an open mind.

Clean Eating is about embracing foods that you might not ever have had a space for in your life before - fruits, vegetables, etc. Tofu is an excellent protein source that takes seasonings well. Experiment. Expand your repertoire. Try tofu.

And don't tell your family what it is until after they taste it. :-)

Also, you can add 5 points to your SciFi cred card if you got the title reference! -