Tofu is a great source of protein and way cheaper than most other sources. For example:
- Beef can range in between $2.70 per pound and way up.
- Ground beef ranges between 2.99 and $.49 per pound.
- Chicken can begin as low as 79 cents per pound, but you are paying for the bones, as well. Boneless chicken usually starts around $1.99 per pound.
- Fish generally starts at $4.99 per pound for the least expensive cod and goes way up from there.
By comparison, tofu is $1.79 for a one-pound container at the Trader Joe’s on Court and Atlantic. You are buying a product with no bones, skin or fat to trim off, so it is purely usable product.
The trouble is (need we even say it), tofu is just so darned flavorless! But, fortunately, there are ways to give it some zing, if you know what to do.
First, know your tofu types! There are many, many different types, but your local grocery or health food store is likely to care these:
- Brick shaped tofu sold in a plastic tub in water. It comes in soft, regular (or medium), firm and extra-firm varieties. For stir-fry and grilled or braised dishes, use the firm or extra-firm variety. For smoothies, sauces or mixing, use the regular or soft.
- Silken tofu is usually sold in a box. It’s made with a different process than the kind you find in tubs. It also comes in different levels of firmness, but it is generally moister and doesn’t hold it’s shapes as well. So, it’s great for smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled or diced for soups.
- Pressed tofu. This has been subjected to very high pressure so that it becomes dense and has a texture more like cheese. Sometimes it is pre-seasoned. It’s great for salads or stir-frys.
- Smoked tofu. Just like how it sounds. It’s great for salads, stir frying, or sandwiches.
- Baked tofu. This comes in all kinds of flavors, such as Thai spiced or Barbecue.
When you buy, check to see if the store carries a local brand. Fairway, in Red Hook, is one that does. The fresher the tofu is, the better it tastes.
Once you buy your tofu, store it in the fridge. If you open the seal, you must change the water it sits in daily in order to keep it fresh for as long as possible. You’ll know when it has gone bad–it usually changes color and smells bad.
Next–the preparation. You can use it straight out of the tub, just drain the water off and go ahead with your recipe. But, if you are planning to grill, fry or braise it, it helps to get even more of the water out of it. This can be done by placing it on a plate, sandwiched between some layers of paper towel. Put something heavy on it, such as another plate weighed down with cans. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes. Freezing it also works because the freezing process causes the water inside to expand. Then when you defrost it, the water is all released.
Now, you can start to cook! A diverse and simple recipe to start out with is Marinated Tofu.
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