When I first heard about tofu, I thought is was something I’d never eat. But after giving up meat, I became curious. Although I wanted to try it, I resisted because I didn’t know what the hell to do with a watered down, spongy square block of food. I mean, really?
Who eats this stuff?
I’d go to the store and contemplate buying it, standing in front of the cooler staring at it as if somewhere out of the blue how to cook it would hit me. After-all it looked like no meat I’d ever eaten before (it is a meat replacement, right?).
It’s not like I could’ve gone to the nearest vegetarian restaurant and try it. When I was living in Texas, tofu wasn’t served in restaurants. And food blogs weren’t even a thing.
Being a new vegetarian was hard.
I garnered the courage to put tofu in my basket, convincing myself this is the next step to learning how to prepare it. I hadn’t a clue what I’d do with it.
I tossed it in the freezer and forgot about it.
Then I started reading a new cookbook I was gifted. Vegetarian Classics inspired me to do something with that dang tofu.
So I did, not sure what I was getting into.
I now prepare that spongy block with the confidence I used to prepare rump roast with.
I learned that freezing tofu when bringing it home from the store prepares it to soak up lots of marinade after thawing and pressing. Pressing the tofu prior to baking or cooking it removes the water to make room for the marinade.
I’ve also learned baking or dry-pan toasting the tofu after pressing out the water prior to marinating assists in improving the tofu’s texture, drying it out even further.
It sounds like a lot to do to prepare tofu. I get it. But once you do it, and get the flow down, you’ll be whippin up tofu like a boss!
Have you tried forbidden rice? I discovered it at our local co-op in the bulk bins. I was intrigued and brought some home. It’s nutty, slightly sweet and versatile. My friend Aysegul shared a breakfast bowl using it and I shared this gratin recipe using forbidden rice a few months back. A spoonful of black rice bran has as many antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries. Put it on your list!
Spicy Peanut Tofu Bowl with Coconut Forbidden Rice
For the Rice:
- 1 C Forbidden Rice 200g
- 1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk 390g
- 3/4 C Water 178g
- 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
For the Tofu:
- 10 oz Sprouted or Very Firm Tofu pressed (see note), 285g
- 4 Tbs Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
- 1/4 C Tamari 62g
- 3 Tbs Sesame Oil divided
- 1-2 Tbs Sriracha 2 for the heat!
- 3 Tbs Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter
- 2 Cloves Garlic microplaned
- 2 tsp Fresh Ginger microplaned
For the Bok Choy:
- 2 Bok Choy 300g
- 1-2 Tbs Sesame Oil
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Toasted and chopped cashews
- Lime wedges
- Thai basil or cilantro
For the Rice:
- In a medium sauce pan, add the rice, coconut milk, water and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 40 minutes with lid on. Start checked at about 35 minutes to make sure the rice is not sticking. If it is, give it a stir and put the lid back on. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
For the Tofu:
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Slice the tofu into 1" cubes and place on a parchment or silpat lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes. This will dry the tofu out.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the maple syrup, tamari, oil, sriracha, peanut butter, garlic and ginger. Whisk to combine the marinade. Stir in the baked tofu and marinate for at least 10 minutes (30 if you can).
- Warm a medium non-stick saute pan on medium heat with 1 Tbs of sesame oil. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to the pan. Some of the marinade will transfer to the pan, most of it should stay in the bowl. Cook tofu on medium heat, allowing it to get a little crispy with some crust forming from the marinade. Cook the tofu until crispy and warmed through, stirring and tossing occassionally. About 5-8 minutes. Keep warm. Leftover marinade can be frozen to be used again. Or, gently warm it and use it as a sauce to slather over the tofu just before serving.
For the Bok Choy:
- Slice the bok choy, lengthwise, in half. In a nonstick pan, add 1 Tbs of sesame oil, swirl it around in the pan and heat until shimmering. Place the bok choy in the pan, flat side down. Cook for 2 minutes, flip, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 2 Tbs water to the pan and put a lid on for about 30 seconds to wilt the bok choy. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Assemble the Bowls:
- Divide the rice, tofu and bok choy between bowls and garnish with cashews, lime wedges and basil. Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container for up to three days.
Recipe NotesFreeze your tofu when you bring it home from the store. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, then press out the water. Something magical happens in the freezer. Since tofu is packaged in water, we need press the water out of it to make room for flavor! To press thawed tofu, use a tea towel and place it under and on top of the tofu. Set it on a plate. Place something heavy on top, like a cutting board, another plate or a not-so-full box of wine to press the water out. We don't want it too heavy or it will squash the tofu. Move the tea towel a few times to a dryer area of the towel so it can absorb more water. Press for about 20-30 minutes, up to an hour if you have time.
Marinade recipe adapted from my Thai Lentil Lettuce Wraps.