I must confess I used to be quite leery of tofu, Quark (haven't seen it here), TVP and anything which is supposed to replace meat. I used to scoff at some vegetarians and think to myself, why do they want something to taste like meat if they are so against it? Life is ironic, though, and I had my personal brush with vegetarianism for a few years and felt like the biggest hypocrite because I was just like those I used to mock.
Years have passed and I am much more open-minded and believe you shouldn't knock it before you try it. I practise flexitarianism, and can't commit to either being a full-time vegetarian or a carnivore. I love food and like the flexibility of choice, so I will eat something once I am not allergic to it. However, with my increased knowledge of plant-based nutrition being better for you, meat is now a treat which I enjoy with relish when consumed.
Initially, tofu was something I just couldn't quite get. I would look at these packets of square white/beige ugly-looking chunks, wondering what the fuss was about. It looked almost like a block of feta, but not quite cheese-like. I used to ponder and scratch my head, trying to figure out what was so special about this tasteless product. Upon experimenting with it, I discovered it was exactly its lack of flavour which made it so special. You see, tofu has a wonderful way of soaking up the flavours of the foods it is prepared with. I also believe it is a trick of the taste buds that gives out the impression of eating something substantial, especially for those converting to vegetarianism. In fact, it does provide satiety as it is a healthy protein derived from soy. In Asia, it is known as the "poor man's protein".
The Asians are masters of tofu, and through my adoration of Asian cuisine I really came to appreciate this vegetable protein in soups, with noodles, in curries, and salads. Tofu is recommended by health experts because it is rich in calcium, magnesium and iron. Textures vary from extra firm to silken, and tofu can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Most tofu packages will have instructions for you to follow. Typically you have to rinse before using.
As a former tofu sceptic, I have made a complete turnaround, and while I have not shared that many tofu recipes with you, I thought it would be nice to dedicate a piece solely to this product made from curds of soy milk. Tofu is quite affordable and you will find it in most refrigerated sections of supermarkets and health food stores; where once upon a time it was scarce and confined to vegetarian restaurants or Chinese specialty grocers. If you have never attempted to prepare this protein and you are on a Lenten diet, or making the transition from meat eater to vegetarian, or simply eating less meat, practise today with these two simple recipes. Concluding totally off topic, I have had more chocolate recipe requests, so for a sweet treat I have included chocolate banana bread.
Easy Tofu Dip
Blend together silken tofu with lime juice, garlic, scotch bonnet and olive oil to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with crudités.
Five Spice Tofu Steaks
I have had several interpretations of tofu with Chinese Five Spice seasoning, which I have enjoyed in spring rolls, and on noodles. For these “steaks” I am recommending that you serve with a side of stirfried market-fresh vegetables. Five Spice is quite strong tasting, so use sparingly.
1 block of firm tofu, sliced into 1-inch-thick slices
2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsps sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 to1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
Powder (according to your preference)
1 chilli pepper, deseeded and roughly cut
Vegetable oil for grilling
Sesame seeds and escallion green bits for garnish.
In a large bowl, mix all of the marinade ingredients together.
Place the tofu slices in the mixture, making sure they are well coated.
Allow to marinate for an hour.
Brush a grill pan with a little vegetable oil and grill tofu steaks for about 3 to 5 minutes per side.
Garnish with sesame seeds and escallion and serve immediately with stir-fried vegetables.
Sour Cream Chocolate Banana Bread
This is not my recipe. I found it on a blog called Savory Sweet Life after I tasted it from a friend a while back, and he directed me to the site. It is really moist and delicious, great with tea or coffee for breakfast or a snack.
1/2 cup of salted butter
1/2 cup of sugar
2 ripe bananas (I used local honey bananas)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for mini chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I did it once using pecans and another time using almonds; both versions were good)
Preheat oven to 350ºF
Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan
In a mixer cream butter and sugar together, then add egg, bananas, sour cream, and vanilla until combined.
Add flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder until incorporated.
Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using).
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour.
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