Tofu makes a nice change of pace when you can’t eat meat or chicken, and don’t want fish.
The key thing is to prepare the tofu in a way that maximizes its texture and allows it to absorb lots of flavor.
Frying is ideal, because it renders the exterior golden, crunch/chewy, and the interior tender and porous enough to absorb any sauce. The critical thing is to thoroughly dry the tofu on paper towels for quite some time before frying it so that the oil doesn’t splatter so much when the tofu hits the pan. The other thing is to fry for a long time, letting the tofu interior dry out and get porous, and the exterior get evenly golden and crispy/chewy. If you just sear the exterior, the inside of the tofu will still be cottony and wet and it will not soak up sauce very well.
Tofu is tastiest, I think, when it is fried, although baked tofu is also delicious (plus easier to make).
If you cut the tofu into cubes before baking or frying, you end up with yummy nuggets that are perfect for adding to pasta salad (or any salad).
Fried Tofu, Baked Tofu Plus Two Tofu Pasta Salads
1 block tofu, 14-16 ounces
corn or peanut oil, enough to thinly coat bottom of heavy skillet
Cut your tofu according to your recipe. For most recipes, it works to cut the tofu either into 1/2″ cubes or 1/4″ thin strips (you will get about 16 slices that are 1/4″x2″). Place the tofu of several layers of paper towels (or a few layers of paper towels over kitchen towels). Cover with more paper towels. Let the moisture get drawn out for a good half hour. Pat dry before proceeding to fry.
Heat on high a skillet with a thin layer of oil. Add the tofu to the pan. It should sizzle. It should continue to sizzle. If it stops sizzling, the heat has gone too low and you need to get the pan hotter. Fry on all sides until golden and crisp, giving this process lots of time.
You can fry the tofu ahead of time for later tossing into salads. You can also heat the tofu in a nice sauce and serve it hot over rice (like this sweet and sour orange sauce).
Tofu, cut and dried as above
sauce (equal amounts of ketchup, sesame oil, and soy sauce works well, 2 Tbl. of each is good)
Toss the tofu gently with the sauce and place in a pan (non-stick foil is good). Roast at 400 degrees until crispy around the edges, about a half or so (maybe 45 minutes even).
Moosewood Japanese Noodles with Baked Tofu
The original recipes call for the baked tofu to be served alongside but not combined into the noodles. I mixed the two together. Here is someone else who had the same idea.
8 ounces pasta, cooked
2 Tbl. sesame oil
2 Tbl. soy sauce
1 Tbl. olive oil
Combine everything. Add salt and pepper if needed. You can also add cucumber. Good warm or cold.
Elise Cohen’s Fried Tofu and Pasta Salad
Adapted from ImaMother board contributor EliseCohen. We loved this, but my preference is to cut back on the amount of pasta in relation to tofu and add in fresh vegetables.
8 ounces pasta, cooked (original recipe called for a whole lb. of pasta to a lb. of tofu; I prefer half a pound of pasta to a pound of tofu)
fried tofu cubes (1 lb. tofu, fried)
4 scallions, sliced
2 Tbl. soy sauce
2 Tbl. sesame oil
2 Tbl. vinegar
1 Tbl. brown sugar
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
(original recipe also called for 4 Tbl. salad oil, but this isn’t needed, in my opinion)
Combine and chill. The recipe does not call for any vegetables to be added, but I think this would benefit from some added grated carrots and sliced snow peas for a little crunch and color. Also maybe some toasted sesame seeds. Maybe also some sliced grape tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes and chopped pepper. Maybe even some fresh spinach (see this recipe for fried tofu and spinach salad).
Bonus: See more of Elise Cohen’s pareve recipes here, including a lo mein with vegetables.