I mentioned marinated tofu earlier this week, which sparked some good questions about tofu. I’ll answer these questions to the best of my ability; for those of you who regularly use tofu, please comment because inquiring minds want to know:
What exactly is tofu?
Tofu is also known as bean curd and soy cheese. It is made by curdling soymilk with a coagulant and pressing the curds into a block. Nutritionally, it is a plant based, protein-rich food that provides fiber and anti-inflammatory fats and antioxidants along with its protein.
Isn’t soy “bad” for you?
Tofu, and soy in general, has been criticized for its hormonal effects in the body. Critics claim that soy will increase the risk for estrogen-positive breast cancer, thyroid disease, negatively effect other parts of the hormonal system and block certain nutrients from being absorbed. All of these claims against soy are unfounded. While there may be unique situations when a theraputic diet limiting soy could be beneficial, I’d rather not limit it because soy is such a wonderfully healthy food!
Soy has actually been shown to be protective against breast cancer when consumed as a part of a well-rounded diet; it is particularly beneficial to growing girls in working to prevent breast cancer and osteoporosis. When soy is over-consumed there is a theoretical possibility of negative hormonal effects in sensitive individuals, so don’t go crazy with tofu and start eating it three times a day!
What kind of tofu do I use?
Tofu is versatile because it is fairly bland on its own and will take on the flavors it is prepared with. Regular tofu comes in a few varieties of firmness.
- Silken or soft: is smooth and silky, best used in creamy smoothies or salad dressings
- Firm: can be crumbled for scrambles (to use in place of or with eggs) or “egg” salad
- Extra-firm: can be cubed and used in stir-fries or as a seasoned “filet” baked or grilled or with a sauce
How do you cook tofu?
Tofu is really soft. You just cut it up and use it. Handle it gently so that you don’t mush it up.
To make marinated tofu, simply top cubed tofu with your favorite salad dressing or sauce. For my first experiment with marinated tofu I used Annie’s Naturals Roasted Garlic Dressing because we had some kicking around in the fridge that needed to be used up. For cubes, I’d recommend extra firm, but you can use any of the varieties. I had run out of firm and so I used soft; they tasted fine but fell apart a bit. I was pleasantly happy with the results; they will go quite nicely on salads!
Tofu doesn’t need to be cooked, just seasoned and warmed, when appropriate. It should be added towards at the end of cooking if you want it to maintain its shape. For example, after vegetables have been cooked for a stir-fry, add your sauce and then tofu. Or you could marinate your tofu in the sauce and then add them to the stir-fry together. In a curry, make your curry, let any vegetables you are using cook a bit and then gently stir in the tofu cubes. Let the tofu mix with the other flavors until it’s well seasoned. You don’t have worry about over cooking tofu; you just don’t want it to fall apart while cooking.
Experiment with tofu. Use it in place of chicken, or with chicken and use less chicken. Try crusting it and baking it. Add it to soups. The best way to learn more is to get a vegetarian or vegan cookbook and start trying new recipes. Share your new favorites here by posting a comment on the blog!
Yes. It is sold in the refrigerator section of most stores. Generally it comes in a little block in water. The water helps to retain its freshness and moisture so if you don’t use the whole block, place the tofu and its accompanying water in a glass storage container to keep in your fridge.
How do you know when tofu has gone “bad” and needs to be thrown out?
I don’t know!! Anyone, anyone? Please leave a comment below!
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