(Since a couple of people asked for the recipe of this after I tweeted it yesterday, and I got tired of repeating the same in chat windows and comment boxes, and figured I might as well post it here.)
A couple of days ago, I tried to experiment with tofu. I’ve eaten it several times before in restaurants, but never cooked with it, and have always eyed the fairly inexpensive blocks sitting on supermarket shelves with some trepidation. But having seen enough cooking shows where tofu is used, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I didn’t, however, have any oriental ingredients in the house, it being ages since I last cooked stir fry. So while I would have liked to come up with some kind of sweet and spicy dark soy glaze, perhaps some celery and cashews, that implementation would have to wait until next time. I did have my faithful stock of everyday ingredients though, and I craved smoky, charred flavours that day. Instead of stir-frying it I decided to oven-roast it.
First, I heated some extra virgin olive oil in an oven-proof skillet, and added in a couple of cloves of sliced garlic, as well as a dried red chilli for heat (you can use chilli flakes or powder later, but I like the garlic and chilli to infuse the oil a little). When they started to colour, in went one medium sliced onion, which I slowly browned.
Meanwhile, I cubed a pack of fresh mushrooms, a medium sized carrot and a zucchini of roughly the same size. These went into the pan when the onions were not-quite brown (they’ll be finished off in the oven) and tossed about (I think that here you can add in pretty-much anything that might roast well: red bell peppers spring to mind, eggplant might work too).
Now for the tofu: it’s fairly delicate — at least the one I got was — but a steady, light hand and a sharp knife will yield few uneven pieces. I cubed these to around the same size as the other vegetables, and a couple of minutes later they went into the pan with everything else. I didn’t stir or toss vigorously now, because I wanted to keep the tofu chunks as whole as possible. Some breaking and crumbling will occur, so just go with it. later you’ll be blessed with tiny charred nuggets of goodness every now and then.
Then I seasoned it with salt, pepper, dry Italian herbs, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I tried to mix as best I could without destroying the tofu, and then took it off the heat and put it under a low grill
This gave me time to prepare the salad it was going into. I would have like to have something peppery in the house like rocket (arugula), but all I had was romaine lettuce, so that would have to do. I also had a can each of chick peas and sweet corn kernels. Since this was a hearty full-meal salad, I added those into the salad bowl too along with the chopped lettuce. I didn’t have tomatoes in the house, but one of those would be nice too (or something sweet and tart like green apple). For crunch and more flavour I tossed in some walnuts too.
(Now, I know this may sound like too many ingredients and flavours, but I like my meals complex. Feel free to omit anything you don’t like, or scale back accordingly.)
Every seven minutes or so, I checked on the tofu. It was grilling nicely, the edges going a nice brown colour. As they roast they get easier to handle, so I gently stirred them around to expose unroasted areas, then put them back under the grill. Since I was doing the salad meanwhile, time went by quickly, and by the time I thought the tofu was done around 25 minutes had passed under the grill. You can ramp up the heat and see what happens if you’re in a hurry.
The final step is to just place everything in a bowl. You can put the cold salad ingredients at the bottom and spoon the roasted tofu and veggies on top, but I jut put everything together. I don’t like heavy dressings, so just another splash of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on top for me.
And there you have it. I liked the way it turned out, and I’m definitely going to try tofu at home again. I also proved to myself that it’s versatile enough that you don’t need to use it only in oriental dishes. I’m vaguely curious as to what saag-tofu tastes like now!