Meatless Monday: What is tofu and how to make it

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By: Danielle Waldron
dwaldron@flavor574.com

Brian/Flickr

Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or veg-curious, a global campaign — “Meatless Mondays” — is raising awareness about meat-free eating one day each week. 

As of 2008, Vegetarian Times reported there were 7.3 million vegetarians in the United States alone. The movement has gained momentum and restaurants are offering more vegetarian options, including Chipotle’s Sofritas — a pepper-braised tofu dish. 

Tofu is getting its moment in the spotlight at Chipotle Monday, Jan. 26. If you order give the tofu a try and hang on to your receipt, you can turn it in for a free burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos, according to previous reporting from Flavor 574.

Some say it tastes like chicken, some say otherwise, but there are a few things you might not know about the dish: 

  • A staple in a vegetarian or vegan diet, tofu — or bean curd — is a block of curdled and pressed soy milk, according to BBC. Some say tofu dates back 2,000 years to a Chinese cook who created it by accident, the report states.
  • Tofu is versatile. Buy firm tofu to pan fry or silken tofu to throw in a blender for a protein boost.
  • Bean curd has 10 grams of soya protein, BBC reports, which is said to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol. 
  • Tofu contains all 20 essential amino acids, making it the only “complete” plant protein, according to University of Toronto

Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, and you can try your hand at making your own spicy tofu in just about 30 minutes for a Meatless Monday dinner.

When cooking with firm tofu, it’s best to thoroughly drain and press the tofu between paper towels so it doesn’t totally fall apart when it is cooked. If you have leftover tofu, stick it in an airtight container with fresh water to prevent it from drying out in the refrigerator. 

TOFU SOFRITAS
From The Salty Tomato. Serves about four.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. package of extra-firm tofu 
  • 3 tbsp. high-heat oil, divided 

Dry spices:

  • 1½  tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano 
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne

Wet sauce: 

  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste 
  • 1 tsp. concentrated vegetable stock base
  • 1 tsp. pepper sauce 
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke 
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed 
  • ½ bottle amber beer 
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 

Directions

  1. Drain tofu and slice into ¼-inch slices. Press tofu strips between a clean dish town to remove as much of the water as possible.  
  2. Mix the dry spices together in a small bowl and set aside. 
  3. Mix the wet sauce together in a separate bowl and set aside. 
  4. Place a large sautee pan over medium heat and add two tablespoons of oil. Heat until barely smoking. 
  5. Add the tofu strips to the hot oil and fry for about 4 minutes on each time until golden brown.
    (NOTE: When pan-frying tofu, be careful of the grease spitting or pieces of tofu coming out of the pan. This can cause a nasty burn, so watch the heat levels closely and don’t add too much oil.) 
  6. Place the fried tofu strips on a paper towel-lined plate to remove extra oil and let cool. 
  7. Once cooled, chop into small pieces. Use your hands or a fork to crumble. 
  8. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over medium heat and add the tofu again. Add the dry spice mix and stir to coat. Cook for two minutes and slightly toast the tofu. 
  9. Add wet sauce, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Let cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 7-10 minutes. 
  10. Remove from heat, taste and add salt and pepper as desired. 

If you have questions or recipe ideas for Meatless Mondays, send digital producer Danielle Waldron an email at dwaldron@flavor574.com or follow her on Twitter @DanielleWaldron

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