I didn’t come across tofu, or bean curd, as an edible until my young manhood. It was sometime back in 1970, when I had just returned from Vietnam that I came across this product that had been a staple of Asian cooking for centuries. We never had such a thing when I was growing up in Spanish Harlem. When I first tasted it, at the behest of some adventurous vegetarian friends, I was, to be honest, underwhelmed. The thing had no flavor. But then I discovered that, ironically, that was the beauty of it: tofu can acquired whatever flavor you give it, whether cooked or not. In my bachelor days I had a lady friend whose signature dish was plain tofu, cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little soy sauce, and served over rice or whatever grain was available. That such a simple dish could be heavenly, was new to me. Over the ensuing years, tofu has become a national rage, and tofu cookbooks abound, all celebrating its health benefits.
I’m not that much concerned about its health aspects, so much as its flavor profile. As noted, stir-fried, sauteed, boiled or baked, bean curd will take on whatever flavor designation you desire. You can make it mild to the taste, or more spicy as in a previous post in which I rendered Fried Tofu with Sichuan Peppercorn Sauce (05/14/14). The recipe given does not incorporate hot peppercorns of any type. It’s just a simple preparation of broiled tofu with whatever spices you have on hand. Served over steamed white rice (or brown rice, if you must), and nothing could be tastier or better for you.
14 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
1. Rinse tofu under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Slice into 1-inch cubes. The best way to do this is to slice the tofu into 1-inch rectangles, then slice rectangles into cubes.
2. Heat broiler on high and arrange a rack in top third of oven.
2. Whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, pinch pf pepper, oregano and garlic powder in a medium shallow bowl. Dip the tofu pieces in the soy sauce mixture to coat (let the excess sauce drip back into the bowl). Then lay the pieces on a baking sheet, or place in a baking pan (for this I always use my trusted cast-iron pan). Set the remaining sauce aside.
3. Broil the tofu until browned, about 10-15 minutes, turning the tofu every 5 minutes to brown on all sides, and remove from oven.
4. Add the scallions, vinegar and sesame oil to the reserved sauce and toss to coat. Serve with steamed rice.
Yield: 4 servings.