It's now been fourteen years since I went vegetarian. I was already an avid home cook adept with Thanksgiving turkeys and London broil, but beans and grains and ... tofu? It was learning to cook all over again without bacon grease and chicken broth, and the learning curve was steep. My early efforts with tofu were mostly piles of tasteless mush and/or burned-up crumbles.
Today, tofu is a staple in my kitchen. It remains inexpensive, high in protein, and incredibly versatile. Notoriously bland out of the package, it has a natural affinity for whatever flavors it gets cozy with. The tricky part is getting the flavor in there, then cooking the result to an appetizing texture. The most common way of flavoring tofu is to marinate, then bake, saute, or grill it.
Tonight I'll show you how to make flavorful tofu without marinating. One evening I was craving a vegetarian version of Buffalo wings, and this recipe was the result. It takes less than an hour to prepare and is yummy hot or cold. We'll add a protein-packed side of quinoa salad to round out a meatless grazer's delight!
Follow me below the carrot curls for the goods.
This recipe is closer to a spice rub and results in tofu that's crispy outside while maintaining a soft, lightly seasoned center. Even better, it's made with minimal added fat. I'm showing it with wing sauce, but you can use barbecue, teriyaki, honey mustard, whatever you like.
Baked Tofu Strips
16 oz block extra firm high protein tofu, Trader Joe's or similar
1 tbsp oil (or use cooking spray) for baking pan
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
* Feel free to sub your favorite seasonings, just keep the flour:herb ratio at 1:1 and add salt sparingly
Ranch or blue cheese dressing, for dipping
Preheat oven to 400F. Measure all ingredients of seasoning mix in a small bowl and stir until combined. Place in a gallon-size sealable freezer bag or airtight container and set aisde. Slice tofu into quarters, then eights, then sixteenths as pictured.
While strips are baking, shake leftover spice mixture from its container and discard. No need to rinse, just place 1/2 cup wing sauce in the container and set aside until strips are done. Let them cool a couple of minutes after coming out of the oven. Using tongs, place strips in container with sauce and toss gently until all are evenly coated.
Serve like traditional wings, with carrots, celery, and blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping.
Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is an ancient grain native to South America. It's a complete protein high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and calcium, gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Like tofu, it requires a little TLC to unlock its true potential. The key to nutty, slightly crunchy quinoa is rinsing and toasting. First I'll show you how, and then we'll make salad. Note that this method works with any grain; I also like to toast my brown rice before steaming.
Note that I'm using Trader Joe's tricolor quinoa, which was not the brightest idea. The pictures don't really do justice to the level of toastiness -- when in doubt, give it the sniff test. If it smells at all burned, get it off the heat.
Measure one cup of quinoa and place in a colander. Rinse under cold running water about 30 seconds, tossing until it runs clear.
Now that the quinoa is toasted, it's time to steam! I use a rice steamer with equal parts quinoa and water and steam for 30 minutes. If you don't have a rice steamer, here are directions for making quinoa on your stovetop. On to the salad.
1 cup quinoa, toasted, steamed and cooled
1 cup shelled edamame, steamed and cooled
1 medium red pepper, roasted and diced (OK to use jarred)
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
1 medium carrot, grated
2 tbsp crumbled dried seaweed (nori or wakame work well)
Avocado, for garnish
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey or sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
Few drops hot sauce, to taste
Combine all salad ingredients in a sealable container. Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until emulsified. Pour dressing over salad, seal container, and toss until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend. Garnish with avocado slices and fresh lime juice.
Edit 20:33 EDT: Thanks for the questions, comments, and rec list! Typo fixed and photo added.