Healthy Living: An Ode to Tofu
By Kate Morin, Delight Contributor
Stay away from the imitation tofu dogs, sausage, and cheese. Steer yourself back to that bland-looking block of plain tofu, and take a good look—it’s about to become your favorite nutritional powerhouse.
In fact, one half-cup serving of tofu holds a whopping 10 grams of protein and weighs in at less than 100 calories. It delivers essential nutrients including folate, selenium, magnesium, potassium, and other essential vitamins and minerals that help keep your body’s immune system and cells working properly.
Made by heating soy milk with a curdling agent (traditionally, magnesium chloride [nigari] or calcium sulfate), and pressing the solids into a block, tofu has gotten a bad rap as a bland and uninspiring meat-alternative. But don’t turn away so fast; tofu can take on any flavor and be cooked using almost any method imaginable—so get baking, broiling, frying, flipping, and/or grilling!
To maximize your nutritional intake when eating tofu, be sure to purchase a fortified brand, says Julie Procopio, M.A., R.D., a specialist in nutritional counseling for gluten-free patients. Where gluten-free foods frequently lack nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and magnesium, Procopio says fortified (and some un-fortified) tofu delivers a good dose of these nutrients, giving you a nutrient-dense meal base ideal for the gluten-free vegetarian or vegan.
Procopio, a 20-year veteran vegan, says the uses for tofu are endless. “I use it to replace everything from eggs for breakfast, to cream in soups, to meat in main dishes,” she says. Typically, grocery stores carry two types: regular and silken. Each comes in soft, firm, and extra-firm varieties. While regular tofu is denser and holds its shape in cooking, silken contains more moisture and is best used in dishes where it is blended.
While all varieties of tofu soak up any seasoning you introduce, the product’s naturally mild and slightly nutty flavor pairs well with strong flavors like garlic, curry, ginger, and soy. But don’t let that limit your options—the silken varieties are ideal for creamy desserts and to thicken soups, stews, and dips.
Because of the moisture content, when using dry-cook methods such as baking, grilling, or sautéing, it’s important to press the moisture out of firm tofus before beginning the cooking process. Once the extra liquid is removed, the tofu will be easier to cook and yield a heartier texture. Tofu pros do this in any one of three ways:
- For the occasional Tofu-eater: Press block between two plates or baking sheets lined with paper towels and weight with a heavy pan or canned goods. Let the tofu sit for 15-30 minutes.
- For the Tofu-addict: Invest in a tofu press: a hard plastic box with a spring-loaded top that presses all of the moisture out of your tofu in about an hour (or up to overnight). These usually run about $30, but will last forever.
- For the new Tofu cook: Drain the block, stick it in a freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and let it sit in the freezer for at least an hour. Freezing will give it the same meaty texture as pressing, but without all the work.
To get going on your tofu-journey, start by trying a few different types—one block of extra-firm and one of silken is a good place to start. Experiment with any flavor you like, and remember that it will work well with just about anything.
Thu, November 17, 2011
by Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod filed under