On Searing Tofu

I didn’t talk much about the tofu in the stir fry I posted about earlier this week and another one of its vices: its fragile form. Tofu falls apart really easy, even when working the extra firm kind. This stuff does not take a beating well and the stirring and tossing of making a stir fry will cause it to crumble. (Interesting Fact! Did you know the main difference between soft and firm tofu is simply the amount of water? Now you do!) There are a couple ways (that I know of) to make tofu more resilient, pressing more water out and giving it a quick sear. I decided to revisit this week’s stir fry with a seared tofu and then pressed & seared tofu.

Tofu Browning Tofu Tofu and Tamari

The searing was pretty straight forward. After taking half a block of tofu and cutting it into quarter inch pieces, I threw them in a pan under medium-high heat with a bit of oil. Thanks to the high water content of tofu there was quite a bit of spitting. I let it sit for a bit, checking occasionally for browning on the bottom as a sign that it was becoming a bit more stable, then tossed it with a tablespoon of tamari. I then continued to cook till browned on all sides. Between the tamari and browning, the tofu took on a nice flavor and was much firmer.

Quicker Browning

While I was working on the first half of tofu the second half was sitting in a colinder with a mid-size pot full of water resting on top. This was to press water out for about 45 minutes. Then I pretty much did the same thing as above. Still plenty of water for for spitting, but the browning was much quicker and deeper. In fact, I stepped away to wash a few dishes and got some burning very quickly!

Pressed Tofu Browned

Overall, I liked the second method for a stronger structure as well as a more significant taste. Both worked well and I may consider the first method for depending on what ingredients I’m adding it to and where I want it as a dominant ingredient or not.

A Bit Burnt

If you don’t like red bell peppers (what is wrong with you!?!), then you’re probably not a fan of me either right now. Today’s recipe is following along that vein with even more of that red gold (does that fit?). I was at the local Trader Joes, being reminded how much I love that store (and their prices), and picked up some tofu. The great thing about tofu is that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own, taking on whatever flavor of it’s fellow ingredients. The horrible thing about tofu is that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own, taking on whatever flavor of it’s fellow ingredients.

Red Pepper and Cabbage

So what do I do? I add cabbage; another ingredient that is not well known for it’s vibrant flavor. Red pepper takes the save, with help from its trusty side kick, the caraway seed. Not something one often cooks with, all I can think of is bread, but it worked out well.

Red Pepper and Onions

Oh, and use a big pan for this. This, I learned the hard way.

Tofu and Cabbage Stir Fry with Red Pepper

Tofu And Cabbage Stir Fry With Red Bell Pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion; chopped
16oz extra firm tofu; cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 lb cabbage; roughly chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine

In a large pan, sauté the onions in oil under medium heat until translucent; approximately 10 minutes. Raise to medium-high, add the red bell peppers and caraway seeds, cooking for another five minutes, then add tofu and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, toss to combine well, cover, and cook for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally.

Uncover, add the rice wine, soy sauce, half a cup of water and cook for another 10 minutes. Cabbage will be tender but still have a bit of bite to to it. Serve and enjoy.

Spicy & Hot Tofu Puffs

Can you tell that I’m on an Indian food kick?

Just yesterday I decided to treat myself to the Indian buffet near my office for lunch. So delicious, and so much food! My birthday is on Saturday and, I’m not sure if any of you are aware, but calories actually don’t count on your birthday (or the days leading up to and after your birthday).


So a few weeks ago when I saw a recipe for Chile Pea Puffs on 101 Cookbooks, I was ecstatic and decided to make something similar. I took out the paneer and added silken tofu, garbanzo beans, Indian chillies, cumin and curry powder.


I couldn’t find wonton wrappers at the grocery store, but I picked up phyllo dough. Unfortunately it was my first time working with phyllo; I got impatient and I did a pretty sorry job with them. I’m not jumping at the chance to work with phyllo again, but the filling was great!


The Indian chillies give this quite a lot of heat. If you don’t like heat, then you’ll want to leave the seeds of the chillies out, or leave them out entirely along with the red curry powder (seriously, it’s hot!). My husband who, like me, doesn’t eat a lot of tofu and isn’t totally comfortable with it yet, didn’t even know that there was tofu in this until I told him. We were both pleasantly surprised! I recommend that tofu-phobes give this a chance – this recipe had both of us scratching our heads as to why we don’t work with tofu more often!


Spicy & Hot Tofu Puffs
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 1/2 cups green peas, cooked
1 can garbanzo beans (15 ounces), drained
1 package silken tofu (12 ounces), cubed
2 Indian chillies (seeds removed for less heat!), crushed
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1/2 teaspoon red curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
wonton wrappers or package of phyllo dough (if using wonton wrappers, use instructions here)

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

Combine all prepared ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and crush lightly with the back of a fork.

Allow phyllo to thaw. Unroll and place mixture onto center of one piece. Fold edges together to make a pocket, brushing edges with egg whites to hold in place and secure seam. Place on baking sheet, forming a single layer of puffs.

Cook for 4 minutes, then turn puffs once and cook until crisp and golden brown.

A friend of mine recently requested more tofu recipes and since I become giddy as a school girl when I receive requests, I decided to accommodate immediately. I also had an extremely late Saturday night and there’s something about the oily feel of some stir fries that just felt so right on Sunday.

Tofu with Broccoli

On the rare times I cook with tofu it’s often in stir-fries. It’s easy to add and since tofu doesn’t really have much of a flavor on its own; the multitude of ingredients has the potential to make a real impact on the stuff. One of the key things to note about tofu is you often want to marinate it prior to cooking; ensuring that whatever flavor you’re shooting for really “sticks” with it. Of course there’s no universal time to go by, but 30 minutes is a good guideline.

Tofu Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Bok Choy

Got any good tofu recipes? Send em along!

Tofu Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Bok Choy
1 1/4 pound firm tofu
3 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon ginger; minced
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large yellow onion; chopped
1 green bell pepper; sliced
10oz broccoli; chopped into roughly equal sizes (cut large florets in half)
1 head bok choy; chopped

Cut the tofu into 3/4 inch pieces (roughly) and a wide container; preferably tupperware. Mix the oils, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, agave and salt and coat your tofu with it. The bottom layer should be partially covered. Marinate for fifteen minutes then rotate the tofu so the top layer is marinating. If using tupperware, simply lid and turn upside-down. Marinate for another fifteen minutes.

Heat your wok to high and add your oil. Swish around and add your onion and bell pepper; stir-frying for approximately 3-4 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes until broccoli begins to soften slightly. Add your tofu with marinade and continue cooking for five minutes; until tofu is hot. Add your bok choy and (yet again) stir fry until leaves begin to wilt. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Tofu, No It Doesn't Suck (Tofu Spinach Manicotti)

So it occurred to me recently that I really don’t know that many vegetarian main course dishes. To be fair, I know a lot of soups, salads and roasted vegetable varieties (or, at least I eat a lot of roasted vegetables). But when you take all those away I realize that I have a rather slim repertoire.

Time for change. Time for something new, something inventive. And by new and inventive, I mean new and inventive for me. Tofu and I don’t really get along that well. To be honest, I’ve never had much luck with the stuff. It always struck me as something created to mollify wistful former carnivores who haven’t quite been able to let go. Psh. When prepared properly, fruits and vegetables (with the occasional accompaniment of grains or legumes) offer a myriad of flavorful meals to enjoy. But hey, gotta keep an open mind. Try new things. Expand horizons.

Tofu Spinach Filling

This is a pretty classic tofu dish. I scoured the web for a handful of vegetarian recipes and let them flow into me as inspiration (deep, huh?). It is from this very zen moment that I was able to craft today’s recipe: Tofu Spinach Manicotti. No applause, please.

The dish was good. Not knock-my-socks-off great, but definitely something I’ll do again. Next time I’ll sweat or saute the bell pepper and perhaps add some onion into the mix as well. I’m a saucy guy, so if you’re not as big on tomato sauce, cut back on the amount.

Tofu Spinach Manicotti

Got a tofu dish you’re proud of? E-mail me and I’ll be sure to try it out.

Tofu Spinach Manicotti
5 ounces firm tofu
3 ounces chopped spinach; thawed
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
1/3 cup mozzarella and a sprinkling on the side (part skim for me)
1 clove garlic; minced
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups tomato sauce; approximately
7 manicotti shells

If making tomato sauce from scratch, make it first. Set aside and let it cool. Boil the manicotti as directed on the packaging. Drain and set aside. Toss with a bit of oil to prevent sticking.

Filling and Baking:
Crumble or chop the tofu into small pieces (think cottage cheese). Combine with the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic bell pepper and salt. Poor about a cup and a half of the tomato sauce into a 9″x13″ baking pan. Stuff the manicotti noodles with the filling and line in the pan. Cover the noodles with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with some additional mozzarella. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.