Tofu for Beginners

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In our ongoing series on vegan for non-vegans it was inevitable that we would feature tofu.

Long a staple of vegans for its high protein and calcium content, tofu is made from soybeans, water and a curdling agent. It absorbs other flavors well, so it lends itself to a wide variety of preparations.

And now the confession: I loathe the stuff. My daughter and husband love it, so I cook it occasionally for them, particularly when I am dining out. It is simple and quick, and they adore the following recipes; one is an Indian-spiced preparation, the other a soy-based Asian blend.

Indian Spiced Tofu

Serves 2-3

1 pound block extra-firm tofu cut in small cubes (about the size of dice)

½ cup coconut milk

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon curry powder

¾ cup canola oil

Fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired

In a bowl, mix the coconut milk, salt and curry powder. Add the tofu cubes and stir them gently to coat. Marinate for anywhere from a few minutes to overnight.

Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet — it should be about ¾-inch deep, so add more if necessary.

When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a “tester” piece of tofu, add the remaining tofu to the pan. Cover and cook for about five minutes (beware of splatter). Flip the tofu pieces to ensure even browning on all sides. The total cooking time is approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

When the tofu is done, remove it from the pan and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Garnish with cilantro, if desired, and serve.

Asian Spiced Tofu

Serves 2-3

1 pound block extra-firm tofu cut in small cubes (about the size of dice)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce, if desired

¾ cup canola oil

Fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired

In a bowl, mix the soy, hoisin, sesame oil and hot sauce, if using. Add the tofu cubes and stir gently to coat. Marinate for anywhere from a few minutes to overnight.

Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet — it should be about ¾-inch deep, so add more if necessary.

When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a “tester” piece of tofu, add the remaining tofu to the pan. Cover and cook for about five minutes (beware of splatter). Flip the tofu pieces to ensure even browning on all sides. The total cooking time is approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

When the tofu is done, remove it from the pan and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Garnish with cilantro, if desired, and serve.