Tofu is an often-maligned food that is increasingly recognized as a healthy part of a modern diet. Tofu is made from a milky liquid extracted from fresh soybeans that s made into soybean curd, in a similar manner to the curdling of milk to form cheese. The curd is pressed into blocks of varying firmness, from a very soft consistency (known as silken tofu) to a firmer consistency (known as firm or extra-firm tofu).
Like the potato, tofu has a bland taste on its own that makes it a versatile part of many recipes. Unlike the potato, however, tofu is a great source of low-fat protein that can substitute for meat in many dishes. If you are lactose intolerant, tofu can be a wonderful substitute for many dairy products, particularly those that call for soft cheese. The following ideas represent just a fraction of the ways in which silken and firm tofu can be incorporated into your healthy eating lifestyle.
Silken tofu has a soft, creamy texture similar to soft cream cheese. Generally, silken tofu is a good substitute for dairy products such as ricotta cheese and cream cheese. Substitute silken tofu for ricotta cheese in cheesecake for a low-fat alternative. Be aware that you will also need to add gelatin to the recipe to add firmness to the cake. To create a dairy-free cream cheese, mix 12 oz silken tofu (sterilized first by dropping in boiling water for 3-4 minutes) with 2 tbs lemon juice and 1/8 tsp salt, and chill.
For a low-fat, creamy dressing, combine a container of silken tofu with 2 tbs vinegar (red wine or apple cider), 2 tbs olive oil, and 1/8 tsp salt to form the dressing base. To the dressing base, you can add garlic and dill for a spicy dressing; grated carrot and spinach for a creamy bagel spread; or dried herbs for a fresh dressing. Silken tofu is also a great addition to your morning smoothie: combine half a package of silken tofu with 1 cup fresh berries and enough sugar to offset the tartness of the berries, and mix in a blender until smooth.
Firm tofu is an ideal replacement for meat in many recipes. The easiest way to use firm tofu is as a component of a stir-fry. Heat oil in a wok until it is sizzling, then add cubed form tofu and stir until the tofu is light brown on the outside of the cubes. Add vegetables and seasonings, such as soy sauce, ginger and Chinese five-spice, for a flavorful, light meal. Like chicken breasts, blocks of tofu can be marinated in sauces and broiled in the oven for a delicious main course. For a tasty treat, cut firm tofu into cubes and roll in kudzu powder, cornstarch or flour.
Drop the tofu into hot oil to form deep-fried cubes. Fried tofu is wonderful when dipped into a Thai peanut sauce (available in most grocery stores). Tofu is also a delightful ingredient for stuffed pita pockets: combine a package of firm tofu cut into small cubes with light mayonnaise and dried dill, or with curry powder, diced carrots, and sprouts for a light and tasty lunch. No matter which option you choose, incorporating tofu into your diet will provide a whole new range of recipes that satisfy your appetite and your healthy lifestyle!