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News / Life / Food

Give tofu a try; it’s versatile, healthful and delicious

By Beth Dooley, Star Tribune
Published: April 17, 2024, 6:03am

Tofu is a wonderfully versatile ingredient. It’s great pan-fried, grilled, scrambled and whizzed into spreads and sauces. But I like it best pan roasted until it becomes meltingly golden and crisp. For this, you need a really good tofu, and the fresher the better.

Minnesota-made tofu is tastier than the tofu from California. MinnTofu, found in local co-ops, uses non-GMO soybeans grown on a family farm in St. Peter, is processed in Spring Lake Park, and delivered right away.

Our local soybeans are lighter in color, have a milder flavor and are plumper than commodity soybeans. MinnTofu was founded in 2018 by Yan Small, who relies on the Chinese method to process the tofu, which takes longer than the Japanese process used by bigger companies. “I know how tofu should taste,” Small said. “I grew up in China and remember shopping for fresh tofu with my grandmother. It should be light, mild and earthy.”

Fresh tofu is as delicate as cut flowers and should be treated as such. Remove it from the container, rinse it and return it to the container with enough clean water to cover it. Store it in the refrigerator and use within a week. You can use fresh tofu interchangeably in most recipes, with the rules of thumb that soft tofu is best for smoothies and scrambles, firm is good for stir-fries and extra-firm is terrific when roasted until it’s crispy and melting.

Fresh tofu contains a lot of water and is best pressed before cooking. For crispy tofu, just dust it with a little cornstarch before roasting in a hot oven. The result is a one-pan dinner in minutes, and no one will ask, “Where’s the meat?”

Pan-roasted Tofu With Dark Greens and Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette

Serves 4.

For the tofu:

2 (14-oz.) pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained

Vegetable oil

⅔ c. cornstarch

Coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

About 5 to 6 cups fresh spinach or any leafy dark green

1/4 c. roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 c. smooth peanut butter

1/4 c. soy sauce

2 tbsp. honey

2 to 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar, to taste

1 tbsp. dark sesame oil, optional

2 tsp. hot sauce, to taste

1 clove garlic, crushed

For the tofu: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Cut the tofu crosswise into ½-inch slices and pat them dry with a paper towel. Set the tofu on a large platter, sheet pan or cutting board and place another cutting board over the tofu and weight it down with a heavy pot, letting it rest for about 15 minutes to press out excess water.

Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil into a flat bowl. Put the cornstarch in another bowl and season with a little coarse salt and pepper, tossing to combine.

Dip each slice of tofu in the oil and then into the cornstarch to lightly coat all sides. Place the coated tofu onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and continue until all are tofu pieces are coated.

Roast the tofu until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Arrange the greens in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette: Put the peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce and garlic into a food processor or blender. Pulse until the mixture is light and smooth. If it seems too thick, add a little cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

To finish the salad: Arrange the hot tofu over the spinach, drizzle with the vinaigrette, and garnish with the peanuts. Pass any additional vinaigrette alongside.