Tofu is not the kind of food you fight for. Sure, you'll take up arms for barbecue, for pork belly, and for burgers. You'll graffiti the streets with declarations of brassica love — but tofu? You know it as the gelatinous block in the back of your fridge and the lonely cubes adrift in your miso soup. And if you're an omnivore, you know it as your last resort.
Bean curd deserves better. Tofu may not have the brash, earthy appeal of tempeh, but its beauty lies in its subtlety, in its willingness to mingle with whatever happens to be on your plate. Grill it, curry it, and fry it to a crisp — even after you've cooked it every way imaginable, tofu will still win you over when you least expect it.
This week, let's reacquaint ourselves with tofu. Unearth the package at the back of your fridge and let it save dinner, all week long. We'll start off easy, with a bright noodle salad, and then we'll hit the bean curd hard — in stir-fry, in a peanut sauce, and alone, in all its grilled glory. Here's to second chances.
This is a dinner for long, summer days: It's an opportunity to clear out your crisper drawer and get thrifty with your pantry. Start by making a zippy, all-purpose sauce that will be both the marinade and the beginnings of a perky salad dressing. Then, bake your tofu and toss it with soba noodles, carrots, kale, and whatever else calls out to you from the recesses of your fridge.
Tofu skeptics, this one's for you. Chances are, you've been a little gun-shy after an encounter with watery tofu — but press it first, and it will reward you later with crisp, golden cubes. Whip up your marinade with your pantry staples, and then throw your tofu in a pan. It will make a mean stir-fry, but we fully support snacking on a few pieces while no one is looking.
Tofu stir-fry is everything you could ask for in a weeknight dinner: It's quick, it's hearty, and it packs well the next day. You'll start with a couple blocks of tofu (or use your fried leftovers) and finish them off with a simple, six-ingredient sauce. Make more than you need for one dinner — you'll want it for lunch tomorrow, too.
Put down the phone book — you don't need takeout tonight. This ma po tofu is a remake of the Chinese classic, with ground turkey acting as supporting cast. Brown your meat in a pan, add the aromatics, and then stir in your tofu. A drizzle of sesame oil on top is this dish's crowning glory.
At the height of grilling season, when you can't stand the thought of another burger (veggie or otherwise), grilled tofu will be there for you. It doesn't ask for much: just a quick press, a marinade, and some quality time on the grill. It can be the star of your rice bowl, but we won't blame you for eating it with your fingers, by the slab.
Noodle salad photo by Mark Weinberg; all others by James Ransom.
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