Maybe you’re vegan-curious. You experimented in college or that one time when you were drunk, but you still say “I could never live without cheese!” and still think you will feel sick if you don’t get enough protein! Well, these recipes are for you. To seasoned vegans they may seem basic, but to newbies they are gold, and I genuinely make them pretty often when I don’t feel like getting creative.
-1 block ORGANIC tofu
-1/2 or 1 whole onion
-1-2 cloves garlic
-1/2 or 1 bell pepper, any color
People who live in other areas may find this hard to believe, but most breakfast-y restaurants in Berkeley offer this as a vegan option just so we don’t sit there and pout while our companions devour eggs and cheese. The tofu scramble can range from boring to transcendent. I had actually never had one of these before I moved to Berkeley, and now I make them probably almost every week. The recipe changes, but here’s the basics:
First press your tofu to get all the water out. There is various ways to do this: you can put the tofu block on a cutting board lined with paper towels or a dish towel, or you can put the block in a large bowl to catch the water. Then you put a plate, bowl or small cutting board on top of the tofu and weigh it with heavy items, like canned tomato sauce or beans. I have started just putting it in a bowl because I do this so often all my dish towels get dirty! However, I think the towel method does work better. You need to let it press for at least 10 minutes, but longer is definitely better, so do this before anything else.
Saute (in olive or grapeseed oil or water for lower fat) onions, garlic, and bell pepper (all minced finely) in a large frying pan. You could also use green onion or shallot. Add any veggies that will need longer to cook such a finely chopped carrots or broccoli (alternately you can steam or boil these harder vegetables until partially cooked). Other good things to add after this are summer squash like zucchini, kale or other greens chopped, mushrooms of any sort, eggplant, pretty much vegetable you like!
At this point I usually add most of my seasonings so the vegetables can soak up some of the flavor. Obviously you would want to add salt and pepper, but I also have experimented with different seasoning combinations. Sometimes I use whatever fresh and dried herbs I have on hand, like rosemary (fine chopped,) sage, basil, with dried oregano, herbes de provence, etc. Or you can go a more exotic way and add curry powder, cumin, even garam masala. I also sometimes add soy sauce or balsamic vinegar to add a little depth of flavor.
Next you crumble your tofu with your hands and add it to the pan, making sure to squish any larger chunks or areas with flat sides. Then sprinkle all of this with tumeric and maybe a little curry powder (you can use it here even whether or not you used it earlier.) This is basically to make the curry yellow like eggs, so you could obviously skip this step if you don’t care, but it does make it really pretty! That’s pretty much it, just saute it all together a bit more to combine, and then serve! Other good ideas I’ve seen for tofu scrambles are to make pesto (sans cheese!) and include that, add sun dried tomatoes or daiya… pretty much anything tasty! Adam and my personal favorite way to have this is either stuffed inside crepes (recipe here, along with another tofu scramble version!) or on bagels! I know anything with tofu in the title scares a lot of people, but I swear you will like this.
Okay, next up: Chana Masala.
If you hate Indian Food, I guess this one isn’t for you but if you hate Indian Food you should also give it another try because it’s really good!
-1 can chickpeas or the equivalent soaked dry chickpeas (garbanzo beans!)
-curry powder, cumin, garam masala, cayenne or chili powder if you like a kick
-lime or lemon juice (fresh is preferable!)
-1 can diced or whole tomatoes (if whole, squish them up) OR 2-3 fresh tomatoes, diced.
-1 clove garlic
All you do for this is saute up the onion and garlic, then add the seasoning, then the chickpeas, stir it all around, and then add the tomatoes. Add more seasoning to taste and squeeze the juice in (this stands in for amchoor powder, unless you have that lying around.) Serve with rice!
Asian-style stir fry with glazed tofu (totally just came up with that name!)
This one is bit more involved, but not really if you just don’t get freaked out! In this one, press your tofu again, preferably a little longer this time, like maybe 30 minutes if possible? So you can start pressing it ahead of time if you want, or just take your time with the other steps. Also, if you really don’t like tofu (try it again! I swear!) you can use whole small mushrooms or quartered mushrooms instead, or another soft veggie in small pieces (like eggplant or zucchini.)
For stir fry:
-1/2 onion and/or green onion
-1-2 cloves garlic
-fresh ginger (a piece about 2 inches long maybe, outer skin removed)
-other veggies, good options include: mushrooms, especially asian style ones, bok choy or other leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, baby corn, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts.
-soy sauce or tamari
-mirin or white wine
-citrus juice like orange, grapefruit, lime or lemon
-agave nectar or brown sugar
-flour for dredging, and non-dairy milk if coating vegetables.
Basically you just saute up these veggies in the correct fashion. What’s the correct fashion? Onions, then garlic and ginger, then harder veggies unless pre-cooked a bit, then softer veggies or things that you want less cooked (I always add bok choy last, even after tofu so it can keep its bite.)
Next prepare the tofu or other veggies: for this you want bite-sized cubes, about 1/2″. If you’re using veggies here, dip them in non-dairy milk first, then put in flour, tofu you can do the same or just skip the milk because it’s already damp. When these are good and coated in flour, put them in the pan with the veggies and saute up a bit. If you want to ensure they get extra crispy you can do them seperately in another pan to really fry them up, but that’s just an extra dish to me. Lastly you pour the marinade over the whole mess and let it cook down a bit, until it gets caramelly and delicious. This sauce reminds me of Pick up Stix house special sauce, which I grew up loving!
Also, entirely by the way doesn’t the left photo above look like I’m adding French-style sugar cubes to the pan?
Okay, hopefully these recipes get your mind going… I promise I’ll do a part 2 with something besides tofu!
But tofu really only has lovely things to say about you!