Sorellatortina here, joining the lovely ladies of Garlic My Soul for some guest blogging! June is a very special month for me. 10 years ago in June of 2001, I stopped eating meat. It wasn’t an easy jump from carnivore to vegetarian though. In 2001 I was a freshman in high school with very little control over my own meals. Mom wasn’t quite sure what to do with me when I told her I was becoming a vegetarian. Everyone else in my family eats meat. But that didn’t stop me. Instead, I decided it was time for me to start making my own meals and experimenting with cooking all different types of food. Now, here I am 10 years later, writing about vegetarian cooking and baking, two of my favorite activities.
There are a few different kinds of vegetarians, ranging from vegan (no fish, meat, eggs or dairy) to pescatarian (eats fish, but not animal meat). I am a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, meaning I do not consume any fish or animal products. I do, however, eat eggs and dairy. My favorite thing about being a vegetarian is all of the vegetables I have been introduced to since becoming a vegetarian. Some of those include, spaghetti squash (a great alternative for pasta, btw), kale (with which you can make an amazing pesto, recipe to follow in another post…), chard, and brussel sprouts, which I used to think I hated. I have also experimented with alternatives to pasta and rice, staples for many vegetarians. I have tried, and loved, polenta, quinoa, couscous, and gluten free pasta. What I really wanted to share with Garlic My Soul readers today though is a staple in my diet, something many people think they don’t like, when in actuality they just don’t know what to do with it; tofu!
I’ve talked to many different people about tofu. Some don’t like the consistency (fair, it’s weird when it’s not cooked). Some don’t like the fact that it is soy (too much is not good for you, but we are talking EXTREME amounts of soy here). Most people I know don’t like the taste. I’m here to tell you a secret. You can make tofu taste like anything you want! I have been eating tofu for many, many years now, and every time I make it, I make it taste different. Here are some of my favorite tofu seasonings (this list could really be endless, so these are just my staples):
*Olive oil – simple and fast, goes with any vegetable or any grain
*Olive oil and soy sauce – great with rice, quinoa, couscous
*Thai peanut sauce – great with rice, quinoa, or couscous
*Spaghetti sauce – great with pasta or polenta
*Pesto – great with pasta, rice or polenta
*Italian salad dressing – great with any vegetable or grain
*Olive oil and fresh spices (rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, dill and sage are all ones I have used)
Now that you know what to put on your tofu, you probably want to know what to DO with your tofu. There are different kinds of tofu, with varying uses. For this recipe, and in most cases when I am making tofu, I use extra firm tofu. Soft and firm tofu tends to fall apart while sautéing. Soft tofu, however, can be a great substitute for ricotta cheese in lasagna (another recipe for another time).
The easiest way to make tofu is to start by throwing one of the above seasonings into a frying pan. In this example, I am using olive oil and soy sauce.
While the oil, sauce, or salad dressing is heating up, drain your tofu, and cut it into cubes, about 1/2 inch in size (though any size is fine really, it will just remain soft in the middle if you use larger pieces of tofu). Drain any further liquid from the tofu by pressing a paper towel on it.
Once your seasoning of choice is nice and hot, toss your tofu cubes into the pan and sauté until brown and slightly crispy on the outside. Be patient here! The key is not to have too much liquid, and to let the tofu fully brown once the liquid is all soaked up. This could take anywhere from 12-18 minutes depending on your pan, the level of heat (should be medium), and the size of your tofu cubes. Watch your tofu carefully, turning often, as you want to try to have the sides evenly browned.
While your tofu is cooking, toss your favorite veggies in the oven with the same seasoning. Once you tofu is browned to your liking, mix everything together and serve over your choice of grain, or eat your tofu and veggie dish on its own!
Voila! Eating vegetarian doesn’t have to be difficult, unhealthy or boring!