In the first part of this post I referred to three plain-looking foods (“grey mush” were the exact words I recall taking exception to) that have magical transformative properties when used in vegan meals. Magic food number one is soybeans. I’ll bet most readers guessed this first one, but I wonder if they know all of the powers of this food:
Pick one kind of soybeans when they are young and green and you have edamame. Edamame to me is the ultimate snackfood. I like them salted like popcorn, and served in the pods so you can scrape them out with your teeth (recipe here). They are delicious and beautiful out of the pods also. When young like this they are actually far from grey- they are the bright green crayola color “inchworm” (hex #B2EC5D).
Let another variety of soybeans mature and they become white. Then they can be used in soymilk and tofu. Soymilk can be used in virtually any recipe that calls for milk. It can even be used to make soy yogurt. And tofu- tofu is amazing, and -OK- ugly. Tofu cooked poorly can put just about anyone off. It comes in white squishy blocks packed in water and really has not got much taste on its own. There are some tricks with tofu, however. First, choose the right variety for the right use. And second, season and use it properly. People have written entire books on tofu, but I will only cover two of my favourite ways to use tofu in this post.
1. Extra-firm tofu. Here’s the fastest recipe for tofu you will ever find. Presto-changeo!
Dry-Fried Tofu Slices
Take a package of extra-firm tofu (non-gmo/organic, please!) and slice it into slices 5-15 cm (1/4-1/2 inch) thick. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and add a very tiny bit of oil. I find my cast iron pan is perfect for this because the tofu does not stick. Lay the slices in the pan and dry fry and brown them on both sides. The texture will change depending on how long you cook them – taste them until you get your own preferred texture and taste. You can add any seasoning you like or leave them plain. I sometimes use my homemade Best Salad Dressing in the Universe (recipe will be posted soon) to season them, but sometimes I just leave them plain. I usually cook the entire tofu block and refrigerate the leftovers to eat cold or rewarmed with lunches or for after work snacks, sometimes with dip or ketchup, or sometimes in a wrap.
2. Silken tofu. This is THE BEST substitute in the world for dairy in cooking. You can make salad dressings and creamy sauces that are better than the versions made with heavy cream and butter, without all the calories and cholesterol. You will see silken tofu in some of my creamy sauce and salad dressing recipes, but here I am going to share the recipe that started all my experiments with silken tofu. And the story of how I discovered it:
My daughter and I were watching an episode of the CBC show, Village on a Diet- a great show about a Northern Canadian town that took on the challenge to collectively lose one ton of weight. One woman (our favorite person to follow and root for), was completely naive about anything food-related, but embraced all the new healthy habits enthusiastically. She had done some of her own reading and had found a tofu recipe she wanted to try on her husband (who was rather less enthusiastic about the changes). My daughter and I laughed hysterically as she poked at her tofu and squealed at how gross it was. She started cooking and it looked as though a hilarious disaster was about to ensue, but when she finished the recipe and mixed it with some pasta it was suddenly transformed into the creamiest looking fettucine alfredo that I’ve ever seen. My daughter and I stared at each other amazed, and immediately went online to find a recipe for tofu fettucini alfredo.
The recipe we loved the best was from the Soyfoods Association of North America (http://www.soyfoods.org/). We replaced the parmesan with a bit of nutritional yeast and salt, added in some extra veggies, and used a pan on the stove instead of a microwave. It was so good that I began making cheese sauces, mushroom sauces, etc., the same way. And, here’s a little bit of extra magic- I don’t even bother with the blender, I simply brown and soften my garlic and some onion and whatever other veggies I fancy in the frypan, dump in the tofu, herbs, and broccoli, and use my immersion blender right in the pan. There is less cleanup, it’s ready in 5 minutes, creamy and thick- honestly people cannot tell the difference in taste. And the proof that it really is a magic vegan food- it makes calories, cholesterol and fat disappear! Your heart will weep for joy.
Tofu Alfredo Sauce
This recipe replaces the traditional heavy cream and butter with Tofu and saves 350 calories per serving for the sauce alone! Makes 4 servings, (sauce alone)
1 package (12oz) firm silken tofu
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt (or less to taste)
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup skim milk or plain soymilk
1 package frozen chopped broccoli
1 pound pasta, cooked and drained
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Warm in the microwave 3-4 minutes on high, or until hot. Cook pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add frozen broccoli to cooking water. Drain and toss with Alfredo Sauce.
Tofu Alfredo Sauce Per Serving: 155 Calories, 3 g Protein, 4 g Carbohydrate, 10 g Fat
Traditional Alfredo Sauce Comparison: 505 Calories, 9 g Protein,
5 g Carbohydrate, 51 g Fat