Vegan and Gluten-Free with Vegetarian option
With all of the concern about the the meat supply during the pandemic, this is as good a time as any to learn how to integrate some meatless meals into your lifestyle. Meatless does not mean flavorless (although some people find tofu to be rather tasteless.) Not only are there meat shortages, there is a lot of contagion in the meat-packing plants, so now might be the time to consider other options. Maybe not for a full dive into plant-based, but perhaps time to wade into the shallow end.
Although I have been a vegetarian most of my life, with some vegan interludes and mainly ovo-pescatarian –have never felt that it’s my duty to change anyone’s eating preferences. What I DO enjoy, is teaching people how to incorporate more vegetables and meatless options, so that they can make their own choice. My husband is not likely to ever be a vegetarian, but he has cut his animal protein intake by at least half.
All soy products have been under scrutiny for the past few years, because many people have an overabundance of estrogen and might have sensitivities to soy. For the most part, I stick to fermented soy, which makes the bean much more digestible and mitigates some of the estrogen issues. Examples are tempeh and miso. One of my husband’s favorite sandwiches is a TLT – Tempeh Lettuce Tomato. Here is a blog on it, which includes a demonstration I did on this recipe for the Daytime Show.
What is particularly important in using any tofu is to only buy organic. Otherwise it is going to be a genetically modified soy, and we just don’t know the long term effects of GMO’s.
Here are some additional tofu tips:
- Organic sprouted tofu is even better as the spruting process breaks down more of the undesirable estrogen by-products. Many stores often this, including a Trader Joe’s brand
- It IS bland but takes on the flavor of the other ingredients. In fact, the Coconut Calypso Sauce would be great!
- Tofu is a good source of protein – 1/2 cup contains 10 grams.
- Tofu is also ideal to marinate as it takes on those elements to add more flavor
- Tofu can also be used (softer versions) in soups, or as a non-dairy base for smoothies and frozen desserts, like this this Pumpkin Latte (at this link) In fact, one of the most delicious meals I ever had was a raclette made with tofu at a vegetarian restaurant on the west side of London, when I was there to speak at VegFest.
- For most dishes, however, the extra firm is going to hold up better. I just ordered an indoor, smokeless grill and going to test that out
- Cooked tofu slices make great leftovers – they are sturdy enough to place in lunchboxes and THEY TASTE GREAT COLD!
- Any unused portions should be stored covered in fresh water (not the liquid that it is suspended in!) for up to 4 days and tightly lidded.
Pressing out any extra moisture makes the extra firm tofu stand up to even greater handling, which also gives it a more protein-like texture. This is simple to do – just takes 20 minutes, but you can leave it for a few hours if you have other things to do.
Open the container and drain out any soaking liquid, which should be discarded. (See my note about storing leftover uncooked tofu) Slice into 8 equal “steaks”. Cover a large dinner plate with 2 layers of white paper towels and layer the slices, but not one on top of the other.
Place a couple more paper towels over the top of the tofu slices and then cover with a heavy plate. You can even place something on top, like the bowl I put up there. The pressing on the tofu allows it to release more liquid.
Then you can marinate for a bit, if you’d like. My favorite is sprinkling on a few drops of Coconut Liquid Aminos on both sides. They have a very nice sweetness, so if you want more savory, add a few drops of Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) Let the porous tofu absorb the flavors for a few minutes. You can also marinate in citrus juice, vinegar or salad dressing.
Tofu Two Ways
As I mentioned above, I marinated all 8 of the slices and decided to make 2 different kinds.
Tofu Sesame –One Way Ingredients: 1/3 cup of nut or oat milk, 1/4 cup powdered black sesame seeds (or just white untoasted sesame seeds) 2-3 scallions, chopped, 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon avocado oil, chopped garlic salt and pepper to taste Optional: A sprinkle of Chinese 5 spice works wonderfully with these flavorings!
After pressing and marinating the tofu, I took each of the 4 slices and dipped first in the nut milk and then in the seeds or powdered seeds. In heated pan, place both of the oils and brown garlic and scallions. Then brown the tofu on each side. Cover for a few moments to allow the flavor to seep through the entire slice. Either serve as is or with any sauce you enjoy. The Coconut Calypso Sauce from last week’s blog is great with these!
Tofu Pesto –Other Way Ingredients: (and these are roughly calculated – I made extra, which I’m going to serve over gnocchi tonight) 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, 2 handfuls fresh arugula, 1/4 cup pine nuts (you can use walnuts instead) sea salt and black pepper to taste. Optional: For vegan add several tablespoons of nutritional yeast, to give it a cheesy flavor. For vegetarian, add some grated parmesan, romano or pecarino cheese. Note: I prefer arugula but you can replace with basic for a more traditional pesto.
Blend in a blender, adding more oil as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon over each of the 4 slices. Place under the broiler until the top gets a little brown and bubbly. In this photo, this is the raw mixture before broiling.
I served mine over brown and wild rice blend. Easy to make – you just add 1 cup of rice and 1 3/4 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of butter or oil. Add any other seasonings as the water boils. Cover, reduce temperature and simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
The mushrooms are sauteed in ghee with garlic and more scallions. Did you know that 1 single scallion has your entire Vitamin K requirement for a day, 8 percent of Vitamin A and 4 percent of C? Great way to get more greens.
So – try some tofu and let me know what you think!