There's no end to the enterprising twists cooks give to tofu, intent on finding tasty new roles for this wonderfully versatile, virtuously healthy ingredient.
"What to do with tofu" is a question confidently posed by someone who's already got the answer. Six answers, actually: that's the number of recipes food writer Elizabeth Germain has lined up in Body and Soul magazine's June issue, ranging from stir-fries to desserts.
This one, a spicy, crisp tofu salad dish, is a main-course study in contrasts. It has crunchy and smooth textures, as well as hot and cool flavors. You create a really crisp and flavorful crust by cooking the tofu with two Asian grocery-store items: chili sauce and panko, a flaky bread crumb with a light, coarse texture.
Spicy, Crisp Tofu on Mint-Avocado Salad
(Preparation 30 minutes, total 40 minutes plus pressing time)
14-ounce package regular tofu, firm or extra-firm, drained
½ cup spicy Asian chili sauce plus ½ teaspoon for dressing
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup panko
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 heads butterhead lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh whole mint leaves
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
Cut the tofu in half horizontally (slicing parallel to work surface). Keep the tofu stacked; cut crosswise in half to make four rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two triangles. Press tofu (see note).
In a large bowl whisk together ½ teaspoon chili sauce, orange zest, orange juice and olive oil. Season the mixture with salt to taste. Set aside.
Pour the remaining 1/3 cup chili sauce into a shallow bowl. Place the panko in a separate shallow bowl. Piece by piece, gently coat the tofu in the chili sauce and then the panko, patting it on each piece to coat.
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat half the canola oil over medium heat. Gently place half the tofu in skillet. Pan-fry the tofu, turning once, until outsides are crisped and brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Repeat the process with remaining oil and tofu.
Add lettuce and mint to bowl with dressing; toss to coat. Place equal mounds of salad in center of four plates; fan avocado slices on top. Arrange two tofu triangles next to the avocado and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 471 cal., 19 pro., 34 g fat, 29 g carbo., 7 g fiber.
Note: To press tofu, lay cut tofu flat on a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels. Place 2 more clean towels on top of the tofu and add another baking tray. Place a heavy skillet or another weight on top to press out excess liquid, 20 to 30 minutes.