Soy Month

To recap – we’ve been talking about whole foods this year, and tofu ain’t really one of those.  (It has most of its fiber removed.)  It is, however, one of those building blocks of a standard vegetarian diet, and it’s the thing most people ask me about when I teach vegetarian cooking classes.  A lot of folks are looking for ways to add soy to their diets, and they want that soy to be tasty!  As I’m sure you know, tofu straight out of the tub is NOT TASTY.  It’s about as thrilling to the palate as a plain boiled egg white, and is almost as rubbery.  It is, however, not that hard to add flavor to tofu and make it sing!  And to make up for its lost fiber, just eat an extra vegetable or fruit that day.  Easy, n’est-ce pas?

A couple of things to remember:  “Chinese-style” tofu is the kind you find in refrigerated cases, packed in plastic tubs with water in them to keep the tofu fresh and moist.  It is firm in texture because it has had much of the water pressed out of it in processing.

“Japanese-style” or silken tofu sometimes comes in those refrigerated plastic tubs, but isn’t packed in water.  It is “silken” or custardy because it still has a lot of water in it (it isn’t pressed during processing.)  My favorite silken tofu, however, is made by Mori-Nu and comes in shelf-stable UHT packages.  You will sometimes see it refrigerated in grocery stores, but it doesn’t have to be refrigerated until it is opened.

You will sometimes see recipes that call for tofu to be marinated for hours to add flavor to it.  Unless the tofu is cut very thin, marinating doesn’t usually do a whole lot to it.  Deborah Madison, in This Can’t Be Tofu, suggests using marinade to cook the tofu.  This has worked well for me, and is much quicker than marinating!  The Korean Barbecued Tofu recipe uses this technique.  Don’t try it with the very strong marinade in the Asian-Style Baked Tofu recipe, however.  Your tofu will come out way too salty if you do.

One additional note:  Two of the recipes call for nutritional yeast.  Please be sure you are getting the correct product.  Nutritional yeast flakes are available in the bulk section of Sevananda and can also be purchased in packages.  Nutritional yeast is not related to baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast.  It is a yeast grown specifically for its high B-12 content, and to add a nutty or cheesy flavor to food.  In some (usually British) cookbooks it is called “good tasting yeast”.  To maintain its B-12 content, please store your nutritional yeast in a dark, cool place.  (Nutritional yeast will not affect persons with candida.)

So, with no further ado, here are some of my favorite soy/tofu recipes.


Ok, so this isn’t really a recipe at all.  It’s just a suggestion.  Use frozen, shelled, green soybeans (edamame) instead of frozen green peas in your favorite recipe.  They’re not as sweet as green peas, and they do require a few extra minutes of cooking, but they will add soy isoflavones and a nice nutty flavor wherever you use them.

Southern Fried Tofu
Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Most of them are herbs.  The “chicken-flavor” seasoning is also called “chicken-flavor broth powder” and is available in bulk or in packages.  The gluten flour is available in the bulk bins.
Recipe By Lisa T. Bennett, adapted from Friendly Foods by Ron Pickarski
Serves 4 unless one of them is my husband
Preparation Time: 45 minutes

1 pound Chinese-style tofu, firm or extra-firm
3 tablespoons chicken-flavored seasoning (veggie)
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons gluten flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons spice blend (see below)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup water
2 cups peanut, sesame, or canola oil, for deep-frying

Spice Blend
Enough for about 5 batches of tofu.  Store the mix in the dark, in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons chicken-flavored seasoning (veggie)
4 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons savory
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried basil

Cut tofu into 2-3 pieces crosswise, then cut each of these into 4 pieces. (Or make “chickenless fingers” by cutting the tofu into two slabs, the cutting each of those into 3-4 “finger” sized pieces.)  Place them on a shallow plate or dish, and sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon chicken-flavored seasoning.  Coat all sides of the pieces with the powder and set aside.

Stir together 1/2 cup of the unbleached flour and the remaining 2 tablespoons of the “chicken” seasoning.  Set aside this breading mixture.

Mix the remaining 3/4 cup of the unbleached flour, gluten flour, salt, and Spice Blend.  Blend well so that the gluten flour doesn’t create lumps.  Stir in the water and 1 tablespoon of canola oil.  If the batter does lump, blend the mixture in a blender.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet or deep fryer set to 370 F..  Dip a piece of tofu into the breading mixture and coat it completely,  then dip it into the batter, using prongs or long chopsticks.  Remove it and hold it above the batter for about 10 seconds, tapping it gently against the side of the bowl to release excess batter.  Then hold about one third of the piece of tofu in the hot oil for about 15 seconds to set the bottom so it won’t stick to the pan.   Release the tofu and let it completely submerge.  Repeat for the other pieces.  Deep-fry the tofu  a few pieces at a time to a light brown.  (Don’t add too many pieces to the fryer at once or you will cool the oil down and make the tofu greasy.)  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels for 30 seconds.  You can place the tofu in the oven at 250 F for up to 15 minutes to retain crispness.

Lisa’s Notes:
Serve with Brown Gravy or The Grit Yeast Gravy (see below), biscuits or rice, and LOTS of vegetables.  Southern Fried Tofu is also great served cold.

If you’re in a hurry or don’t have an extensive collection of herbs, use 1 tablespoon of  pre-mixed poultry seasoning (a mix of herbs – usually mostly rosemary, sage, and marjoram), 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, a pinch of unbleached sugar,  and 1 teaspoon of salt instead of the Spice Blend.

The Grit Tofu
From the famous Athens, GA vegetarian eatery, this is a loose recipe for the tofu the Grit uses in their famous Golden Bowl.  If you haven’t eaten at the Grit, it’s worth a trip to Athens!
Recipe from The Grit Cookbook, by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer
Serves 2
Preparation Time:  20 minutes
1 pound firm tofu
vegetable oil
soy sauce
nutritional yeast flakes

Cut tofu into cubes slightly smaller than playing dice. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to heat slightly and add tofu.  Sauté, tossing with a non-metal spatula until evenly and lightly golden brown.  Sprinkle lightly with soy sauce. Sauté briefly to further brown tofu. Remove from skillet, draining and discarding any remaining fluid.

Rinse and wipe skillet dry. Lightly oil and place it over high heat.  Allow oil to become very hot and add tofu. Sauté tofu, tossing with a non-metal spatula almost constantly until very well browned.  Sprinkle with soy sauce to taste. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast to coat tofu cubes and, tossing vigorously, sauté for a few seconds and remove from  heat. Serve immediately.

Lisa’s Notes:   Amounts of the last three ingredients depend upon your skillet, how hot the flame is, and your personal taste.  Too much soy sauce makes it too salty, too much oil and/or nutritional yeast makes it too gooey.

One version of this recipe I saw suggested using a non-oiled skillet for the first saute, which helps to dry out the tofu without adding more oil.

I’ve personally never found it necessary to wipe out my skillet or add more oil – I just keep frying without a break.

The Grit Yeast Gravy
Recipe from The Grit Cookbook, by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer
Serves 8
Preparation Time:  20 minutes

1 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance preferred)
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup flaked nutritional yeast flakes
2 cups regular (not reduced fat) soymilk
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 3/4 cups hot water
2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt margarine completely. Stir in flour and yeast until blended and continue to heat roux until mixture begins to bubble. Use only enough heat to maintain vigorous bubbling, whisking constantly for 4 minutes. This is the time required to cook the flour to smoothness, and vigorous whisking is important to avoid burning.

Continue rapid, thorough whisking and add soymilk gradually.  The mixture will quickly become thick and custard-like.  Combine soy sauce, water, and Worcestershire sauce and add to gravy gradually. Blend well after every addition and do not add liquid so rapidly that gravy is very thin. If gravy does become too thin from the addition of too much liquid, continued cooking will thicken it.

Note from the book: Truly a Grit favorite.  Our yeast gravy instills cravings in devotees who are denied it even briefly. People dig it! It lends stunningly un-vegetarian flavor to fellow Grit dishes such as our Collard Greens and Chicken Salad-Style Tofu. This recipe is easily halved.

Asian-Style Baked Tofu
Recipe By Lisa T. Bennett
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 1 hour

1 pound Chinese-style tofu, firm or extra firm
2 cups tamari soy sauce
1/2 cup sesame oil, toasted (Asian style)
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated

Drain tofu, pat dry with paper towels.  Press lightly to remove excess moisture.  Dice tofu to desired size – I usually cut it into three strips lengthwise, then 4 x 5 across (60 pieces per pound).  If you prefer, you can also make “steaks” by slicing the tofu into 3 or 4 slices lengthwise.

Mix the remaining ingredients together, then pour marinade over tofu.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Don’t over-marinate or the tofu will become too salty when baked.

Drain tofu (reserve marinade).  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10 – 15 minutes.  Flip tofu over, then bake for another 10 – 15 minutes.  Stir again.  Bake until tofu is evenly golden brown all over, but isn’t dried out and tough.  Total baking time is approximately 30 – 45 minutes.

This tofu is now ready to be used in a stir fry, tossed on top of a salad, or eaten as an appetizer.

Notes:  The marinade can be saved in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and reused for up to one week, or four batches of tofu, whichever comes first.  You might prefer to make four batches in a row, and use them over the course of the week.  Using the marinade for multiple batches makes it much more economical.

Korean Barbecued Tofu (Tofu Bulgogi)

Recipe By Lisa Bennett
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
2 pounds firm (Chinese-style) tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sesame oil, toasted (Asian-style)
5 tablespoons sugar or sweetener
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Finishing Touches
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or brown)
3 green onions, sliced (optional)

Dry tofu with paper towels and dice into 1/2-inch cubes.  Mix marinade/glaze ingredients and pour over tofu.  Let marinate briefly while you get out your skillet and preheat the oil.  Add sesame seeds and let them fry until they pop and smell toasty.  Be careful – they can go from pale to black very quickly!

Add the tofu with all the marinade ingredients.  Let it cook for several minutes without fussing over it.  This will help the tofu firm up and will thicken the marinade/cooking glaze.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Cook until tofu is firm and glossy and most of the liquid is gone. Garnish with chopped green onions (optional).

Serve with brown rice and steamed spinach for a quick, simple, delicious, and filling meal.
Notes: You might like to add either or both of the following to the marinade:  2 teaspoons dry mustard,  1/2 teaspoon onion powder.

Optional – chop 1 Chinese cabbage and slice 1 carrot.  Fry tofu and set aside.  Add cabbage and carrot to skillet and fry until soft.  Add tofu and mix gently.  Serve hot with rice.

Simple Peanut Butter Pie

Recipe by Lisa T. Bennett
Serves 8
Preparation Time:  10 minutes
1 package MoriNu silken tofu, firm or extra-firm
1 cup peanut butter (natural)
1/2 cup Sucanat or other sweetener of choice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (divided, optional)
1 pre-made graham cracker or chocolate crust (natural – check ingredients to make sure it’s vegan)
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted with 1 teaspoon canola oil (optional)

In a food processor, blend tofu and peanut butter until smooth.  Add Sucanat or other sweetener and vanilla extract.  Process until filling is smooth.  If you want a crunchy textural contrast, add some chopped roasted peanuts (reserve some for topping).

Spread filing into crust, smooth top or add artistic swirls.  Dress with your choice of chopped peanuts and/or drizzled melted chocolate chips.  Chill until ready to serve.

Notes: If you are going to finish the pie quickly, you can add ripe banana slices to the filling for an Elvis-pleasing PB&B Pie.  Thank ya very much.