I did not, myself, take to tofu in any duck-to-water way. I was initially put off by the idea of fake versions of other foods made out of tofu, having read of "tofu turkeys" for meatless Thanksgivings, and the like.* Then there was the high moral tone which sometimes accompanied tofu consumption- it kind of put me off my feed.
Of course, I'm guilty of taking a similar annoying tone on other food-related matters; lord knows, I don't claim to be consistent . I still think "tofutti" is a dopey name for dessert, though for all I know, it may be perfectly nice...I've yet to try it.
All of these distractions kept me from realizing, for a good long time, what a wonderful vehicle tofu is for the absorption of other flavors. And though there is a jello-y wobble in the raw stuff that is disconcerting- frying, stir frying, and even parboiling gives it a supple chewiness that is very nice, especially when combined with other goodies. As is so often the case with meatless cooking matters-I owe these tofu revelations to the clever Deborah Madison. This tofu supper you see before you is a variation on one of her recipes, from her lovely book Vegetarian Suppers.
In this dish, the tofu is parboiled, rather than fried or stir-fried, which allows it to firm up without absorbing vast quantities of oil. And it absorbs the mushroom, garlic, and herb flavors like nobody's business. Of course, it's not a fat free recipe, a person has to cook mushrooms and garlic in something, after all.
This is what you need to make it:
rice noodles 6 oz.
container firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
5 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps brown or demarara sugar
lots and lots of chopped garlic-I had only elephant garlic, and used a whole clove
salt and pepper
3 tbsps chopped tarragon
2 tbsps oil
1/2 cup diced onion
mixed sliced mushrooms, fresh, and dried soaked ones-3 cups
green onions. sliced thinly-4
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (opt)
Cook the rice noodles until tender, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.(I do this in a pasta pan with the strainer, and pull out the strainer. I can then reuse the starchy water for the tofu.) Simmer the tofu cubes in the rest of the hot water, and and drain. Set both noodle and tofu aside. Mix soy, sugar, salt and pepper in a cup. Mix the garlic and tarragon in another cup. In a wok or wide nonstick skillet, heat the oil and fry uo the garlic mix. Add the mushrooms and onions. Let them sit without moving them for a minute , then stir them from time to time, allowing them to brown, and give off their juices. After about 5-10 minutes, they will have reabsorbed most of the juices. Add the tofu and soy sauce mixture, stir well, and add the noodles. Heat through and serve very hot, garnished with the scallion and cilantro.
Strangely, I like to eat the leftovers of this dish (when there are some), at room temperature.
* I certainly don't oppose food fakery across the board. In fact, I love the various mock meats and poultry you can have in vegetarian Chinese restaurants; whatever they are made of, they are really nifty.
And yet more: In further praise of Ms. Madison and of tofu, I cannot recommend too highly her Stir Fried Sesame Broccoli (and tofu) with Glass Noodles. Oi. I might have to take a picture of that, too.