Tofu: You either love it or hate. I have always hated it. And really, for no reason other than I had an iguana and that’s what we fed him, so why would I want to eat reptile food? Plus it has a look, taste and texture that is just weird.
I have many friends who are vegan and rely on tofu as a source of protein. A few of them like it as is, right from the container, but most prefer it cooked or marinated as the tofu takes on the flavor profile of whatever ingredients you use, making it incredibly versatile.
Tofu is made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into forms in a process similar to cheesemaking. Some say it originated more than 2,000 years ago when a Chinese cook accidentally mixed a batch of fresh soy milk with nigari. (Nigari is a mineral-rich coagulant that is the result of the extraction of salt from seawater.)
Nutritionally, tofu is high in protein and contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs. It also provides fats, carbs, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. It is incredibly low-cal with a 3.5 ounce serving containing only 70 calories. Studies have shown that eating tofu may protect against a variety of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers.
I was making a cold pasta salad for a group at a writing retreat that included several vegetarians and found a basic tofu feta recipe. So I tweaked it a bit, added some fresh herbs and put out a full plate, expecting left-overs for another dish. Surprisingly, after the obligatory chef’s taste, I opted for a full helping as did everyone else; leaving not a soy crumb. If I not only stomached, but actually enjoyed eating tofu, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this recipe, too, AND impress your vegan friends!
Variations: Tofu comes in a multitude of packing and densities. Very soft tofu has a creamy texture, almost like yogurt. Extra firm tofu can be crumbled and cooked to a scrambled-egg type texture. I used a firm grade (4 on a 1-6 firmness scale) for this recipe. You can try different seasonings instead of the Italian seasonings and lemon verbena I had on hand. You can also omit the salt and add pepper or a bit of cayenne for a kick.
Note: There is controversy around the detrimental effects of genetically modified (GMO) soybeans grown in the United States. If you are worried about it, look for non-GMO organic tofu brands, widely available in major supermarkets.
- 16 ounce package of firm tofu
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely diced fresh lemon verbena
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasonings
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Pressing the tofu:
- Remove the tofu from the package and lightly rinse and pat dry.
- Place a folded paper towel on a plate and put the tofu block on top.
- Place another folder paper towel on the top of the tofu block and then put a plate with 2 cans on top of the paper towels (or anything with weight).
- The purpose is to remove a good amount of the moisture from the tofu so that the ingredient liquids can be absorbed.
- After 10 minutes, replace the saturated paper towels with dry ones. After another 10 minutes, the tofu is ready.
- While the tofu is being pressed, mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.
- Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes. I cut the entire block in half horizontally and then diced into square cubes.
- Place the tofu in a container with a tight cover and pour the dressing on top.
- Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- The longer the tofu marinates, the more intense the flavors. It is good in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- And yes, it actually does have a texture and taste like feta!