After years of cooking tofu, I've finally discovered my favorite way to make it.
I love tofu, but I know not everyone does. Which is why when I head to the kitchen to create a new tofu recipe, I have to consider how to get the tofu-averse on my side. Most recently, I set out to tackle the two most common tofu complaints: that it has a strange texture, and it doesn't have any flavor. As part of my mission, I limited myself to just five ingredients. What resulted is the best tofu dish I've ever made: Tofu "Halloumi" With Lentils and Burst Tomatoes.
My primary consideration was flavor. While one of the easiest ways to flavor tofu is to smother it in a glaze, I knew I could find a way to impart flavor into the tofu itself, and eliminate the need for an additional sauce. I found my answer in nutritional yeast. Don't be freaked out by its name—nutritional yeast is simply a nutrient-rich ingredient with savory, "cheesy" flavor. Vegans love it because it mimics the flavor of cheese. I love it because it takes tofu to an entirely new level. In addition to tofu, it's delicious on popcorn and baked potatoes.
Once I had discovered my secret ingredient, I set out to achieve a crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside texture. Beginning with extra-firm tofu set me up for success. There are times and places for firm and silken (chocolate pie, anyone?), but for crispy slabs of tofu, extra-firm is your friend. The next step was pressing the tofu, which removes excess moisture. (Our food director gives you the how-to in this article). Don't skip this step—water-logged tofu will steam instead of crisp. I then dredged the tofu in the nutritional yeast and pan-fried it until brown and crispy. Flavor? Check. Texture? Check. Delicious? Absolutely.
Here's how to make the very best tofu, from start to finish (serves 4):
1. Drain and press two 14 oz. blocks extra-firm tofu. Slice each block lengthwise into eight 1/2-inch strips. Season both sides with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Combine 2/3 cup nutritional yeast and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dip each tofu strip in the mixture, flipping to coat both sides and pressing to adhere.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add half the tofu strips and cook, flipping once, until deeply golden and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and remaining tofu. Serve with grains, beans, lentils, or roasted veggies, and prepare to fall in love.
RELATED: Draining and Pressing Tofu
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