February 27, 2009

Seasoned Baked Tofu

For years there has been considerable debate about the health benefits versus the health concerns of soy products. When there is hype on both sides of the fence, it's best to just sit on top of the fence and enjoy soy in moderation. Most meat and milk consumers have no nutritional need for soy. But for vegetarians the protein, calcium, omega-3's, and other nutrients in soy make it a very desirable part of the diet.

The most convenient soy product is tofu, also known as bean curd. It's relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. Tofu is essentially a "cheese" by-product from making soy milk, and it comes in varying degrees of firmness. But many folks simply don't like tofu; it has a somewhat mild but odd taste and a gelatinous consistency. These people have never had Evolution Kitchen's "Seasoned Baked Tofu"!

You shouldn't eat tofu unadulterated. Just like unseasoned, boiled chicken, un-enhanced tofu is completely boring. The secret is to marinate before cooking. Marinating replaces the yucky packaging water with tastier broth, and cooking firms up the consistency.

This tofu recipe creates an Oriental-influenced tofu dish that can be used in other dishes. You can make sandwiches out of it, cut it up in a stir fry, fill dumplings with it, or just eat it by itself, hot or cold. The tofu is simmered in a wonderful broth, then it is baked to firm it up to a usable consistency.
Here you see what it looks like simmering. It may appear we emptied the vacuum cleaner bag into the skillet, but those little floating bits are the garlic, ginger, and star anise petals. These are the magic ingredients. If you are going to do any Oriental cooking, you have to get some star anise. You probably won't find it in your local Safeway, but I admit I never looked there. We get ours at Chinese markets. I suppose you could substitute some anise seed, or Chinese Five-Spice Powder (star anise is one of the five spices).

Seasoned Baked Tofu


1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 ¼ c water
¼ c soy sauce
1 T fresh ginger root, grated
5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 star anise, broken into petals
½ t crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ t sesame oil
2 t sesame seeds


1. Cut the tofu lengthwise in ½ inch slabs.

2. In a 10-inch skillet, combine the water, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, star anise, and red pepper flakes. Arrange the tofu slabs in the marinade in one layer. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 450ยบ. Brush the sesame oil on the bottom of a large, shallow baking dish. When the tofu slabs are ready, carefully remove them from the marinade, brush off any bits of garlic, ginger and star anise, and set in the baking dish. Flip over so both sides have oil on them. Sprinkle with 1 t sesame seeds. Bake uncovered 15-20 minutes, until the tops are caramel brown. Flip over and sprinkle remaining seeds. Bake for another 15 minutes.

4. Remove from the baking dish and set on a rack. The tofu will firm up as it cools.

The final product is much more attractive than while in the simmering stage:

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