Tofu: one of those ingredients that can seem rather intimidating to eat, let alone make if you didn’t grow up eating it. Well, I’m here to help you conquer those fears! With a few simple preparation steps, you can create savory tofu recipes that even a non-vegetarian will enjoy. Tofu is a wonderful source of protein and soaks up the flavor of whatever marinade or coating you use. The texture is determined by the type of tofu you buy, as well as how it’s prepared (baked, fried, scrambled, grilled, etc). For this recipe I used extra firm tofu dusted with a gluten free crust of cornmeal, cornstarch, and spices.
About five years ago I was one of those people who swore they hated tofu even though I’d honestly never had it once. That was until a friend took me to a fantastic vegetarian Chinese restaurant and said, “I know I’m going to change your mind about tofu once you try this salt and pepper version”. I took one bite of the hot, crispy, perfectly seasoned tofu and I was sold. Who would have ever thought that little nuggets of soy could be as addicting as salt and vinegar fries? From that point on I became a tofu lover.
This recipe for Salt & Pepper Tofu is healthy and very versatile. You can make it to have on the go for a quick snack or add it to a salad like I’ve done here with flat rice noodles, sautéed red peppers, and mushrooms. Dressed with a light, lime vinaigrette, it’s a refreshing summer meal.
Follow these steps for the perfect crispy tofu:
1. Drain tofu from the package and pat completely dry. Wrap in two layers of paper towels.
2. In a baking pan with rimmed sides, put wrapped tofu inside of it with a cutting board on top of the tofu. Set something very heavy like a cast iron skillet on top of the cutting board. This will squeeze out all the excess water.
3. Let sit 15 minutes, empty dish if water has drained into it and flip tofu. Replace cutting board and skillet, let drain another 10 minutes.
4. Remove towels, and cut into 1 in square cubes. Now you’re ready to go!
Rice Noodle Salad Bowl with Baked Salt & Pepper Tofu
Makes about 3–4 personal salads
1 – 14 oz. block of organic, extra firm tofu prepared using steps above
1/4 c cornmeal
2 T cornstarch
½ t salt
½ t pepper
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 – 8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1 ½ T olive oil
½ package of cooked flat rice noodles (directions here)
Green leafy lettuce
2 T olive oil
2 T lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T minced cilantro
¼ t salt
¼ t siracha
While tofu is draining, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray. In a Ziploc bag, combine cornmeal, cornstarch, salt & pepper. When tofu has been cut into cubes, add to Ziploc bag in batches, and lightly shake to coat evenly. Place on cookie sheet, (not touching each other) and bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes (or until crispy). While tofu is baking, heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes, then add in peppers and mushrooms with a big pinch of salt. Sauté for 8–10 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Whisk all dressing ingredients together and set aside.
To serve, set lettuce leaves on individual plate, then top with ½ c of noodles, vegetables, and tofu. Drizzle with lime vinaigrette and enjoy!