John B. Reyna
Tofu, Done Right
Until I met John, I seemed to always being living with vegetarians. Starting with my father, a pescatarian at a time when I didn’t fish, and followed by eaters all over the meat to veg spectrum. A quick holler out to the many roommates throughout college and my 20's who kept my meat consumption relatively low. And what can I say, I grew to love tofu. I even crave it sometimes. And sadly, often when ordering out, I get a cube of bland mush that does not properly satisfy that craving. I want a small, crispy, sponge of flavor.
Matt Schifburg, roommate of mine the summer of 2008, introduced a Moroccan spiced tofu recipe to me. That recipe has since been shared and altered over the years; yet, in all its variations, it has been loved by many roommates, friends, and family (sometimes even, one in the same) along the way. The following recipe is my current variation of Matt's original. The recipe is a solid representation of tofu at its best, and can be altered to your liking. Most importantly, this post is about the importance of drying and flavoring tofu.
Moroccan spiced tofu – serves 4
14oz package firm tofu (always get the firmest possible)
EVOO – couple tbs
2 tbs cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp turmeric
1.5 tbs paprika
1 tbs ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion
1 small eggplant (can be omitted, I only used it because I had one on hand. Add veggies you have available, enjoy, or go with Moroccan flavors)
4-5 cloves garlic minced
2 tbs freshly chopped ginger
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (does it need to be veggie friendly?)
2 cans (28oz total) petite diced tomatoes
½ cup zante currants (golden raisins work if you can’t find them, but zante are likely next to raisins in the store)
2 large lemons
2 tbs honey
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
Fresh herbs for garnish: parsley, cilantro, mint
2 cups couscous to be cooked with another 2 cups broth
Drain the tofu. Place it between two dinner plates and leave on the counter with the largest can you have on top of it to weigh it down and dry out the tofu. Drain and flip it every 10-15 minutes, totaling an hour or so when no more liquid is being pressed out. The more liquid you get rid of, the better the texture and absorption of flavor.
Cut the tofu into small cubes, like 1/2-3/4 inch. Small enough they become flavor bombs, but large enough they keep their cube form.
Place a large saucepan on the stove and turn to medium-high heat. Dump a couple tablespoons of EVOO in the pan to coat it well and add the tofu once hot. Start to crisp the outsides of the tofu. Flip them a few times, every minute or so, adding more oil or turning down the heat if needed.
Once the color starts to change to yellow, add all 5 dry spices plus salt and pepper. Gently stir to make sure all sides are well covered. Cook another 5 minutes in total, moving the tofu around so each side is cooked.
Next stir in the onion and eggplant (and more oil if things are starting to stick). I would load them up with another quick round of spices. Especially salt and pepper. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft.
Add the ginger and garlic. Give it another 5 minutes to get deliciously fragrant, possibly reducing the heat to medium if you haven’t already.
Add the 2 cups broth and tomatoes. Let simmer 20 minutes or so to all come together. You should also start the couscous now.
Finally, add the zante currants, lemon juice and honey and give it a few minutes to simmer.
Plate tofu stew on top of couscous. Add the toasted almonds and fresh herbs on top of that.
Paired perfectly with a multi-vintage Margerum Syrah from Santa Barbara County.
Enjoy the hot bowl of deliciousness,