The soybean is a superstar in Asia. In its many guises, it has sustained the diet of Asian populations through countless generations. Americans increasingly recognize its value and are integrating soy foods like tofu, tempeh and TVP into their menus. These foods are an economical vegetarian source of high-quality protein. Just 1/2 cup serving of tofu contains 10 grams of protein; 1/2 cup of tempeh offers 15 grams.
Japanese-style tofu comes in basic cotton and silk varieties. Tofu is like a blank canvas waiting to be painted with brush strokes of flavor. Extra-firm and firm tofu are best for grilling, stir-frying, deep-frying and simmering. If tasting tofu for the first time, try it deep-fried with a spicy dipping sauce. Take advantage of silken tofu’s creamy, light texture and add to dips, smoothies, custards, ice cream and sauces. Although not recommended for stir-frying, firmer varieties of silk tofu can be dusted with cornstarch and gently pan-fried until the surface develops a delicate crispness.
Tempeh, or “Javanese meat,” is tofu’s chewier cousin. Like tofu, tempeh can be quite versatile, absorbing flavors from surrounding ingredients and seasonings. It must be cooked before it is eaten. It is especially important to cook raw and unpasteurized tempeh thoroughly. Experienced cooks briefly precook tempeh before adding it to recipes. It can be marinated to add flavor. To precook, steam, simmer in broth, microwave, broil or bake in the oven 10 to 15 minutes. It can be sliced, diced, cubed, grated or shredded. After the precooking, tempeh can be stir-fried, pan-fried, baked in sauce or added to various recipes. If cooked only once before serving, increase cooking time to 25 minutes.
TVP is a trademarked brand of meat replacement made from defatted textured soy flour with most of the fats and carbohydrates removed. TVP should be rehydrated in hot, lightly seasoned water or a flavorful broth before it takes on a chewy, meat-like texture. Add enough water to cover by about 1/4 inch. Using just the right amount of liquid can be a process of trial and error. Rehydrated TVP doubles in volume; add to favorite recipes. Like tofu and tempeh, it absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it’s cooked with. The dry product can be purchased in granules, flakes and chunks and keeps about one year.
Ground soy crumbles are a wet meat-replacement option made with soy protein like TSP. They are a creative substitute for ground beef or sausage. Use soy crumbles in any recipe that calls for ground beef or sausage like chili, soups, lasagna, tacos, spaghetti sauce and casseroles. Some cooks sauté the crumbles in olive oil briefly before adding to the dish. Add crumbles near the end cooking to preserve the texture.
GREAT RECIPES TO TRY:
Orange-Ginger Glazed Tempeh
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 medium carrots, scraped and cut into
1 4-ounce pack Organic Three Grain
Tempeh®, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 to 3 teaspoons grated fresh gingerroot
4 cups cooked mixed wild and brown rice
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
In a bowl, whisk together orange juice, maple syrup, soy sauce and coriander. Simmer carrots in a pan of lightly salted water 10 minutes or until tender; drain. In another medium pan, boil tempeh in unsalted water 10 minutes; drain and pat dry. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add tempeh and turn occasionally, browning on all sides. Add ginger during the last minute of cooking. Add cooked carrots and the orange juice mixture then simmer until liquid becomes a syrupy glaze. To serve, spoon the tempeh mixture over rice; sprinkle with cilantro. Makes two to three servings. Recipe adapted from Lifelight.
2 4-ounce packs soybean tempeh
1 bunch green onions, cut in 1-inch lengths
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch squares
1 orange bell pepper, cut in 1-inch cubes
pineapple, in 1-inch cubes
Prepare Peanut Sauce (see recipe below). Soak eight bamboo skewers in water 30 minutes. In a covered steamer basket over boiling water, steam tempeh slices about 15 minutes. Or simmer in broth. Cut into one-inch cubes. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Alternate ingredients on bamboo skewers, leaving a space free on each end. Baste skewers lightly with peanut sauce. Place skewers on grill about five minutes, forming grill marks. Turn and cook the other sides. Serve with peanut sauce. Makes three to four servings.
1/2 cup quality smooth peanut butter
1 to 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons fresh gingerroot, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
dash black pepper
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1 to 2 teaspoons hot chili paste, or to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Serve at once or chill until serving time. Bring back to room temperature.
Tempeh Curry Satay
2 4-ounce packs soybean tempeh, cut in
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown
rice syrup, or to taste
2 teaspoons red curry paste, or to taste
2 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place cubes on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Turn cubes one or two times. While tempeh bakes, add remaining ingredients to a blender; puree until smooth. Taste to adjust flavor, as desired. Remove tofu from the oven (don’t turn off oven) and put into a medium, non-reactive casserole dish. Pour curry sauce on top; mix well to combine. Place tofu back into the oven and cook 20 to 25 minutes more. Serve tofu and sauce over cooked white or brown rice or cooked pasta. Makes two to three servings. Recipe from Basil Garcia of Rosewood Market.
Peanut Sauce Noodles
1/2 pound thin dried noodles (bean threads, Chinese egg noodles or angel hair capellini)
cooked tempeh or tofu, cut in strips, triangles or small cubes
2 bell peppers, red and yellow, cut in julienne strips
1 carrot, scraped, cut in julienne strips
4 green onions, trimmed, thin sliced diagonally
1/2 cup fresh herbs of choice (shredded basil leaves, cilantro or fresh mint)
Peanut Sauce, thinned with coconut milk chopped peanuts, if desired
Cook noodles according to package directions. Rinse in cool water, drain and season. In a large bowl, toss noodles with all the ingredients except Peanut Sauce (recipe above) and chopped peanuts. Divide noodles among individual serving bowls; sprinkle peanuts on top. Serve each diner a bowl with noodles. Pass sauce so they can dress and toss their own portion at the table. Makes four to five servings.
Chipotle Tostado Salads
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground oregano
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 12-ounce bag frozen MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters® Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™
1 cup canned black beans
3 to 4 tablespoons Bufalo Chipotle Hot Sauce
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir onion until soft, six to eight minutes. Mix in cumin, oregano and garlic; stir two minutes. Stir in frozen crumbles; mix until seasoned and hot. Blend in black beans and chipotle sauce; add salt, to taste. Set aside.
Crisp-fry or crisp-bake six 8-inch whole flour tortillas. On top of tortilla, layer shredded romaine, 1/2 cup spicy crumble mixture, shredded Monterey Jack & Cheddar blend, diced tomato, sliced green onions, diced avocado, sliced black olives and fresh cilantro leaves. Dress with a generous tablespoon of a smooth mixture of 1 1/4 cups ranch dressing blended with one ripe avocado and the juice of one lime. Serve at once. Makes six servings.
Kaori’s Tofu Gratin
12-ounce block firm tofu
1 cup plain soymilk
3 tablespoons miso paste
4 tablespoons Philadelphia brand cream cheese, room temperature
sea salt, if desired
black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheese like Gouda, Gruyère, Fontina or Muenster
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a cutting board, slice tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slices then into bite-size pieces. Pour soymilk into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add miso paste and cream cheese; stir constantly until mixture melts and thickens. Gently mix tofu into sauce, coating completely. Taste to check flavor; add a pinch of salt, if desired. Pour mixture into a small baking dish. Sprinkle with black pepper then scatter cheese over the top. Heat the gratin in the oven 10 minutes or until cheese melts and becomes golden brown. Serve at once. Makes four servings. Recipe from Kaori Sato.
Grilled Five-Spice Tofu Steaks
3 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh gingerroot
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground fresh chile paste, to taste
1 large clove garlic, smashed
2 14- to 16-ounce packages extra-firm or firm tofu
1 to 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil or safflower oil, as needed
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 thin green onions, trimmed, thin sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
In a wide, shallow dish, blend first seven ingredients; set aside. Drain tofu, rinse and pat dry. Cut in half horizontally. If using firm tofu, wrap in several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel; press 20 minutes or longer. Dip tofu into marinade, coating all sides. Soak 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat; add half the oil. Shake excess marinade from tofu. Fry three to four minutes on each side until tofu is lightly brown and crispy. Discard garlic from leftover marinade, drizzle over tofu in pan. Garnish with sesame seeds, green onion and cilantro. Makes two to four servings.
Spicy Korean Tofu with Sesame Soy Sauce
1 block firm or extra-firm tofu
potato starch (katakuriko) or cornstarch
peanut oil for deep-frying
1 thin hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Sesame Soy Sauce
Prepare Sesame Soy Sauce (see recipe below). Drain tofu, rinse and pat dry. Cut in half horizontally. Wrap in layers of paper towels and cover with a plate or similar object. Press 20 minutes, changing towels if necessary. Extra-firm tofu requires less pressing. Halve each slice vertically, then cut into strips about 1-1/2-inch wide. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Dust tofu with potato starch. Deep-fry a few pieces at a time, turning often, until crispy and golden. Drain well. Arrange cucumber slices on a serving platter; top with tofu. Pass the Sesame Soy Sauce. Makes two main dish portions or four to five appetizer servings.
Sesame Soy Sauce
1/3 cup low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, finely-minced
1 thin green onion, trimmed, thin-sliced
1/2 teaspoon Korean hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 to 2 teaspoons kochujang (Korean fermented bean paste), if desired
Combine ingredients. Let stand 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Good with tofu or tempeh.
Silken Banana-Pineapple Smoothie
5 to 6 ounces soft silken tofu, drained
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1 small frozen banana (peel before freezing)
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice, to taste
1 heaping cup ice cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure almond or vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, honey or sugar substitute, to taste
toasted coconut, if desired
Put all ingredients into a blender. Puree for a few seconds, then liquefy until slushy. Pour into two or three chilled glasses. Sprinkle top with toasted coconut, if desired. Makes about three cups of smoothie.
Tofu Peanut Butter Crème Pie
1 8-inch Chocolate Cookie Crust or baked pastry crust
1 12.3-ounce pack silken tofu
1 8-ounce pack cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup crunchy or plain peanut butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
chocolate sauce, if desired
Prepare Chocolate Cookie Crust (see recipe below). Combine tofu, cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl; mix until ingredients are smooth and creamy. Spoon filling into crust; chill several hours or overnight. Cut into slices. The pie is delicious plain or with chocolate sauce lightly drizzled over each piece. Makes eight servings.
Chocolate Cookie Crust
Blend 22 Oreo cookies in a food processor and process until crumbs are formed. Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Drizzle in four tablespoons (1/4 cup) melted butter; process briefly just to combine. Pat crumbs into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Place in a preheated 350 degrees oven, five to six minutes until hot. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Visit www.columbiametro.com for more on the history and traditional uses of tofu and tempeh, how they are made and what to consider when shopping for and purchasing them.
Food Styling by Susan Fuller Slack, CCP