Tofu and the Daniel Fast
Most people will fast on the Daniel Fast for 21 days. Since the fast restricts all animal products, this is a good time to consider other sources of protein, including beans and rice and tofu! Tofu! I can almost hear readers now as their face scrunches and horror enters their culinary imagination!
But tofu has gotten a bad rap. Poor thing! Admittedly, tofu’s flavor is very bland, but that’s because tofu is designed to absorb the flavors of the food it is cooked with. But this nutritional powerhouse is so misunderstood! Tofu is rich in calcium, iron and B Vitamins, and loaded with isoflavones – the plant hormones that researchers believe may help fight off cancer-causing cells and reduce heart disease.
Despite its critics, tofu has a lot going for it.
What is Tofu? Also known as soybean curd, (tofu is the Japanese name for soybean curd; the Chinese name is doufu) tofu is made from soybeans, water, and a coagulant such as calcium or magnesium. The process is very similar to making cheese.
Nutritional Benefits: Tofu is high in calcium, iron and B vitamins, but low in fat and sodium. Tofu is an excellent source of protein, not only for vegetarians, but also for individuals who have trouble digesting meat, or suffer from medical conditions such as chronic heartburn. Tofu also has been credited with offering protection against diseases such as cancer and osteoporosis.
How Does Tofu Taste? There is no question that, served alone, tofu tastes rather bland. But tofu is not meant to be eaten alone. Tofu is like a large white sponge that absorbs the flavors of the food it is cooked with.
Types of Tofu: There are two types of tofu: regular and silken. Regular tofu comes in a variety of textures, from firm to extra firm (fairly dense and solid) to soft tofu (more like a soft cheese). Originating in Japan and made through a process that has more in common with making yogurt than cheese, silken tofu has a creamy, custard-like texture. It also comes in varying degrees of firmness.
Which Tofu to Use: When it comes to regular tofu, the firmer tofu are recommended for stir-fries and grilling, while soft tofu works well in soups. Normally, a recipe will specify which type of tofu to use – if not, it’s safest to stick with medium firmness.
Silken tofu is great for blended dishes like pudding, dressings, and purees. A recipe will nearly always state when silken tofu is required. Silken tofu is an excellent base for sauces.
Shopping for Tofu: Most grocery stores keep tofu in the produce section’s refrigeration case. The firmer tofu generally comes in brick packages, while softer dessert tofu come in plastic containers. You can also find tofu in aseptically packaged containers that don’t require refrigeration in other sections of the store.
In Asian markets, Chinese tofu may be sold in plastic containers or loose in bins filled with water.
Storing Tofu: Like any perishable product, you need to check the package of tofu for an expiry date. If the tofu hasn’t reached its expiry date but still smells sour, throw it out or return to the store for a refund. Also, depending on the type of packaging, the tofu may need to be refrigerated immediately. Once you’ve opened the package of tofu cover the leftover portions with water and store it in the refrigerator. For best results, change the water daily. Also, it’s best to use distilled instead of regular tap water. The tofu should last for up to a week.
Draining and Marinating Tofu: Before cooking you will want to drain the liquid from the tofu. This practice increases the tofu’s capacity to absorb other flavors, making for a more flavorful dish.
Here is a simple and clean way to drain the tofu: place a dishtowel or several layers of paper toweling on a cookie sheet with a raised edge. Then place the amount of tofu called for in your recipe. Place a plate or other flat item on top of the tofu and then set a heavy bowl of water atop that surface. The weight will squeeze the water from the tofu in about 15 minutes. Change the towel or toweling if necessary.
Another way to increase the tofu’s flavor is to marinate it. For best results, use extra firm tofu that has been drained. The longer the tofu is marinated, the more flavor it will absorb. After marinating, you can fry the tofu, bake it, or add it to a soup or salad. You can store the pre-prepared or leftover marinated tofu in a sealed container in the refrigerator. You will want to use it within 3 – 4 days.
Freezing Tofu: Freezing tofu gives it a more meaty texture. The regular to extra firm tofus are better for freezing, as the softer varieties don’t hold their shape as well. To add even extra firmness to the tofu, drain it before freezing. Frozen tofu will last for at least three, and up to five, months.
Food Savers: I am a big fan of the Food Saver device that sucks the air out of packages and therefore the food stores for much longer time. The extra firm tofu can be stored in bags whereas the softer tofu will need the container. Either way, it extends the use of your tofu for weeks!