My mother has imparted plenty of kitchen wisdom on me throughout the years, teaching me everything from how to properly salt eggplant to preaching that rice should be left alone as it simmers. But perhaps her greatest legacy as a cook, in my mind, is her seemingly innate ability to cook tofu like a pro. This is no easy feat, of course – anyone who cooks with tofu knows that it can be a bit persnickety. Unless it’s prepared properly, it can be a soggy mess. It sticks easily to pans and grills. It has little flavor on its own, so you need to have a deft hand with seasonings if you take your tofu seriously. Thankfully for me, my mother has taken tofu seriously for a very, very long time. Since 1987, to be exact, which was when my father first read John Robbins’ now classic Diet for a New America and promptly announced he was giving up meat for good, effective immediately, and my sisters and I followed suit not long after.
My poor mother. You have to remember, this was over 25 years ago, long before vegetarian and vegan products lined supermarket shelves in abundance. Cookbooks contained recipes for Beef Wellington and Tuna Noodle Casserole, not Tempeh Reubens. But, bless her heart, she went to the store and bought her first block of tofu and somehow learned how to cook it – and cook it well – with little to no guidance or instruction. My mom quickly figured out that freezing tofu first (and then defrosting it, of course) gave it a wonderfully chewy texture that is nearly impossible to achieve otherwise. She’d cut the tofu into large cubes and slide them into a hot pan glistening with olive oil where they’d hiss and pop, gradually turning perfectly golden brown and crispy. I do not exaggerate when I say that her tofu is addictive – and if you doubt that tofu can reach irresistible levels of deliciousness, that’s because you haven’t eaten it cooked this way yet.
I could eat an entire meal of this fried tofu alone, but I try to resist the urge and take a more balanced approach instead by throwing it into a broccoli stir-fry. I cook the broccoli over high heat with a ginger garlic sauce until just tender and then toss the tofu into the pan for the final minute of cooking. Served atop some warm brown rice, this Tofu and Broccoli Stir-Fry with Ginger and Garlic is the healthiest version of comfort food that I can think of. And as long as you remember to take the tofu out of the freezer in the morning before work, this meal comes together in a flash, giving it serious weeknight staple cred.
- 1 package extra firm tofu, frozen, defrosted, and drained
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 4 cups of broccoli florets (approximately 2 heads of broccoli)
- 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup shoyu, tamari or soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon mirin
- Salt, to taste
- Gently squeeze the defrosted tofu over the sink to remove any excess liquid. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut the tofu into 1″ cubes.
- In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Place the tofu in the pan and let cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes so that it starts to develop a crispy exterior. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes undisturbed. Cook for a total of 10 minutes, or until tofu is golden brown and crispy on all sides. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, shoyu, water, sesame oil, rice vinegar and mirin until combined. Set aside.
- Add the broccoli florets and shoyu mixture to the nonstick pan and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until broccoli is crisp tender. Add the cooked tofu to the pan and cook for an additional minute, making sure everything is heated through and combined. Serve hot.