Cook Date: August 18, 2020
No, I’m not finished with tofu recipe postings. But let’s be honest, tofu is bland, so very bland. When I mention a tofu recipe to someone I’m likely to get the response: “Ugh! I hate tofu.” I understand, you can’t find a more bland food, there is no taste and no real texture. So, why have I been cooking tofu recipes this summer? We started because it’s a nice change of pace from a heavy meat based diet. But we’ve stuck with it because of the amazing sauces. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SAUCE.
I’ve been looking for a nice peanut sauce for the past month or so. I’m not sure why, I don’t order dishes with peanut sauce at Thai restaurants. One recipe had a nice set of ingredients, but the pictures showed a heavy sauce coating everything like melted peanut butter. I wanted something thinner. I tried a recipe that calls for dipping the tofu pieces into the sauce before baking. I made that recipe; and while it had promise, a lot of sauce dripped off the tofu cubes and onto the sheet pan where it burned. The resulting dish was okay, but the burnt smell in the kitchen put me off.
Then I found this dish for spicy peanut tofu bowls from PinchOfYum. The sauce ingredients looked good and as a bonus, it calls for roasting broccoli and red bell peppers to complete a full dinner in a bowl. Because I haven’t changed anything in the recipe, I haven’t linked to my own recipe; go to Lindsay’s site (linked above) if you are interested. Let’s get started.
We use two pounds of tofu here so we could have leftovers. In order to get any texture at all from roasted tofu you have to get out a lot of water. So I started 2 hours before cooking by wrapping the tofu blocks in paper towels and pressing under heavy weights – think cast iron skillet. I swapped out the paper towels a few times.
First I started the rice; the recipe simply says “cook the rice.” I riffed from the Yellow Bliss Road recipe I’ve been using all summer: 1 cup of jasmine rice, rinsed, ½ can of coconut milk, ¾ cup of water and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. By the way, ½ can of coconut milk is ½ cup + ⅓ cup. Since I usually cook rice at least weekly, when I open a can I save half in a sealed jar for the next time. Don’t let is sit too long in the fridge before using. I didn’t add sugar or shredded coconut as the Yellow Bliss Road recipe calls for.
Then I measured and chopped to set up my mis en place.
With the oven fired up to 425°, I lined two sheet pans with parchment paper, tossed the vegetables in olive oil and salt, then gently tossed the cubed tofu in corn starch.
Oops, I forgot that the recipe calls for drizzling olive oil and sprinkling salt on the tofu. I did that after I took the picture. I’ll talk more about that later.
Once all that is in the oven, it’s time to turn our attention to the no-cook sauce. Peanut butter, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili paste, a bit of sugar, a knob of peeled ginger and a clove of garlic go in the food processor. Thankfully I could use the small one so cleanup wouldn’t be a chore.
Start the carnival ricde to mix it all together.
My sauce was a bit thicker and darker than Lindsay’s – I think because I used chili paste with garlic we have rather than sambal oelek she uses. Her chili sauce is more the consistency of sriracha sauce; mine was a thick paste – as you can see in the second picture. Regardless, I dipped a spoon in for a taste and was thrilled with the result – SO MANY FLAVORS layered together.
After flipping the tofu, everything was ready to come out of the oven.
If you look closely you can see how the olive oil pooled up in places in the pan after I drizzled. I haven’t done that before. But it did help brown the tofu to give it a bit more tooth – a little crunch helps offset the blandness. I’m cooking another tofu dish tonight and plan to gently toss the tofu with just a tad of olive oil and kosher salt in a bowl before turning out on the sheet pan. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The vegetables were also ready. I was mildly disappointed that the bell peppers didn’t brown much. Maybe next time I’ll give them a head start. Roasting vegetables is the primary way we have cooked them for a few years now. Due to the maillard reaction – which causes the browning – vegetables cooked this way are much tastier than steamed.
Let eat. Spoon some rice in the bowl top with vegetables, then tofu; finally, drizzle some peanut sauce on top.
This dish is amazing. We went back and poured on more of the sauce; it’s just so complex and tasty. My virtual hat is off to Lindsay at Pinch of Yum. The sauce should last a few days in the fridge.
Not only is this “okay” for company, I’ll be proud to serve this to folks – unless they run screaming when they hear tofu. Give it a try.
And now, a sneak preview of my next cooking post – with beef to prove I haven’t gone vegan.