i know many people think tofu is the pits – a weird, slightly gelatinous, unflavored blob of boring – but over the years, i’ve really come to love my good friend bean curd. on nights when i can’t bear to cook much of anything, i love to whip up a quick stir fry, and having tofu on hand ensures that i’m always getting protein in there with my veggies. eating tofu makes me feel like a healthy person. you know, something to make up for all the sweets i’ve constantly got sitting on my counter, taunting me, like this: “EAT ME, SARAH. I AM A TOFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAR AND I AM SOOO GOOOD.”
tofu, on the other hand, is made from soy. which means it’s healthy. and yes, it’s unflavored, and yes, it looks extremely weird in its basic state. but the fun thing about unflavored things? you get to add the flavor. the world is your oyster when you’re cooking with tofu, because you can manipulate it any which way you damn please. it’s freeing, really, when you think about it.
the other day, i was really craving this amazing tahini dressing that they serve at haymarket cafe in my hometown, and I decided to get crafty and make my own. I wanted mine a bit more lemon-y, so I adapted Mollie Katzen’s recipe. if molly’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s the brains behind the new moosewood cookbook. growing up, my parents loved that book. my mom’s a big fan of healthy people food items such as lentils and chickpeas and what have you, and was always turning to moosewood for recipes. it’s one of the first cookbooks i remember seeing on our counter on a regular basis, so i was excited to rework Katzen’s recipe to make it my own. it was almost like delving back into my childhood, except without the lentils.
there are a million and one recipes out there for lemon tahini sauce. some people add miso, some don’t. some people like lots of lemon juice, others react like this when the word lemon comes up. i for one love me some lemons, especially in the spring, so my recipe was verrry lemon-y. i also added soy sauce instead of salt, mostly because i didn’t have miso and i love soy sauce on just about everything. luckily, it added just the kick i was looking for, instead of ruining the entire recipe.
SO – let’s start at the very beginning, which sister maria tells us is a very good place to start.
Serves 2. Double the tofu and broccoli portion if you’d like to feed a family of four.
1/2 container of extra firm tofu (the firmer it is, the less gross it is, in my opinion)
1 head of broccoli
3 tsps oil (i use canola since it can withstand high heats)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
To make the tahini sauce:
3/4 cup sesame tahini (you can generally find this in health food stores)
6 lemons, juiced
1 clove of garlic, minced (add more if you like things really garlicky)
2 tsps soy sauce or tamari
3/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups water
start with the dressing. place the tahini, garlic, soy sauce and lemon juice in a blender and whizz until combined. start to drizzle in the water slowly, mixing as you do. add water until you’ve reached your desired consistency. i like mine somewhere in between sauce and dressing – like goldilocks, not too thick and not too thin – but you do your thing. once you’ve reached your desired consistency, transfer to bowl if using immediately, or a container if you’re going to save it. i put mine in a small ball jar and refrigerated it for two days before i took it out for use. it can stay in the fridge for up to two weeks, and you can always add more water at a later date to thin it out a little.
next, heat your oil in a skillet. while it’s heating up, cut your tofu into bite-sized cubes. once the pan is hot, throw the tofu cubes on the skillet. appreciate the sizzle, you’re on your way to becoming a master chef. cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until the tofu is browned nicely. while it’s cooking, cut up your broccoli and dice your garlic. again, you want bite sized piece. of course, feel free to use bigger ones, but don’t call me crying when you can’t fit that baby in your mouth. once your tofu is a nice toasted golden brown, throw the broccoli and garlic into the skillet. if you need to, add a tiny bit more oil. cook until the broccoli is slightly crisp and bright green.
remove from heat, serve either alone or on top of a bed of the grain of your choice (i like brown rice, but quinoa would be yummy too), and drizzle with your tahini sauce. voila, a healthy meal! look at you, you healthy eater! i can’t believe you’re eating tofu!
note: you’ll have plenty of lemon tahini sauce left over. stick it on salads, dip pita bread into it, or drizzle it over wheatberries. this sauce pulls double duty, so use it liberally as you see fit.