Forty years after it was introduced to mainstream America, tofu remains a mystery to most people. Tofu is a soy food, made through a process similar to cheese making. Hot water is pressed through ground soybeans, producing soymilk. The liquid is curdled to clump the dissolved solids using a mineral salt. These curds are pressed and drained until they reach the desired texture: firm, soft or silken.
Dieticians praise tofu as a rich source of all the goodies found in soybeans, including complete protein, iron and manganese. But adventurous cooks love its culinary possibilities. Firm tofu is sturdy enough for grilling, baking or frying. Soft tofu is crumbly, good for stove top skillet dishes. Silken tofu is smooth, just right for pudding and cream soup. Plus, pressed bean curd is like a wrung-out sponge, thirsty to soak up any flavor, from chocolate to barbecue sauce. Frozen, thawed tofu is especially absorbent.
Tofu can be a vegan substitute or recipe stretcher, replacing eggs in a cake and ground beef in a casserole. For a true tofu adventure, however, choose treatments that showcase the food. Firm tofu can be sliced, marinated and grilled like steaks. Try a milkshake of silken tofu, milk and fresh fruit. Blend soft tofu with frozen lemonade concentrate for a no-bake lemon custard.
Our next food also lends itself to innovation. But it doesn't hide its taste. You might even say it "hogs" the spotlight.