When I was a kid, I thought tofu was hilarious. My brother and I would crack up whenever it showed up on our table, jiggling, soap-colored, and ridiculously unappealing. Our mother, a graduate of U.C. Berkeley in the ’60s and freshly steeped in counter-culture rectitude, had been experimenting with ethical ways to feed the family. But we were not having any of it. Just saying the word made us goofy.
Fortunately, tofu has grown up or, rather, we have. No longer the exclusive province of Asian or hippie fare, the mild-mannered coagulation of soybeans, water and salt has become the darling of modern menus across the country. Chefs appreciate its versatility as a flavor conduit, a meatless protein powerhouse, and an ingredient of many charms. With all the varieties available to home cooks, from refrigerated to baked, from ground to sliced, tofu has moved from indie manna to mainstream staple.
This colorful dish brings out the softer side of tofu, like creamy scrambled eggs spiked with Mexican flavors. Don’t be timid with the spices — tofu is so neutral in flavor and is quite bland until penetrated with seasoning. Add some textural punch with sliced zucchini, spinach, corn kernels, black beans, or leftover cooked vegetables from the night before. If you like to start your day with meat, toss in some sausage, chorizo, or diced Canadian bacon (Yves Veggie makes terrific meat-free versions, sold in the refrigerated case of most supermarkets).
I’m also including Bobby Flay’s recipe for Salsa Verde because (a) I have a mad crush on him; (b) about sauce, he knows; and (c) for St. Paddy’s Day, you deserve a little giggle.
Bobby Flay’s Salsa Verde
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, coarsely diced
8 tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegan margarine, divided (I use Earth Balance)
3-1/2 ounces cremini or shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch green onions (about 4), white and green parts, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted, seeded and diced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric or mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 (19-ounce) package silken or firm organic tofu, drained as dry as possible on kitchen towels and crumbled
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or chives
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, Cotija or vegan cheese, grated
1 avocado, diced
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Corn tortillas, for serving
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Make the Salsa Verde: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeno and cook until soft. Add the tomatillos and cook until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the lime juice, honey, and cilantro, and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
3. In a medium-sized cast-iron pan, heat the butter or margarine over a medium flame. Sauté the mushrooms until softened and browned. Add the green onion, jalapeno and spices, and continue to cook until softened.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the juices have released and evaporated. Add the crumbled tofu to the pan and gently toss to incorporate. Season well with salt and pepper and additional spices if desired. Toss with the chopped chives or cilantro.
5. Sprinkle with the cheese and transfer the pan to the broiler to melt the cheese. Top with diced avocado and serve with Salsa Verde, sour cream if desired, and warm tortillas.
For another wholesome breakfast to make for friends or family, try my Bulls-Eye Eggs with Spicy Arrabiata Sauce.
There is still time to enter March’s Green Recipe Contest. Your recipe could win you some fabulous gifts for your kitchen!
Photo credit: natebeaty / Flickr.com