Tofu is a product of soybeans. It is an inexpensive source of protein and a source of mild and safe estrogen. If you’re wanting to be a vegetarian or just cut down on meat protein, it’s a great substitute. I’ve heard it derided as nothing but plastic but that’s not true. The argument is that the chemical structure of tofu is one molecule away from plastic. Well, hydrogen pyroxide (H2O2) is one molecule away from water (H2O) but one can be drunk and one can’t. What is also true is that soybeans in this country were originally used as animal feed, ink, and almost any product but people food. When people started using it as food in this country its other uses continued and expanded. So is this very versatile soy safe as food? Yes. Thousands of years of food use in Asian countries attest to that.
But, how do you use it? Many times I brought the little square box of tofu home from the grocery and put it on the pantry shelf. I would take it out and look at it, then put it back. I usually did this until it expired, then threw it away. But I’d always go get another one. My problem; I didn’t know what to do with it. That problem got solved in a different way. I had to quit using dairy products (milk, not egg) and felt lost without them. Lasagna without cottage cheese and mozzarella? Pumpkin pie without canned milk? Cottage cheese and pears without cottage cheese? Dairy was embedded in my cooking. Then I found a book called the “Uncheese Cookbook” with recipes for making any kind of cheese imaginable from non dairy ingredients, including tofu. That got me launched. You can see the updated version of that great book in the link below.
Back to basics. Two kinds of tofu are generally available. Silken tofu is aseptically packaged in a small box and is shelf stable. This has a custard-like texture and makes great creamy dishes such as ranch dressing, sour cream, dips, and ice cream. I also use it in baked products such as pumpkin pie. I use it to make my version of cottage cheese and that recipe can be seen below.
Water packed tofu is found in the refrigerator section of your grocery or health food store. Its texture is firmer than silken and can be made more meat-like if frozen and thawed before use. It becomes quite chewy but not tough. There are many great recipes available on-line. Inquire “Tofu recipes” or try www.recipe.com.
There are 2 kinds of tofu generally available distinguished by their texture. Both kinds have no flavor of their own so take on the flavor of any seasoning you use. If all else fails, go to your local health food store. In addition to basic tofu, you’ll find many prepared items such as cheese (non-dairy) and ice cream and seasoned tofu, ready to use.
TOFU COTTAGE CHEESE
1 13oz. box firm silken tofu
1 TBL finely sliced green onion tops (or use less of finely cut fresh chives)
1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar or honey
Open the tofu box and drain off any excess water. Put the tofu in a bowl and with a pastry blender (or a fork), cut the tofu until it forms pieces of the size you like for cottage cheese such as large curd or small curd. Take out 2 heaping tablespoons of tofu and put in a small bowl. To this add the vinegar, honey and salt. Whip it until it is very creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. You want a flavor that is reminiscent of sour cream only not as strong. Pour this into the large bowl of cut up tofu along with the green onions. Gently blend with a rubber scraper. Refrigerate until ready to use and enjoy.
Most grocery stores carry silken tofu in the Produce department.