Tofu is one of those things that people seem to either love or hate. LB and I happen to be on the love side of the tofu fence, and even if you only think it's an okay source of protein, you might just give this a try anyway and see what you think.
Back in "the day," before my tofu loving days (yikes, I just turned 30, so what day would that be?), I had eaten it strictly with Asian dishes, mostly at Chinese restaurants, and would never have dreamed of cooking it myself. In fact, I didn't cook much back then anyway. Thus, being a tofu-cooking virgin and all, when I first began my forays into the realms of this mysterious yet desirable food, I started out buying baked tofu. The texture was somewhat more appealing than the cold and mushy stuff that came packed in water (and I'll be the first to admit that even the extra-firm tofu is still a bit soft). I think I cut it up and put it in pasta salads with chunks of mozzarella, torn basil and fresh cherry tomatoes or some such thing. I really tested the limits here when I tried mixing up the flavors - from Italian- to Thai-flavored baked tofu. Ohhhh...I felt so daring! This bumbling attempt at first base, as it tends to be sometimes, was only mildly satisfying and soon I had visions of pushing the boundaries and going a bit further.
When I finally got up the nerve to try and reach second base, opening up one of those watery packages and letting my fingers caress one of those big juicy white blocks, I was well on my way to tofu love. I added big chunks of the fluffy stuff to stir fries - mixing it in with snow peas, carrots, water chesnuts, bean sprouts - all the good stir-fry stuff. Because that's what you use tofu for, right? "Asian" food and health food (and I didn't know how to make weird health food dishes, so those I bought pre-made), and that's about the extent of my affair with it.
I rounded third base when I learned to drain and then gently fry the tofu in a small amount of oil. This gave the little cubes and rectangles I had cut from the big block a nice, almost crispy texture that held up better in stir fries and in my favorite udon noodle soup. These experiments led to things like grilled tofu and tofu larb (another favorite). This was a whole new level of experience for me! I'd spend my time flipping through cookbooks, looking for new ways to satisfy my tofu cravings. By this time, there was no turning back. I had to go all the way.
And there's nothing quite like crossing home plate, baby. I discovered this tofu recipe in an old Martha Stewart cookbook I picked up from our local independent book store in Eugene (Smith Family Books), and it's been a favorite ever since. We've modified it on occasion, adding different garnishes, etc. but it's so simple that you really don't even need a recipe (though the sauce is good). And it's not only a favorite recipe, but the best way to eat tofu that I've found. It's tofu, in it's purest, naked form - it's birthday suit, really - raw. When I first saw the recipe: Cold Tofu Salad with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce, I wasn't too sure about raw tofu, but I thought, what the heck? I was in love with tofu already...might as well try it once. Even if it's not everything I hoped for, it would probably still be good anyway, right? And it might even elevate my relationship with tofu to a whole different level. So I did it. I tried it. And it was good. Really good. Raw and primal and delicious. So good, in fact, that I even told my friends about it. So good that I'm posting it here and trying to convince you that you should try it too...like I said, it's a home run, baby. Next inning, please...
Cold Tofu Salad with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce, serves 4
recipe originally from Martha Steward Healthy Quick Cook
1 block extra firm tofu (preferably organic)
4 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced lengthwise into strips
2 tsps black sesame seeds
garnishes - bean sprouts, a cherry tomato, anything you'd like really
2 cups crushed ice, for serving
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 inch of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 scallion, thinly sliced crosswise
Slice a block of extra firm tofu into thin slices - thick enough that you can pick them up with chopsticks, but thin enough that you can enjoy the flavor without thinking to yourself, "crap, I've got a big bunch of raw tofu in my mouth!" Put crushed ice in bowls so that there is a mound on the bottom of each bowl, and lay the slices on top of the ice so that there are equal numbers in each bowl (trust me, I'm not usually one to worry about how something is served, but the ice actually makes this better). Garnish the top with the black sesame seeds (or toasted white ones would work too, but the black is a great contrast), and any other garnishes you want to add. Aliquot out the dipping sauce so that there is a small bowl for each person. Dip, eat and fall in love.