This could also be called “Maple-Lemon Tofu with a little side of funky.” Or MORE Tofu, as in “I wish there were more tofu.” It is our new favorite tofu recipe, which is saying a lot, since we have a number of excellent tofu recipes up our sleeves around here.
|Those are the first spring chives from our garden! They were one inch long, and I picked two of them.|
Tofu is one of the few things we all love equally. I know that’s a weird thing to say from just about every angle: first of all, loving tofu is kind of like loving a sea sponge or loving Styrofoam. And second of all: Really? Doesn’t our whole family eat just about everything? And the short answer to that is no. In fact, we are in an odd phase of becoming more, rather than less, difficult to feed. Birdy has become a serious vegetarian, and by “serious” I mean that she won’t even eat bacon anymore, which is the dietary equivalent of wearing a soy yarmulke. Luckily, however, she would still prefer bread and cheese to just about any complicated something you might think to serve her, so she is not a difficult person to feed. Even though she claims to not like soup. (WTF?)
|Birdy, waiting for her friends to arrive. Sigh. Stay gold, Ponyboy.|
Meanwhile, Ben, who has always passionately loathed watermelon and raw tomatoes, has started also to dislike shrimp, arugula, beets, sesame seeds, and all egg dishes, such as quiche, that are not simply the eggs themselves. Unless the eggs are hardboiled, in which case he would sooner gulp from a pool of stagnating muck than eat them. Then there’s Michael, who won’t eat goat cheese, cottage cheese, polenta, winter squash, avocado, tropical fruits, walnuts, olives or anything that smells like it ever thought about olives. Me, I won’t eat overripe bananas or undercooked eggplant, and I don’t love white pepper.
On the one hand, that is, cumulatively, a lot of different foods to avoid. On the other hand, everybody in the family has a positive outlook about food, and so I don’t get a claustrophobic feeling trying to squeeze dinner into everyone. Picky eating is, I think, a state of mind. If you have a good attitude and an adventurous spirit, I don’t really care what you do and don’t eat. Especially since we all love beans and rice, and bread and cheese, and salad, and most fruits and veggies—and those are our main food groups. Along with tofu, which is where I’ve been headed all along here.
|Tofu has the added advantage of being nice and cheap.|
This recipe makes tofu with a custardy inside and a golden, crusty outside that’s thickly glazed with sweet-and-sour saltiness. Do you know Bragg’s Liquid Aminos? I know. It just gives you a vague ninth-grade biology feeling, the word “aminos.” I don’t understand what the point of them is, and I don’t know if they’re made by the Dr. Bronner soap people, and that’s why the bottle is covered in crazy talking. But it tastes funkily delicious: like vegemite crossed with soy sauce and distilled through the umami machine. It appears to contain both essential and NON-essential amino acids (look out!) and, let’s be frank, is mostly salt. It makes everything taste like the dry-sautéed string beans you might get at a Chinese restaurant, in a good way.
|It looks like we were doing shots.|
Meanwhile, you already know about maple syrup, which is sweet, and lemon, which is sour, and garlic, which is garlicky. Altogether, it’s one of the stickiest, crunchiest, yummiest tofu dishes you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating. Report back, okay?
Serves 4 (but double the recipe if you want to forestall complaining)
A version of this recipe circulates online as Matthew’s Delicious Tofu, and it has ginger in it and less lemon. I like it better the way I make it. It is one of the very few dishes in which I use lemon juice but not the zest. I’m not really going for the lemon flavor as much as the tartness—in fact, you could use rice vinegar instead, if it’s what you’ve got.
1 block firm or extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced or put through a garlic press
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup Bragg liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Finely snipped chives or scallions, for garnish
If you have time, wrap the tofu in a clean dish towel and put something heavy on it, such as a large can, then leave it to drain for a half an hour or an hour or so (I did this while the rice was cooking.)
Slice the tofu into 12 skinny slices, then cut those in half so that you end up with 24 skinny half slices. Now multiply that by the square root of kill me and you’ll have exactly π.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Lay the tofu in the pan in a single layer and leave it undisturbed for 5 or 6 or even 7 minutes. By this point it should be golden and crisp on the bottom (it won’t get very dark, but it will look nice and appetizing). Flip all the pieces and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, then lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, and move it around with a spatula for a minute. You’ll have to kind of fry the garlic in the spaces between the tofu.
Now add the maple syrup, Braggs, and lemon juice to the pan, and shake the pan to make sure that all the tofu gets coated with the sauce. Cook for a minute or so, then flip all the pieces and cook for another minute or so, until the sauce is reduced to a syrupy glaze and all the tofu looks nicely coated. Arrange the tofu on a platter, top with the chives or scallions, and serve.
|Weighting the tofu.|
|Cutting the tofu.|
|Frying the tofu.|
|Admiring the tofu.|
|We ate it with brown rice and a spinach salad. Yum.|
|Birdy likes to eat with a single stubby chopstick that she carved herself. She uses it like a cross between a fork and a harpoon.|