I grew up pretty much unaware of tofu as food that I might actually want to eat. Most of the meals I remember centered around meat: chicken casserole, hamburger goulash, baked flounder, etc. Not terribly unusual for someone whose grandparents grew up on farms.
I first encountered tofu on a regular basis in college, where firm tofu was ubiquitous on the salad bar and, for the first time, I had friends who were vegetarian. I ate it then, but I can't say I loved it. Even when I experimented with my food identity, first becoming vegetarian and later going through a vegan phase for 8 months, I never really got the hang of tofu.
In the past few years I've found new techniques for cooking tofu though. I have a killer baked soy-sesame tofu recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. I learned about stir-frying tofu from a mini-tutorial in EatingWell. In general, I feel more confident in my abilities with tofu now. So last Friday, when I needed to either invent dinner from our larder or go shopping, I opted to stay home and do a little experimental tofu cookery. Enter Project Tofu Loaf.
I've never made a loaf out of anything but flour, turkey, or ground beef. So I did what most internet-addicts do--I googled it. A Google search for tofu loaf turns up a bunch of results for a recipe called Tip Top Tofu Loaf. At first, I thought someone had just discovered the nirvana of tofu loaves. After reading a few negative recipe reviews, however, I realized that they were all test-driving a particular recipe from La Dolce Vegan. The message I got was: whatever you do, don't make it bland.
Most tofu loaves call for tofu, some bread crumbs or oatmeal, spices, ketchup, and maybe some tahini. I couldn't find any "this was fabulous!" reviews for this breed of loaf so I decided to base my flavor principle on one of my favorite condiments: spicy peanut sauce.
When the Science Teacher came home, the loaf was already baking and I was upstairs playing with the Little Pottamus. He walked into the room, and we started talking. Casually, I said, "Guess what's for dinner, honey?"
"Soup from the soup restaurant?" he answered, half hopefully. "No," I said, "even better." He gave me the dubious look he reserves for my announcement that I've snuck vegetables into the dessert again and asked, "Okay, what then?"
"Tofu loaf!" I said brightly. Then a forlorn expression of horror and disbelief crossed his face. I laughed so hard I fell over on the floor and cried. "Is it shaped like a turkey?" he asked as I continued to cry.
When dinner time arrive, he poked skeptically at the loaf and said, "You should have called it tofu bake. 'Bake' doesn't conjure images of lentil pate and other hippie delicacies." Then he took a bite. And another. And another. After consuming the bigger part of a large hunk of tofu loaf, he asked, "Next time will you put some chopped up peanuts in it, too?"
Asian-Style Tofu Loaf
1 14-oz container firm tofu
1/2 c. TVP
1 c. GF bread crumbs
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1-2 tsp. chili-garlic paste (sriracha)
2-3 tbsp. peanut butter
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tbsp. lime juice
Place the TVP in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over the TVP until it's covered. Put a lid or plate over the bowl, and allow to sit.
Saute the onion and carrots in the olive oil until the carrots are tender (maybe 10 min.). Add the chili-garlic paste in the last few minutes of cooking.
Crumble the tofu in a large bowl. Add the TVP. Add the sauted veggies. Add the peanut butter and stir well to distribute. Add the soy sauce, tumeric, and lime juice, and stir well. Press the mixture into a greased 8x8 dish, and bake for 50 min. at 350 in a preheated oven. Allow to cool before cutting.