Try It, You'll Like It

Having grown up on the typical American diet of meat and potatoes (with an occasional foray into the world or rice), I wasn't introduced to tofu until high school. Not that I tried tofu in high school, but I heard about it and was convinced that it couldn't possibly be delicious. In college, I tried the "blackened tofu" that our cafeteria offered. It was detestable: firm tofu sprinkled with cajun seasoning and grilled. It even sounds disgusting.

Finally, in seminary, I was served pan-fried, extra-firm tofu and fell in love. Marinated in a small amount of soy sauce and sesame oil, I could have eaten it like popcorn. In fact, after using it to top our salads or stir fries, the extra bits would disappear quickly. These perfectly crisp, delectably seasoned bits of flash-fried goodness constituted the perfect re-introduction to a food I once considered unfit for human consumption.

Since my re-introduction, I've enjoyed tofu in many forms, but it wasn't until very recently that I prepared a recipe that included tofu for myself. Inspired by my vegetarian friend, Matthew, who promised to post any number of hippie tofu recipes on Recipe Awesomeness, I decided to post one of my own. I would love to claim this as my own creation, but it comes from The Commonsense Kitchen, by Tom Hudgens, my favorite cookbook of the past few months. This Curry Tofu Salad is terrific as a sandwich filling or served atop a delicious lettuce.

1 pound firm tofu
3/4 teaspoon of salt, plus more as needed
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil of other vegetable oil
6 large white mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, halved, and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons mild or hot curry powder
1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium stalk celery, finely diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro (optional)

Crumble the tofu finely in a medium bowl, sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt, and mix well.

Finely mince together the ginger and garlic. In a wide skillet over a medium-high flame, heat the oil. Throw in the garlic and ginger with a pinch of salt and saute, stirring, for 20 to 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt, then add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the tofu, continuing to stir as the tofu heats through and excess water evaporates, 4 to 5 mintues. When there is no more excess water, remove from the heat and let the tofu cool completely in the pan, about 30 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients: carrot, green onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, lemon, black pepper to taste, and optional herbs. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, lemon juice, or mayonnaise to balance. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
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