They grow tofu in Ithaca? What? I know that place is crazy, but c’mon….
Well, a farmer in Trumansburg grows organic, non-GMO soybeans, and he sells them to a guy in downtown Ithaca, who then creates tofu and tofu khan out of them beans. Ithaca Soy is located on Fourth Street, and their tofu is a super local source of protein year-round.
Tofu is made by essentially producing soy milk and coagulating it with either gypsum or a sea vegetable product, similar to how animal milk is separated into curds and whey using rennet. The coagulated soy is then molded into cubes and pressed.
If you are like me, you may have burnt out on tofu at an early age due your overly-zealous hippie parents’ enthusiasm for it, and once you reached the point of freedom when you weren’t dependent on the family fridge for sustenance, you swore off tofu.
If this sounds familiar, or if you aren’t a tofu fan for other reasons, I suggest you give it another go. Not eat it every day, but add it to your diet as a perfectly yummy, healthy food that is a marvelous compliment to other foods. Like all good things, use tofu in moderation. Its mild flavor and texture are fabulous vehicles for other flavors. It likes being baked, fried, deep-fried, scrambled, grilled, and smoked. You name it.
Tofu is unforgiving in one way: it shows the cook’s attention to flavoring with brutal honesty. It is only as good as you make it. That said, it’s pretty easy to make it good: just approach it with a light hand and a toned-down version of well-meaning hippie zeal.
Simple Baked Tofu
1 block of tofu, cut into even, one-inch cubes (which is very satisfying to do, if I do say so myself)
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 heaping tablespoon of dried thyme
Marinate tofu in a single layer in a wide, flat-bottomed dish in the tamari, cider vinegar, sunflower oil, sesame oil and thyme. Be very liberal with the dried thyme. It is key.
If you have the time, marinate for at least an hour, turning the cubes once or twice.
If you have a half an hour to let the dish bake, pre-heat the oven to 325. If you’re pressed for time, you can turn the oven up to 425 and bake faster. Try both to see which you prefer.
Lay the cubes of tofu in a single layer on a baking tray to cook. Make sure they are wet with the marinade, but don’t pool the marinade on the tray – it will just burn. The leftover marinade can be used in a salad dressing or in other ways (unlike meat marinades, which are not safe to use again).
Bake until the tofu is brown and looks good to you.
Serve right away, or refrigerate and eat cold. Baked tofu is good on salads, as a side to rice and root vegetables, dropped in a quick miso broth, and lots of other ways. I like it alongside sweet orange vegetables: roasted carrots, winter squash, or sweet potatoes.
I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like baked tofu, and there are a lots of various flavor options to experiment with, like ginger, curry, fresh herbs and garlic paste, chipotle, sweet and sour … How awesome that we have a year-round, made-in-Ithaca protein suitable for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.