This crispy tofu casserole got me hooked on tofu

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I’ve been on a tofu kick lately. But you know what? I never thought I would write that sentence. I grew up in the meat-and-potatoes Midwest, and steak was on the dinner table more often than not. For most of my life I thought of tofu as something that other people liked – it just wasn’t for me. Even when I lived in a vegetarian co-op, I avoided it, favoring other plant proteins over the creamy blocks of bean curd.

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About five years ago, motivated by friends who loved tofu and my desire to be a recipe developer, I decided I needed to understand and embrace the ingredient. After all, it is a staple in the diets of millions of people worldwide. It is highly nutritious and a dense source of complete protein that does not come with the animal welfare or climate crisis problems that meat brings with it. I was going to learn to love tofu.

Get the recipe: Crispy tofu and zucchini stir-fry

I started cooking with it, experimenting with silk, firm, extra firm and super firm varieties. I ate tofu plain and marinated, sautéed and baked, fried and grilled. I sliced ​​it, shredded it, crumbled it, diced it, and sliced ​​it. Eventually I started to enjoy it. But when I got hungry, I still didn’t think: “I would like some tofu right now.

Then I met my boyfriend, Joe. He is a good cook and tofu is often in his fridge. One night he fried okonomiyaki for dinner and topped each pancake with strips of marinated and seared tofu. I liked it so much I assumed it was an aberration. “Maybe I was just really hungry,” I thought. A few weeks later he made us an eggplant and tofu scramble with a sweet, spicy and salty sauce. It was served over rice – my favorite type of meal – and I didn’t just have seconds. I had thirds.

“How is this tofu so good?” I was bleeding, mouth still half full.

“I love it when the outside is a little crispy and the inside is still spongy, don’t you?” said Joe.

That was it. It’s not that I haven’t had fried tofu before. It was that I hadn’t stopped to appreciate the great potential for textural variation. In the right oil, at the right temperature, cubes of plain tofu take on a golden brown crust while the inside remains soft. I love the fried nuggets so much that I have often popped them in my mouth, like pieces of popcorn.

Fried tofu was the catalyst for this recipe, a seasonal stir-fry with an adaptable sauce. First, deep-fry tofu cubes in vegetable oil until they take up the thin, crispy exterior. Then fry the onion and zucchini until they soften and blister. Make a sauce with garlic, ginger, and a few pantry items, including soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, or — my favorite — doubanjiang or Sichuan chili bean paste. Depending on the base you use, you’ll end up with a batter glazed in some salt; sweet and salty; or sweet, salty and spicy.

After I developed this recipe, I made it three more times—not just to test it, but because it’s so easy to love, it’s become my favorite way to eat tofu.

Get the recipe: Crispy tofu and zucchini stir-fry

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