Say what you will about tofu, but in its plain, once-cooked, straight out of the package form, it's kinda bland. Fortunately, it's also ripe for absorbing lots of tasty sauces and marinades, and cooking it can change the texture in all kinds of interesting ways. I once spent a week experimenting with different ways of frying tofu, but that's a story for a different node. You're here to read about Balsamic Baked Tofu, and read about it you shall.
I've been experimenting with/obsessing about baked tofu on and off for a few months now, since discovering the recipes for it in Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, which is my current favorite cookbook of all time. This recipe is adapted from one of their "Lemony Baked Tofu" recipes (see below for full citation). Before I get to the recipe itself, a few notes on why baked tofu rocks my world: it makes amazing sandwiches, sammiches, really. Although it can also be eaten warm, with rice or pasta and/or vegetables as a side dish, or hot or cold on salad, I really like it best cold, as a sandwich filling. It's chewy and quite satisfying. But enough about me. On to the recipe. If you like this stuff, you can find your own delicious uses for it (let me know!)
- 1 cake firm tofu (16 ounces)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (mixed dried herbs like rosemary, oregano, and thyme) OR, if you have them fresh 1 tablespoon of the same herbs, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- salt (to taste or optional depending on how salty your stock is)
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed or pressed (you want it releasing all its pungenty oils for all it's worth)
- knife and cutting board
- plates and weights for squeezing tofu (optional)
- a small nonreactive baking dish (i.e. stainless steel, Pyrex, ceramic, anything but aluminum; small means 8x8 inches, 7x9 inches, or even a 9 or 10 inch diameter pie pan)
- measuring cups and spoons
- a bowl and whisk for preparing the marinade
- an oven and potholders or whatever tools you prefer for handling hot things
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the cake of tofu into four slices of equal thickness and set aside (if you want, you can press it between two plates under books or other heavy weights to remove excess water, but it doesn't make too much of a difference with this recipe).
Whisk together all the remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour half of the marinade into the baking dish, and arrange the tofu slices in a single layer. Pour the rest of the marinade over the tofu.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, turning the slices of tofu once after 30 minutes (the edges should be very brown and beginning to curl up). The longer you bake the tofu, the chewier the final product will be. WARNING! Be careful opening the oven; you will be greeted by a blast of hot vaporized vinegar fumes. Approach with caution, at your own risk (seriously, it can sting your eyes and nose something awful, so wait a few seconds for the air around the oven to clear). When the baking is done, remove the pan of tofu from the oven and transfer the slices to a different container so they won't get stuck to the pan as they cool. ANOTHER WARNING! The pan will be an utter bitch to clean. I am not exaggerating. Soak it in hot water for a good long time and don't try to wash off all the baked-on marinade at once. If you have any cleaning tips for me, I'd love to hear them.
Makes 4 servings (in particular, each of the slices, sliced once more to halve its thinnest dimension to around 1/3 inch thickness, will make a great sandwich).
Inspired by/adapted from/derivative of: "Lemony Baked Tofu", Moosewood Restaurant New Classics (New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2001.), p. 223.