Finally! A Delish Tofu Recipe You'll Actually Wanna Make

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DinnerTofuEmbedPhoto: Courtesy of Dinner: A Love Story.

Let's face it: You're busy — too busy to mess around with complicated cooking at the end of the day. Still, dinner should be more than just a cup full of cereal and the dream of a brighter tomorrow. Enter: Jenny Rosenstrach, a busy mom who makes dinner happen with style, simplicity, and just the right amount of sizzle. Whether or not you're cooking for kids, we love her easy, delicious approach. In fact, we love it so much, we'll be sharing one of her recipes every week, so you can have a life — and a REALLY good meal, too.

It’s too embarrassing to admit how many times I’ve picked up a block of extra firm tofu at The Trader Joe’s Sunday Shop, only to have it end up, four weeks later, in the garbage can of good intentions. Nonetheless, this past weekend, I tossed one into the cart, avoiding eye contact with my husband who would no doubt be happy to point out my current 0-and-5 bean curd record. Why does it go to waste every time? Why do I have such a hard time figuring out what to do with it? Well, in addition to the big huge minus of the kids not fully embracing tofu (“It’s like a wet, flavorless marshmallow,” Phoebe once said), I’m just not confident cooking and experimenting with it, and I don’t feel like I have an archive of inspiring recipes. Once, I confessed all this insecurity to a blogger whose posts led me to believe she had an advanced degree in Tofu, and begged her to be my Tofu Tutor. I think I scared her off, because I never heard from her again.

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But this past Monday, I wasn’t messing around. In order for Tofu Family Dinner to happen, clearly I had to get out of my own way. So I made a plan. First, on Facebook I asked you guys for suggestions. Wowowowow! Why don’t I do this more? Three hours and more than 70 ideas later, I whittled the choices down to five, with the finalists mostly being chosen for simplicity, pantry overlap (no way was I hitting the store the day after our weekly shop), and how golden and shiny the tofu looked. (I did not want anything remotely resembling a marshmallow.) Next, I sent this email to Andy.

From: Jenny Rosenstrach [mailto:jenny@dinneralovestory.com]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:10 PM
To: W, Andy
Subject: Tofu Multiple Choice

Which one do you want for dinner:
a) Maple-Miso Tofu
b) Mongolian Stir-fry
c) Brown Rice Sushi Bowl with Tofu and Avocado
d) Soy glazed Tofu and Carrots
e) Ma Po Tofu

I’m not holding my breath that girls will eat. We have leftover chicken for them.

Can you tell I’m procrastinating my real work in a major way? I hyperlinked the recipes for him and everything. This was his response:

From: Andy [mailto:andy@dinneralovestory.com]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:10 PM
To: R, Jenny
Subject: Tofu Multiple Choice

B! But without that much garlic.

tofuEMBEDPhoto: Courtesy of Dinner: A Love Story .
So that’s what you’re looking at below. Did the girls like it? No, but they each tried a bite before digging into their auxiliary proteins (leftover chicken sandwiches). For Andy and me, though, it was one of those dinners that ended up pre-empting all other conversation at the table. (“We need to make this again.” and “Damn!” and “So healthy!” and “How can you guys not like this?”) Thanks to all my Facebook friends who shared their recipes, particularly Libby, Andrea, Mary, and Miller for providing the finalists above — and big thanks to Jessica who has officially introduced a keeper to the DALS rotation.

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Mongolian Stir-fry
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter, but, per Andy’s request, limited the garlic, used less sugar, and added some vinegar and fresh squeezed lime to cut the salty-sweetness. FYI: To press tofu, place your tofu block on a plate, cover with a few paper towels, then place a heavy pan on top for at least 30 minutes.

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil (or olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 scallion chopped (for garnish)
Fresh lime juice

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cornstarch to the tofu in a small bowl and toss to coat. Add the tofu to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.

While the tofu is cooking, combine the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, 1/2 cup water, and brown sugar. Mix well.

When tofu has browned, add the sauce, stir, then bring to a simmer before reducing heat to low. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until sauce has thickened and reduced.

Serve with brown rice, soba noodles, or green beans, and garnish with green onion and a squeeze of lime.

Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of Dinner: A Love Story and the blog of the same name. She and her husband write The Providers column for Bon Appetit.