People have visions that vegans make meal after meal out of tofu. It seems to be the only vegan source of protein that non-vegans have ever heard of – and many a meat-eater has told me, “I could never become a vegan, because I don’t like tofu.” And, if one more person asked me if I was making “tofurkey” for Thanksgiving…
Well, I hate to shatter your image of tofu-stuffed hippie vegans, but tofu is a rarity in our house and in many vegan homes. Yes, it is a source of vegan protein – but is also soy…and with soy comes controversy. Once deemed a “super” food because of their isoflavones, soy has lost its “super” status. Part of the reason is soy is in everything – baby formula, tuna, bread, salad dressing, energy bars, tortillas, cereal – I dare you to try and find a processed food that is not processed with soy. We have overdosed. Secondly, soy is one of the main crops that is genetically modified. If you aren’t aware of the potential dangers of this – time to educate yourself. Third, and maybe most importantly, if I am going for a plants-based, whole-foods diet – I want, well, whole foods – not coagulated soy juice.
However, we might have tofu once a month (or less, no one, it seems, is really a huge fan.) I’ll put it in Thai curry or make it into fajitas. But not too long ago, we went to a vegetarian restaurant in Denver and my non-vegetarian husband ordered a spice-rubbed tofu that he raved about — so, I thought I’d try and recreate it at home.
The results: Cherry-habenero barbecue tofu with “cheesy” polenta and sautéed beet greens.
I took an entire package of tofu and pressed it under paper towels and a heavy pan for an hour or so to get out much of the moisture. I then sliced it into three skinner slabs and then cut those into steaks. I got out the grill pan for the first time since I’ve been vegan and spritzed it with a bit of olive oil. Brushed the tofu steaks with a little soy sauce and seared them with pretty grill marks.
I topped them with a sauce made from equal parts cherry-pomgranate-habanero sauce, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar which i heated in a sauce pan to just blend. We picked up a huge bottle of the cherry sauce at Costco, but you could always sub in that ubiquitous raspberry-chipotle sauce you find at parties served over cream cheese with ritz crackers.
For the polenta, I cooked about 1 ½ cups of yellow cornmeal in 4 cups of boiling vegetable broth and 1 cup of water and a very generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the cornmeal to prevent clumping and stir often. Cook for 15 to 30 minutes, and finish with generous amounts of cracked black pepper and ½ cup of nutritional yeast (or to taste). Creamy comfort food at its best. If you’ve never tried polenta – don’t miss it. Top this with sauteed mushrooms if you aren’t into the tofu.
For the greens – any will do, I just had a bunch of beet greens from my co-op offering of the week. Try kale, spinach, collards…even mustards if you like the bitter kick. Wash them thoroughly and then saute them with a bit of garlic and olive oil until just crisp-cooked. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.