Tofu, also known as soybean curd, is a soft, cheese-like food made by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant. To make tofu from soymilk, you use the same basic process that is used to make cheese & cottage cheese from milk. Traditionally, the curdling agent is a compound found in natural ocean water, or calcium sulfate. Curds also can be produced by acidic foods like lemon juice, or vinegar. Curds are then processed into a solid block.
Tofu is rich in high-quality protein. It is also a good source of B-vitamins and iron. When the curdling agent used to make tofu is calcium salt, the tofu is an excellent source of calcium. While 50% of the calories in tofu come from fat, a 4-ounce serving of tofu contains just 6 grams of fat. It is low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. Generally, the softer the tofu, the lower the fat.
Where to buy tofu:
Tofu most commonly is sold in water-filled tubs, vacuum packs, or in aseptic brick packages. Tofu is usually found in the produce section of the grocery store, although some stores do sell it in the dairy or deli sections. Tofu is sometimes sold in bulk in food cooperatives or Asian markets.
Types of Tofu:
Tofu comes in soft ("silken" and "soft") and hard ("firm" and "extra firm") varieties, which makes it very versatile. Silken and soft tofu have less fat and calories than firm or extra firm tofu, but this is due to the fact that they have a higher water content. The fat in all types of tofu is mostly unsaturated.
How to store it:
Unless it is aseptically packaged, tofu should be kept cold. As with any perishable product, check the expiration date on the package.
Once the tofu package has been opened, leftover tofu should be rinsed and covered with fresh water for storage. Change the water daily to keep it fresh, and use the tofu within a week.
Tofu can be kept frozen for up to 5 months. Defrosted tofu has a pleasant caramel color and a chewy texture that soaks up marinade sauces and is great for the grill.
Tips for using tofu:
With its soft consistency and mild taste, tofu is a perfect food for everyone.
Use silken tofu for dressings, dips and desserts:
- In place of cream in sauces
- Substitue for mayonnaise or sour cream in salad dressing or dip
- Use to make pie filling, custard or cheesecake
Soft tofu is moist, but firmer than silken tofu. It also is good for dressings and dips:
- Substitute it for soft cheeses in recipes such as lasagna
- Use to make breakfast shakes
- Puree with friuts and vegetables
Firm and extra-firm tofu will hold texture and shape in salads, soups and stir frys:
- Use for imitation egg salad
- Mash tofu with cottage cheese and seasoning to make a sandwhich spread
- Use mashed tofu bread crumbs and chopped onion to create "tofu burgers"
- Marinate in BBQ sauce and grill
- Use in place of meat or chicken in stir fry dishes, or with fajita dishes