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Tofu Basics

Tofu is a healthful addition to a diet, and a familiarity with the different types and textures will make it easier to use

Tofu is basically coagulated soybean curds. It can be fried, grilled, or baked, and incorporated into a wide variety of everyday dishes. Except for the silken variety, tofu freezes well. In fact, freezing tofu will enhance flavor-absorption.

Tofu is available in soft, firm, and extra-firm. Soft tofu is ideal for purees, dips, and soups. The firmer varieties can hold up to stir-frying, baking, grilling, and crumbling. Silken tofu is pasteurized and does not require refrigeration. It's best uses are the same as for the soft variety. It can be used as egg replacement in some recipes. It can be processed in a blender or by hand to reach a mayonnaise-type consistency.

Liquid should be removed from tofu before using with marinades. To press, wrap in several paper towels, place it on a plate, and top with a bag of rice. After 15 minutes, replace with dry towels and let sit for an additional 15 minutes.

Marinated, baked tofu is used in such recipes as lasagna and enchiladas; it can be crumbled into salads or sliced for sandwiches. It should be cut into slices (about ½-inch thick) and simmered (approximately 15 minutes) in the marinade of your choice. It can then be coated with sesame oil and baked for 10 minutes in a 450-degree oven.

To fry tofu, coat it with flour and a light seasoning of choice, if desired. Place in hot oil and fry until browned on both sides. Drain and sprinkle with soy sauce.

Always use no later than the expiration date or freeze. Unopened it will take about 3 days to thoroughly freeze. It can be thawed on the countertop. It will keep in the refrigerator after opening if it is placed in water and in a container that is sealed tightly. The water should be changed daily (sniff for an "off" odor) until tofu is used up.

Natural food markets will carry the widest range of tofu along with a variety of products that are made with or from tofu.

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