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Meatless Monday Recipe: Baked Tofu and Homemade Croutons

I get it when people tell me they don't like tofu. In and of itself, tofu is bland and mushy. But you have to think of it as a blank slate. It'll take on the wonderful flavors of what it's cooked with, and, done right, out of the oven or the frying pan, it's delightfully crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Honestly, there's nothing like perfectly done tofu. More often than not though, when ordered out, it's less than perfect. But I've got a recipe that is pretty hard to screw up. It makes the perfect baked tofu time after time. 

Baked tofu is super versatile. You can put it on a stir fry or curry dish, dip it in peanut sauce, slice it for sandwiches, include it in a roasted vegetables dish or add it to a salad, as I've done, just to name a few. It's a wonderful vegan staple. (Look for organic, nonGMO.)

And while I'm at it, I'll include an easy quick recipe for homemade croutons for salads or soups--they're so good, you'll want to just eat them as a snack, too! I learned this recipe years ago at a Spork Foods cooking class, and I still make it frequently.

Baked Tofu

Ingredients

1 or more (16-ounce) containers extra-firm tofu
Marinade (optional): 
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water

Other marinade ideas: 
minced ginger, minced garlic, lemon or lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce (thinned with water)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, optional for crispy tofu

 

Equipment

Paper towels or clean dish cloths
Plates
Heavy weight, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes
Shallow container, for marinating
Baking sheet
Parchment or Silpat liner
Spatula

Instructions

  1. Press the tofu: Remove the tofu from its packaging and pat dry with paper towels or a dish cloth. Line a plate with a paper towel and set the tofu on top. Set a small plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. Press for 15 to 30 minutes. You will see liquid collect around the tofu.
  2. Cut the tofu into pieces: Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes, thin slices, or sticks, depending on how you plan to use the tofu.
  3. Marinate the tofu (optional): To give the tofu extra flavor, marinate the tofu pieces for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Transfer the marinade and the tofu to a shallow container. Gently toss the cubes until coated with the marinate. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If marinating longer, toss the tofu occasionally to marinate evenly.
  4. Heat the oven: When ready to bake the tofu, heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
  5. Toss with cornstarch (optional): If you'll be serving the tofu right away, tossing the cubes with cornstarch will make them crispier. (The corn starch doesn't make a difference once the cubes are cooled and refrigerated.) Transfer the tofu to a bowl with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with corn starch. Gently toss until the outside of the tofu is sticky and coated.
  6. Bake the tofu: Arrange the tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer. The tofu can be close, but try to avoid pieces touching each other. The tofu will shrink as it bakes. Bake until the outside of the tofu is golden and the pieces look slightly puffed, 20 to 45 minutes depending on the size and shape of your tofu. Toss the tofu every 10 minutes so the pieces bake evenly. The longer you bake the tofu, the chewier it will be.
  7. Cool and store: If serving immediately, serve while still warm. If saving the tofu for later, let it cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a refrigerator container. The tofu will keep refrigerated for up to a week. 

(from TheKitchn)

Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

4 slices bread (I use a whole grain bread like Ezekial, in the green package)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
*optional 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs
1 teaspoon agave

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to375°F
Cut break into small cubes and place in a bowl. 
Add remaining ingredients and toss together until the spices are evenly distributed.
Spray a baking sheet with canola spray and spread out the cubes of bread not the baking sheet.
Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until the croutons are crisped.
Let cool and add to the soup or salads.
Croutons can keep up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.

Makes 1 cup.

(from Spork Foods)

Enjoy!