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FOR GREAT TOFU TEXTURE Slice the block of tofu horizontally in half; each half will be about 1 inch thick. Then, on a cutting board big enough to hold both pieces side by side, lay a piece of foil larger than the area the tofu will cover. Center the tofu on the foil. Set the narrow edge of the board out over the edge of the sink. Place a book under the other edge of the board, raising the board to about a 15-degree angle so the water pressed from the tofu will drain. Cover the tofu with another piece of foil. Then put a second cutting board or any flat, heavy object on top--a skillet works well. Add weight until the sides of the tofu bulge slightly, but be sure they don't start to split. The weight must be evenly distributed so the tofu is evenly pressed. Let the tofu sit for 30-60 minutes. This creates a much smoother and firmer texture.

Freezing tofu gives it a chewy texture. Press as above, then freeze.

After you defrost it, pour off the water and fill the bowl with cool or cold water. Press the tofu one piece at a time between your palms to squeeze out the water and make firm, cutlet-like pieces. For chewy little curdlike bits that are great in salads and stir-fries, squeeze the tofu hard or squash it in your fist so it crumbles.

TOFU: HIGH PROTEIN, HIGH FAT Tofu, one of the few vegan foods to offer complete protein, contains significantly fewer calories per gram than most animal proteins. But defining the nutritive content of tofu is about as easy as grabbing a fistful of silken tofu. There are two problems. One is that the recommended serving size varies from three and one-half to five and one- fourth ounces. The second problem is that fat, protein, and calories vary not only by type but also by manufacturer. A three-and-one-half ounce serving of firm tofu made by one company may have ninety calories, eleven grams protein, and get 45 percent of its calories from fat; the same size serving of another brand may have seventy calories, eight grams of protein, and get 40 percent of calories from fat. In any case, tofu is NOT a low-fat food. And the firmer the tofu, the more concentrated the nutrient content, including the fat. If this concerns you, remember you are getting good quality nutrients with no cholesterol, a minimum of saturated fat, and an abundance of important phytochemicals. There is alos a reduced-fat firm tofu; it contains about a third less fat per serving than the regular kind.

FOR GREAT TOFU TASTE Once you've pressed, frozen, and/or marinated tofu, you're ready to cook. The right cooking techniques can make the difference between mediocre and terrific tofu.

Try sauteing, which you can do with as little as a tablespoon of oil, and which will give you crisp, firm tofu; braising, slow simmering in a highly flavored liquid, a technique that yields intact but creamy tofu with tons of flavor; frying which you can use to make delicious, creamy nuggets, even for dessert; or broiling or pan-grilling, which gives tofu a rich, smoky flavor.

STORING TOFU If you are not going to press and/or freeze your tofu, open the package, discard the liquid, and replace it with fresh water. Change the water every day. Keeping tofu this way maintains a fresher flavor, which is worth the trouble of having to change the water every day. Although it's been opened, tofu stored this way can last up to ten days, depending on how fresh it was when you bought it.

MARINATING TOFU: You can marinate tofu in one of three ways: simmering or baking it in a liquid and then cooling it in the same liquid; pouring a hot marinade over it; or by coating it with a highly flavored paste made with pureed ingredients. Bases for marinating paste include mustard, peanut butter, miso, or pureed aromatics like onions, garlic, ginger, or herbs. Marinades will work on any kind of tofu, though they penetrate pressed firm or extra-firm tofu best.

PUREEING: Any tofu can be pureed in a blender or food processor. Use silken or soft tofu in dressings, sauces, cream soups, puddings, and creamy cheesecake. Firmer tofu makes thicker dips and denser dishes.

It almost always pays to add some fresh lemon juice to recipes using pureed tofu to brighten the taste.

*From Natural Health Magazine, January/February 1995 Submitted By JANIE YOUNG On 02-07-95

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