I’m a pretty good cook. I have more than 200 cookbooks, piles of back issues of Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Eating Well and Food & Wine. I went to pastry school several years ago, and while I don’t bake nearly as much as you would expect for someone who went to pastry school, the process of learning how to make tricky things like croissants and souffles has made me fairly fearless in the kitchen when it comes to savory cooking, which is generally harder to screw up (much of baking is more precise and chemistry-like).
That said, there are a few ingredients that I have shied away from, because I feel like I just don’t know what to do with them. Fish is one (Jeff’s always in charge when we have salmon or halibut on the menu). I had a few very bad experiences cooking eggplant as a fledgling mostly-vegetarian cook in my early 20s, to the point where I get nervous branching out from a very few tried-and-true recipes (including an excellent not-too-cheesy eggplant parmesan in a Deborah Madison cookbook
). Half the reason I ever was a fledgling mostly-vegetarian cook was because I had no idea how to cook meat, and I felt like being a fledgling carnivore cook carried more room for error (read: hockey puck potential). I won’t talk about early failed experiments with “lentil loaf” and texturized vegetable protein
, which thankfully only I had to suffer through.
Anyway, one of my other feared ingredients was tofu. I can make an awesome tofu chocolate mouse pie, and I’ve enjoyed tofu in many restaurant meals, but the thought of actually cooking tofu in a savory recipe made me feel like I was in uncharted territory. Silly, really.
So, when I saw my neighborhood Buddhist monastery was offering a vegetarian cooking class, I signed myself right up. Having dined there once after a meditation class, I know their cooks have mastered the art of tofu cookery. Imagine my surprise when I learned that cooking with tofu is super easy! This was exactly the type of recipe I was hoping to learn, because I have enjoyed tofu the most when it was grilled or sautéed to have a slightly crispy exterior, with a soft interior. (Alas, no photo…I like to leave technology behind when I’m at the monastery.)
The recipe was delicious as-is, but feel free to add garlic or onion to the avocado cream, if desired. They don’t use either, ever, at the monastery, so it was left out of the recipe. The avocado cream would also make a nice dip, fyi. Now…I need to put a grill pan on my holiday wish list!
Grilled Herbed Tofu with Avocado Cream
(Grilled Herbed Tofu)
1 box extra-firm tofu (the kind packed in water), drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs (or herbs/spices of choice)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 packed cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1 large lime)
Zest of one lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat. If not using nonstick, oil grill lightly before cooking to prevent sticking.
2. Cut tofu into triangles (cut block in half diagonally, then cut each half into four triangle-shaped slices).
3. Brush each triangle on both sides with olive oil; seasons with herbs, salt and pepper.
4. Grill tofu slices until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to platter.
5. For avocado cream: In food processor, blend avocado, parsley, broth, olive oil, lime juice and lime zest until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Spoon avocado cream over tofu and serve.