Unlike traditional tofu -- which is packed in water, has little or no flavor and a soft, even grainy texture -- these tofus typically are vacuum packed, pressed to remove excess water, and seasoned and sometimes baked.
The result is a firm, chewy (some even say meaty) texture and a savory flavor. They are excellent for sauteing, grilling or even cut into slices and added to sandwiches similar to deli meat (the smoked version makes a great tofu, lettuce and tomato sandwich).
It's also possible to transform traditional water-packed tofu into a meatier variety. Start with a firm or extra-firm variety. Place the block on several sheets of paper towels in the bottom of a shallow dish.
Place a paper towel on top of the tofu, then gently press to remove any initial liquid. Remove the top towels and place two layers of fresh paper towels on top.
Carefully place a plate on top of the tofu, then put a weight (such as a can of beans) on top. Let the tofu press in this manner at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, then discard the wet paper towels.
Alternatively, tofu can be firmed up by freezing it. Simply place the unopened container of water-packed tofu in the freezer overnight, then thaw, drain and use as desired. The texture will be somewhat coarse, similar to ground beef.
Sliced or cubed traditional tofu also can be baked or roasted to improve the consistency. Bake the tofu on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Tofu and tomato sandwiches with pesto
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
1 22-inch baguette, halved lengthwise
1 14-ounce package smoked or baked tofu, thinly sliced crosswise
2 medium tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices
8 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Spread the pesto over the cut side of one half of the bread. Top with tofu slices. Place a layer of tomato slices over the tofu, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and top with the other half of the baguette. Slice into individual servings.
Makes 5 servings. Per serving: 344 calories; 94 calories from fat; 11 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 2 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 21 g protein; 2 g fiber; 749 mg sodium.
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