So, yesterday's food post was about basic ingredients. My lunch today was one of those meals that branches beyond the basics - tofu in a pink sauce made with soy cream and tomato puree. The sauce is easy to make - just mix the two ingredients to the appropriate thickness, which is basically whatever thickness you want it at. The tofu, however...
I had a problem with tofu for ages. I loved marinated tofu, bought ready-prepared or served up in a cafe. But I could *never* get plain tofu to absorb flavour at home. Then someone (forget who, sorry) linked to this page, and it was the best bit of cooking advice I've had in ages. Since tofu is something which non-vegetarians in the western world get almost unanimously freaked out by, I thought the advice warrants sharing in case you're a new vegan feeling nervous about getting your white wings. (or an old one who wonders why their tofu doesn't taste of much)
Basically, tofu is sold packed in water. It is the resulting waterloggedness that stops it absorbing flavours. To combat this, press and dry-fry. Pressing means wrapping it in a dry cloth and pushing down until the worst of the water is squeezed out. You may need more than one cloth. Avoid new cloths in any colour other than white, as the dye will come out on your tofu. This is not as much fun as it sounds. ;-/ It takes a bit of practice to do this without your tofu breaking up, but it can be done.
Dry-frying refers to cooking in a frying pan without oil. Cut your pressed tofu into fairly flat squares or triangles and spread out on the bottom of the pan. Press down on each piece in turn with a spatula to squeeze out moisture. You will hear squeaks and bubbling noises as this happens, and see little bits of water coming out. This can be very satisfying. Your tofu pieces should turn a nice goldy-brown on the side that was against the bottom of the pan, at which point turn it over and do the same to the other side.
When no more water can be squeezed out, your tofu pieces are ready for whatever the next step is. Marinate it, cook it in sauce, whatever, your tofu should now absorb what you want it to.