Tofu or not tofu

The most recent issue of Eating Well features a slew of recipes for those of us who want to start the year with better eating habits. One recipe in particular caught my eye–blackened tofu with succotash. Remember the blackened fish dishes from the late 1980’s? Spicy, crispy, but probably not all that good for us, between the frying fat and the char. The ingredients weren’t all that exotic–paprika, dried thyme, powdered garlic, and a little cayenne pepper for heat. Mind you, I usually use fresh herbs, and I chop more garlic than most professional kitchens, but for a Wednesday supper, I’m willing to take shortcuts. The science was intriguing–add cornstarch to the rub to crisp the exterior of the tofu. So, I went for it.

I quickly remembered why I stopped blackening fish–the high temperature oil immediately set off the fire alarm. But, after all, the alarm goes off pretty regularly in my kitchen. Pork chops, eggplant parmesan, bacon, even toasted nuts all add to the cacophony of cooking. So, after climbing up to reset the alarm to silent, I persevered.

I followed the instructions–cook the tofu over medium heat in a tablespoon of oil for three minutes per side. It looked gorgeous, brown and crisp. It plated beautifully. Extra-firm tofu, as the recipe required, holds its shape well after patting it dry. I served it with some trepidation, though. It was, after all, tofu, and it has been a long time since I tried to serve this vegetarian protein to my husband.

He looked at it and asked if we were having scrapple. We had been to Pennsylvania Dutch country on Tuesday, so while it was possible that I could have picked up a slab of this local delicacy, it wasn’t really likely. I told him to guess again. He was stumped, and he started in on the vegetables, fresh green beans from Root’s Market and frozen super sweet corn, not the succotash recipe from the magazine. After watching me dig in, he eventually broke off a corner and nibbled.

“It’s, ah, different. It wiggles,” he stated. He looked at his plate forlornly.

“Do you like the taste, though?” I asked.

“Not really. It’s ok. I can eat some toast with peanut butter.”

I did have some sesame chicken and snow peas left over from Tuesday night’s stir fry that I heated in the microwave, and that made my husband happy. I finished my tofu, knowing that it was probably good for me.

The bottom line? I probably won’t make this particular tofu entrée again. The flavor wasn’t marvelous, and while the exterior was crisp, the inside was, as my husband so elegantly described, wiggly. Not an attribute for any food I want to eat on a regular basis.

I do like to substitute tofu for ground meat in chili, sloppy joes, even in lasagna. I freeze it first so the texture does resemble lean ground beef, and when it’s crumbled, it takes on the flavors of the sauce. But I will have to remember to avoid tofu slabs in the future, no matter how intriguing and easy the recipe might be.