Trick Tip: Focusing Tofu

(How to Drain and Press Tofu)
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In addition to my recipes, I’ll be periodically presenting some kitchen-savvy “trick tips.” Just like any pre-teen with an iPhone can show you how to do a kickflip (the key is to land bolts and then roll away), I will be throwing my hat in the ring to wax poetic on the art of cutting onions, steaming potatoes and other kitchen basics.

If you’ve been following Salad Grinds and Bean Plants, you’ve seen that I have an affinity for tofu dishes.  Tofu is an excellent source of protein and fiber and is incredibly versatile when it comes to flavoring.  Just like Dave Bachinsky’s ability to shred anything in front of him, tofu can take on the flavor of any dish.  The only caveat, however, is that—more often than not—you have to press the tofu first.

This requires a little bit of foresight, as you can’t just aggressively smash the water out of tofu like you would focus a board after rolling your ankle; instead, the water must be pressed out methodically and slowly.  Whether you have a tofu press or not, you should start pressing/draining your tofu about half an hour before you marinate it.

Fear not, however, pressing and draining tofu is incredibly easy:

  1. First, take your tofu out of the package and shake off all the excess water. Tempting though it may be, don’t start squeezing it yet.
  2. If you have a tofu press (shown below), then I imagine you’re not reading this trick tip (unlike most other products, most people don’t buy a tofu press without any clue as to how to use it); however, if you’re looking here for guidance, rather than at the leaflet that came with it, simply place the block of tofu in between the planks of the press and twist the knobs down (simultaneously) until the tofu is being squeezed lightly enough to push some water out.
  3. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then give each knob 3-5 more full rotations until more water comes out. Keep this process up every 3-5 minutes for about 30 minutes or until the tofu becomes merely damp instead of saturated.  Most tofu presses stop when the block is squeezed down to about half an inch thick, which expels most of the water.  Just make sure you’re not pressing too quickly or too far – if you see the sides of the tofu start to split open, then slow it down.  Loosen the knobs and take the tofu out.  Give it a few minutes to return to its normal shape and then cook as instructed.IMG_0367
  4. If you don’t have a tofu press, all you need are some cutting boards, paper towels and something flat and heavy. As shown below, I’m partial to a nice stack of skate magazines or some thick, heavy books.  Seb Carayol’s delightful collection, Agents Provocateurs, or Craig Snyder’s thorough book, A Secret History of the Ollie will do just fine.IMG_0362IMG_0361
  5. As shown below, make a tofu sandwich with the following materials, starting from the bottom: (1) first cutting board, (2) a few paper towels, (3) the block of tofu, (4) more paper towels, (5) another cutting board (or if you only have one, just a few more layers of paper towels), and (6) heavy books. Let that inedible Oreo sit for half an hour until the water is all pressed out and soaked up by the paper towels.  Remove the tofu, let it get its shape back, then cook as instructed.
  6. Land on the board and roll away, obviously.

Happy shredding,

Johnny

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