I have been a vegetarian my whole life (give or take a brief period in high school and after college ,when I ate some chicken every once in awhile). For me, it is about what feels healthy and what I am used to. I’m not so big on the moral righteousness of it. The mainstream animal production industry totally grosses me out, but a lot of what is gross about it applies to how we get our eggs and vegetables, etc, so I can’t really complain. Or I can, but that would be a rant for another post.
Anyway, a big part of being a vegetarian for me has always been eating lots of tofu. I love tofu and ate a lot of it as a child (though not as much as my brother did, who used to eat it raw with ketchup, gross!). But here are some of the challenges I have with tofu.
It has no flavor. I suppose this is good and bad, given that it means the tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it, but that often takes more work and thoughtfulness.
It ends up as a bowl of mush (along with a comb and a brush… goodnight moon anyone?). Texture is often a big issue with tofu, I have a hard time with tofu scrambles for this reason, because unless it is fried, tofu still often has that mushy texture.
Enter the savior of kitchen appliances: the SLOW COOKER!
I have two tofu slow cooker recipes to share, but first I want to tell you why cooking tofu in the slow cooker is a good idea. It solves both the above problems. It makes the tofu super firm and have a lot of texture because it draws the water out. Also, it infuses the flavor as if you had marinated it for days. Yum. I love how both of these recipes use miso paste, which we had in the house because while I was pregnant I had this idea that I was going to make my own miso soup. I did. Once. It was not good. I don’t even like miso soup. Anyway, I highly recommend both of these, though we are partial to the one with spinach in this house.
Japanese-Style Braised Tofu (The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker)
Combine in a bowl with a whisk: 1/4 cup miso paste (recipe calls for white, we had yellow, which worked fine), 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon honey.
Take one pound of firm tofu and cut into 1/2 inch slices, or as I like to call them, tofu steaks. Coat the tofu (both sides) in the sauce and lay into the slow cooker. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.
Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. We like to turn the tofu a few times because the edges get really crispy and almost burnt.
Just before serving, add 1 pound of washed spinach (the recipe called for 1/2 pound but we found that wasn’t enough). Continue to cook in the slow cooker just long enough for the spinach to get wilted, maybe another 10 minutes.
Remove and put on plates. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.
Miso-Braised Tofu and Shallots (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)
Thinly slice 3 shallots (we only had one so we substituted with 2 small onions, which worked well). Spread them over the bottom of your lightly oiled slow cooker.
Make your tofu steaks (1 pound cut into 1/2 inch thick slices) and put them on top of the shallots.
In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons miso paste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 tablespoon water. Pour this over the tofu and shallots.
Cook on low for 4 hours. Delicious!