Are you trying to avoid red meat but getting sick of dinners that feature chicken or fish as the protein mainstay? You may want to consider tofu, a dietary staple in Asian nations. Tofu is the ultimate flavor sponge, able to absorb any condiments you toss into the pot. Crumble some into a pot of chili for a Mexican flavor, or blend it with cocoa and sugar for a nifty chocolate cream pie filling.
Also known as soybean curd, tofu is a soft, cheese-like food made by curdling fresh, hot soy-milk with a coagulant. Tofu is rich in high-quality protein and is a good source of B vitamins and iron. Better yet, it contains no cholesterol and little or no sodium. Depending on how the product is produced, it can also be rich in calcium. According to government sources, a 4-ounce serving of tofu contains just 6 g of fat. As a rule, the softer the tofu is, the lower the fat content.
Three main types of tofu are readily available in most markets today:
Firm tofu is dense and solid, which means it holds up well in stir-fry dishes or even when placed on a grill. It is typically higher in protein, fat and calcium than other tofus. Add chunks of firm tofu to soups, chili or stews, or grill up some marinated tofu burgers.
Soft tofu is the best choice for recipes that require blending—dips, for example. Mix some soft tofu with dried onion soup mix for a quick, cholesterol-free onion dip.
Silken tofu is creamier and more custard-like than other varieties. It can be used for puréed dishes or eaten as is with a topping of soy sauce and chopped scallions. Substitute puréed silken tofu when recipes call for mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese or ricotta cheese. This type of tofu also makes a good base for creamy salad dressings.
Usually located in the produce or dairy section of your grocery store, tofu is most commonly sold in water-filled tubs, vacuum packs or brick-shaped packages. Like any other perishable product, tofu should be kept cold and purchased prior to the expiration date on the package. Once a package has been opened, rinse any leftover tofu and cover it with fresh water before storing it in the fridge. Change the water daily and use the remaining tofu within a week. Tofu can also be frozen for up to 5 months.
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