Re-Thinking Tofu

January 12, 2011

I can tell you a sure-fire way to have your spouse/partner/significant other/friend tell you that your food is absolutely delicious.

Have them do a cleanse.

Randy has been talking about doing a cleanse for about 6 months now.  I have been wary.  He tends to be a bit hypoglycemic, meaning if he does not eat when he is hungry, he is not all that pleasant to be around.  I have been in more than one restaurant frantically waving down someone to bring bread as he turns pale.  So, the idea of him basically eating just fruit or vegetables all day was a little frightening.

Every cleanse is different and the one he is doing allows him to eat a “sensible” meal at night.  This basically means vegan and gluten free which is not a stretch for me at all.  It took me about five minutes to come up with several dinners for the week.  I have made some tasty meals the past few nights but you would think I was a Michelin three star chef based on Randy’s reactions to the food.  So there is a good tip for you, starve your partner all day and they will think you are the best cook around!

Here is a dish that totally pushed me out of my tofu-with-Asian-food rut.  I know people have strong feelings about our little bean curd friend, but I have always liked tofu and welcome the opportunity to use it more.  When people ask me about tofu, I always give them two suggestions – make sure you buy extra firm and don’t expect it to taste like steak.  It might sound obvious but I do think that people are looking for a meat replacement and tofu is not that.  Tofu is tofu, a relatively tasteless brick of protein.  Using extra firm helps with that texture issue (it is not mushy) and making a dish like this one allows something tasteless on its own to become super tasty.

So rather than the flavors of coconut milk, soy sauce, and sesame oil, this tofu soaks up the flavors of white wine, olives, and red wine vinegar.  I took this idea from Deborah Madison and made some changes.  I streamlined some of the baking, lightened up the sauce and added a bed of quinoa for the vegetables and tofu to sleep on.  If you look at this and think, “Tofu?  Quinoa?  Why not just put me out in a field and let me graze?” I beg you to give it another thought.  I thought this made for a very tasty dinner and Randy thought it was the single most delicious thing he had ever put in his mouth.  Thank you cleanse!

One Year Ago:  Black Bean Chilaquile
Two Years Ago:  Milk Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake

Baked Tofu with Peppers and Olives
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Serves 4

The Tofu and Vegetables
1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into thin triangles or slabs
Olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried marjoram
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 bell peppers – red, yellow, and green – thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
20 Niçoise olives, pitted and halved

The Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. warm water

¾ cup quinoa
1¼ water

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve (if you buy Bob’s Red Mill brand, you don’t need to do this).  Add the rinsed quinoa and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes.  Fluff with fork, then replace cover and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onions along with a large pinch of salt and sauté enough to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the herbs, peppers, tofu, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until the onions are very soft and the tofu starts to sear a bit on the outside, stirring occasionally, about 14 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the wine and olives and simmer until the vegetables are coated with a syrupy sauce, about 8 minutes.

Spread the quinoa in an 8×11-inch baking dish.  Spread the vegetable and tofu mixture over top.  Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce and pour the sauce over top.  Bake, covered, until heated through, about 25 minutes.  Serve with Sriracha if you like things spicy.


  1. hahaha! i love it! genius tip.

    Comment by linsiloo — January 12, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  2. We are doing a cleanse as well; it is an over the counter one that they sell at Whole Foods. I love that it is natural and I feel great afterwards. In addition to the cleanse kit we are eating lighter throughout the day; fruits, veggies and detox soup. At the end of two weeks we feel great and ready to pollute our bodies again (HA)!

    Dana, you have made tofu look amazing. I am not a fan; but I did have some homemade tofu back in Boston and I have to admit it was amazing. Not sure the chef will part with his recipe! :) Have you tried making it?

    Comment by Chez Us — January 12, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  3. I’m quite sure Randy does not have to stave to appreciate your wonderful cooking. This looks excellent. However, I have to put it on the list of tofu things to cook post-breastfeeding. Poor Baby M doesn’t like tofu :( Makes me so sad!

    Comment by redmenace — January 12, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  4. that is such a pretty plate! thank you for sharing this lovely recipe. have a great day.

    Comment by blackbookkitchendiaries — January 12, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

  5. I will starve my whole family tomorrow :) I have not cleanse once. I love to eat too much but I still think that I should do it.

    Comment by Helene — January 12, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

  6. I showed my husband your post, as I’m considering trying my hands at cooking tofu (never done it)

    He asked me to ask you… “can I substitute T-bone steak for the tofu”?


    Comment by SallyBR — January 12, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  7. I don’t blame Randy, cleanse or not, this looks amazing! Plus things always taste better when someone else makes them for you. Thanks for sharing this healthy recipe!

    Comment by Emily — January 12, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  8. OMGoodness Dana!
    Surely you are going to come out with a COOKBOOK one day!
    I really really need your recipes accessible to me 24/7…like in a cookbook…called Dana’s Treats…on my kitchen counter!
    This dish looks great!
    If I served this to my Greg…he would LOVE being on a CLEANSE!!!!
    What a lucky HUBBY you have!
    Great to hear about the quinoa. It really bugs me having to rinse it!
    I will pick up some Bob’s Red Mill!
    Love your recipes!

    Comment by teresa — January 12, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  9. Dana, as much as I think I dislike tofu, I think I may have to try this. It has all the flavours we love and no pesky tomatoes (apart from the paste) or lentils or any of the other things my husband has put on his don’t want to eat it list. Thanks once more for a delicious post!

    Comment by Charlotte — January 12, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  10. As usual, this sounds amazing. I always seem to make tofu with Asian ingredients, this version might change that.

    Comment by Jacqui — January 12, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

  11. Maybe that’s what I need to do to my father to get him to eat vegetables. I’ll starve him for a few days (he’ll be fine. Trust me.) and then feed him massive amounts of butternut squash. And tofu. Hmm.

    I actually adore tofu but I rarely ever use it outside of Asian cuisine! Which is just so silly. This dish sounds wonderful!

    Comment by Joanne — January 13, 2011 @ 12:46 am

  12. The recipe doesn’t state how much white wine – I assume 1/2 is one-half cup not one-half bottle.
    Can’t wait to try it.

    Comment by Sonja — January 13, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  13. Oh goodness, my boyfriend is the same way. I’ve found myself driving 20 minutes out of the way in order to find him something to eat in emergency situations like these. Maybe it’s just men in general… or maybe we should teach them how to pack snacks.

    Doesn’t Deborah Madison always know just what to do? I have never been disappointed with anything I’ve made from Veg Cooking for Everyone. Your dish looks so nourishing!

    Comment by Sarah — January 13, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  14. I keep on thinking that I should do a cleanse but every time I suggest it I just get a bemused look from Giuliano. However, I think your dish would be delightful at anytime.

    Comment by Lael Hazan — January 13, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  15. What a great inspiration! You’re right, if you stop thinking tofu=Asian dish, there really are a lot of possibilities! I’m thinking of something southwestern…

    Comment by Anna@Tallgrasskitchen — January 13, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

  16. Hey Dana!!

    I just want to say that i love your blog and I have published it on my blog in my blog roll.

    I don’t know if I have to get any sort of consent for this? Is it okay if I put it on?


    Comment by Maya@ Coco Pistachio — January 14, 2011 @ 6:13 am

  17. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Foodierama, Dana Wootton. Dana Wootton said: New post. A delicious way to eat tofu. […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Re-Thinking Tofu « Dana Treat – Treat Yourself -- — January 14, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  18. It looks great! All the colors together.
    How is Randy dealing with his cleanse besides praising you so well deserved?

    Comment by Annika — January 14, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  19. Love the sound of olives and wine with tofu!

    Comment by Ashley — March 18, 2011 @ 7:12 am

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