Years ago when I became a La Leche League Leader, I remember telling someone that tofu was a reason for divorce in my home. It was a joke, of course, but underlines for me today how different things can turn out.
My husband didn't like tofu because his limited exposure to it demonstrated it to be bland and boring stuff. And, really, it was. I never made it back then, but get togethers we attended often had at least one dish that had tofu, and often it was more like a brick of cream cheese with something dumped on top and eaten spread on crackers. Yeah, bland and boring.
We arrive now years later, and the tofu that I once eschewed I now adore. I did have to learn how to use it, though, and that has made all the difference. Trust me, those chewy cubes you've gotten in a dish at a Chinese restaurant are NOT what tofu can be.
So you are still reading and you've been to the grocery store and seen the various packages and are utterly confused. Silken? Soft? Extra firm? What does it all mean?!?!?!?!?!
Ah, my little chickadees, I can help you navigate the grocery aisle!
Soft, Medium, firm and extra firm (NOT Silken) are Chinese style. Soft is best for dessert dishes. Medium is good for things that call for cottage cheese, like lasagna. Firm and extra firm are best for dishes that need something chewier, and hold up well to sauteing or frying.
I prefer extra firm over firm. It's a personal choice, but I like the chewiness of it. I ALWAYS freeze mine first. I get home from the grocery store and put the package directly in the freezer. When I am ready to use it, I pull it out, let it thaw just a bit, then boil it to finish off the thawing process. After it cools a bit, I wrap it in a bath towel and press, press, press to get as much water out as possible.
Why press it? The drier you can make it, the better it will be at absorbing the flavors you will be using when you make your dish. That is the beauty of tofu - it beautifully soaks up whatever is used on it, be it a marinade, a sauce or a coating.
Once pressed and cooled, you can slice the tofu for your recipe.
The one thing I do different with the freezing is if I want to use tofu to make an eggless salad for sandwiches. In that case, I remove the tofu from the package and put it in a freezer baggie. It freezes without the water in the this case, and does turn a yellowish color. Once thawed (and boiled) and cooled, I've found it crumbles very much like hardboiled eggs.
ALWAYS buy organic tofu.
Some delicious tofu dishes:
Tofu Turkey and Chick'n Fried Tofu
Asian Barbecued Tofu
Don't fear the tofu! I substitute tofu now for any recipe calling for chicken or fish and have found that it works very well. Enjoy!