Baking tofu makes it firmer and slightly drier, ideal for those who otherwise find its texture objectionable. Freezing and defrosting before draining it changes the texture even further, making it spongier, sturdier and able to absorb more of the marinade, but you can skip that step if you're short on time or prefer the tofu somewhat moister.
Eat the freshly baked tofu with a vegetable side of your choice, cool it to use on salads, or add it to stir-fries or other dishes in which you want a low-fat vegan protein.
Make Ahead: Freeze the tofu for at least 24 hours, and up to 1 week, before defrosting. The tofu can sit in its marinade, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 day. After baking, the cooled tofu can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Yield: (about 2 cups)
- 14 ounces (1 block) extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine, sake or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 1-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon hot chili paste
If you're freezing the tofu, leave it in its unopened package and freeze for at least 24 hours and up to 1 week. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to defrost for 1 day. Once it has defrosted, remove it from the package and drain, then wrap it in paper towels, hold it over the sink and press with your hands to remove much of the liquid.
If you're not freezing the tofu, drain it, wrap it in paper towels, set it on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Remove the paper towels, rewrap the tofu with fresh ones, and microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds. Repeat one or two more times, until the tofu is noticeably firmer. (Alternatively, you can press tofu: Wrap the drained block in paper towels, place on a plate, place a second plate on top and put a large unopened can of tomatoes or beans on top; let the tofu exude extra liquid for about 30 minutes. Unwrap, and pat the tofu dry.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
Stir together the sesame oil; soy sauce; the rice wine, sake or sherry; vinegar; garlic; ginger; water and chili paste in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the tofu cubes and gently toss to combine.
Bake for about 45 minutes, turning the tofu onto a different side three or four times during the baking, until the tofu is browned and most of the marinade is absorbed or evaporated.
Serve immediately, use in a recipe, or cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
From Food editor Joe Yonan, based in part on a recipe in "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant," by the Moosewood Collective (Simon and Schuster/Fireside, 1990).
Tested by Joe Yonan.
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