Food: Tofu (derived from soybeans)
History: First a little background on soybeans... Soybeans are originally from China and have been cultivated there for over 3,000 years. Soybeans made their debut into the USA in the early 1800s as ballast aboard a ship. US farmers began to popularly farm them starting in the 1940s. Tofu was first discovered about 2,000 years ago. It is sometimes referred to as the "cheese of Asia" because it is made in a similar fashion to cheese (coagulating soymilk). Tofu has little inherent taste which is why cooking with it can be so simple, it will pick up basically any flavor it's cooked with.
Nutritional Benefit: Tofu is an excellent source of Tryptophan which is an essential amino acid our bodies need to maintain health. Manganese also has high concentration in tofu which helps your body maintain healthy and strong bones, helps synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol, and helps maintain a normal blood sugar level. Four ounces of tofu contains 33% of our daily needs of Iron. Iron is an essential nutrient our bodies need to maintain the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen.
Ways to Cook: Tofu is one of the most underrated foods with a terrible rep. But why? It's delicious! It has the ability to take on any flavor that it is dressed with. Some Top Chefs even fry it in pork fat to give it that meaty taste. But to all you vegetarian friends out there, have no fear, it doesn't take fat to make it taste good. One of my brilliant friends sent me this recipe that she claims is delicious, especially when served with steamed spinach and squash (yup, the squash made it in there). In the recipe that follows my friend used 2 tbs of Garam Masala instead of the paprika, cumin and coriander. The Garam Masala adds a bit of heat and is complemented with the drizzle of honey.
When asking around how others prepare their tofu, baking seemed to be a preferred method--cut into slabs or cubes, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper, and heat at 350 until browned on both sides.
You can buy tofu in three basic types:
- Soft tofu: nutritional substitute for milk in smoothies; eggs in a scrambler
- Firm tofu: cubed and sauteed/baked, found in a lot of Asian dishes
- Extra-firm: sliced and used as a meat substitute (ex: Lettuce and Tomato sandwich)