Cooking tofu

You would think that someone who’s been a vegetarian since she was 16 years old would have learned the following tidbit just a tad earlier, but seriously, I gathered this life-changing bit of advice only a few years ago:To sear or stir-fry tofu successfully, you need a nonstick pan. Really. I picked that up from cookbook author Jack Bishop, as I was interviewing him about his book A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen for 805 Living magazine. (I turn to his book regularly, even on weeknights, which is the highest praise I can think to confer on a cookbook.) Until that revelation, I’ll admit that tofu was something I ordered almost exclusively when dining out; attempts to cook it at home usually yielded barely-warmed lumps of crumbling tofu that hadn’t gained much flavor or texture from cooking. Also, tofu sticks terribly to stainless steel skillets, as you probably already know, and that’s a pain to clean up. Bishop’s method goes something like this: Slice extra-firm or firm tofu into 8 slabs, drain it on paper towels, heat oil in a nonstick skillet, and cook the tofu on both sides until golden brown; you’ll wind up with appealingly browned edges and added texture, making it ready to coat with any glaze or sauce you like. Bishop’s book has a recipe for Pan-Glazed Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce that is a great place to start. I have developed an even simpler version that we eat on many a weeknight here, and I’ll post that the next time I think to measure things out as I’m making it. Another tip: Ikea is a great source for cheap nonstick pans—some as little as $10. While the venerable Cook’s Illustrated probably wouldn’t slum it as far using a $10 pan, even they recommend that you buy inexpensive nonstick pans—the nonstick coating wears off over time and with use, necessitating periodic replacement, so these are never going to be heirloom pieces.