I’d like to think I got into the whole tofu-eating health craze a bit ahead of the curve. Unlike those who have had to grow to love it, have had to dress it up in sauces, trying to look upon it as a meat substitute, it’s been a constant part of my diet ever since I was a kid. I distinctly remember that back then, that in lower midtown Manhattan, where I grew up, tofu was called bean curd and was sold not in the familiar hermetically, sealed plastic tubs one sees at every supermarket today, but fresh floating in troughs of cool water outside of Asian delis. Using tongs, you would pick up your slabs of bean curd, or perhaps a whole little green plastic basket full (imagine the ones strawberries are sold in), and wrap it up in a plastic bag to take home with you. I haven’t seen it sold that way in quite a while and I imagine that health department regulations might have something to do with it, but nevertheless, that remains my earliest memory of tofu.
It’s been a good 25 years or so since then and although tofu is a staple in my diet, I had never tried it as a scramble. I like it so much in stir-fries, soups, and salads that there never seemed to be much of a point. After all, if I want scrambled, I’ll generally have an egg. But the beautiful photography on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks finally won me over several weeks ago. She posted a garam masala tofu scramble, singing the praises of its varied textures, tastes, and colors. In the end I went with a variation, this curried tofu scramble, from her beautiful Super Natural Cooking, a cookbook I love to ogle, but will admit I don’t use terribly often for lack of ingredients.
In this case, the ingredient list was comprised of simple, everyday items, making it perfect for a spur-of-the-moment, throw-it-together weekday supper. In fact it came together shockingly quickly, in a mere 10 minutes or so we were sitting down to eat with a colorful, textured dish in hand. As you stir the ingredients together in a large skillet, the tumeric colors the tofu crumbles yellow, making them resemble eggs so distinctly that Dylan, my culinary whiz, thought we were having a veggie-rich variation on scrambled eggs for dinner. I can see why Heidi claims this is a dish that those who normally reject tofu for its consistency and lack of strong flavor might actually enjoy. With the crunch of hazelnuts, the soft pliability of tofu, the kick of curry and tumeric, and the freshness of broccoli and spinach, this scramble had enough interesting things going on to make a satisfying and healthy weeknight dinner and I’m looking forward to trying other variations on the theme.
Curried tofu scramble (serves 4)
1 package firm or extra-firm tofu (~16 oz)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp tumeric
2 small heads of broccoli, heads and stems chopped small
chopped frozen spinach (optional, add to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1. Drain any water from the tofu by pressing it between paper towels, placing a heavy plate on top. Then crumble into small pieces.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, then add the garlic and onion, sauteing for a few minutes, until they soften. Stir in the broccoli and frozen spinach as well as the curry powder.
3. Then stir in the tofu, salt, and tumeric, stirring so the spices are distributed throughout. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until the tofu is heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning- if you want a brighter flavor add more curry powder and tumeric. If the flavors aren’t quite popping, add more salt a couple pinches at a time. Stir in chopped hazelnuts before serving.