THE best way to strain tofu is Lynette Yokoyama's concern. "Are there tips or shortcuts? Are there special cooking gadgets" for the process, she asks.
to tofu cookery
Tofu, say "The Nutrition Bible" (Morrow, 1995, $30) authors Jean Anderson and Barbara Deskins, offers high-quality protein and is loaded with iron, phosphorous and potassium. It's low in calories and saturated fat, contains zero cholesterol and has nearly no sodium. And, the newest development -- "lite" tofu -- has 75 percent less fat and only 35 calories per three-ounce serving.
Culinarians suggest three ways to extract water from tofu. Diane Mickelson, who teaches nutrition and cooking at Coolfont Spa in Berkeley Springs, W. Va., drains tofu between paper towels.
Maui caterer Bonnie Mandoe writes in "Vegetarian Nights -- Fresh From Hawaii" cookbook (Celestial Arts, 1994, $18): "I wrap the tofu in a clean terry-cloth towel to draw out the excess moisture."
Steven Raichlen, author of "High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking" (Viking), freezes and squeezes tofu to get "a meatier quality." He slices 1 pound of tofu widthwise into quarters. He arranges slices on a plate and freezes them until hard. After thawing in a colander, he gently squeezes each slice to wring out liquid, and coarsely crumbles the tofu.
Prepare the crumbled tofu like eggs by pan-frying in a teaspoon of oil with a clove of minced garlic. Or, add the crumbled tofu to dishes calling for ground meat -- such as burgers, meatloaf or chili.
Here are tofu burger recipes in response to Yokoyama's request.
Tofu Burgers(From "Becoming a Vegetarian Is Easy"
by Barbara Penaroza, $14)1 (20-ounce) block firm tofu, drainedMix all ingredients well. Form patties, place on lightly oiled tray and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until browned. Makes 8 to 10 patties.
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/4 cup nuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein, soybean-based meat substitute; available in most natural food stores)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons egg-replacer powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 tablespoon Spike (bottled seasoning)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon asafetida, or hing (gives garlic or onion taste without lingering odor; available in natural food stores; or substitute 1 minced garlic clove and 1 tablespoon minced onion)
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 190 calories, 11 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, 140 milligrams sodium.*
Vegetable and Tofu Burgers(From "1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes"
by Sue Spitler, Surrey Books, 1997, $20)2 sun-dried tomato halves (not oil packed)In a small bowl of hot water, soak tomatoes 10 minutes; drain and chop finely.
Asian-flavored cooking spray
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced roasted garlic
1 package (10-1/2-ounce) light tofu, well drained, crumbled
2 cups firmly packed, chopped spinach
2/3 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
7 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs, divided use
Salt and pepper to taste
4 whole wheat buns, toasted
Spicy brown mustard, or mayonnaise (optional)
Mist a skillet with vegetable oil cooking spray. On medium heat, saute onion and garlic 2 to 3 minutes. Add tofu, spinach, carrots, soy sauce and honey; cook, covered, 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cook, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is dry.
Process in food processor on pulse until mixture is finely chopped but not smooth. Stir in walnuts and 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs; season with salt and pepper. Shape mixture into 4 burgers and coat them with the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs.
Mist a skillet with vegetable oil cooking spray; on medium heat, cook burgers 5 minutes or until browned on bottom. Spray tops with cooking spray and turn; cook 5 more minutes or until browned on other side. Serve in buns with mustard or mayonnaise. Makes 4 servings.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 364 calories, 12.5 grams total fat, 1.4 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, 778 milligrams sodium.*