Thursday, June 24, 2010

Veggie Might: Grilled Tofu Steaks of Victory

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Whenever a barbecue looms, I’m overcome by a swirl of emotions: joy at the prospect of dining outside for a change; happiness with the anticipation of seeing my friends; and irritation from wondering what in the name of sweet Maude in heaven I am going to put on the grill.

I used to just buy a package of veggie burgs or dogs on the way to the party and be content. But I don’t really eat that way anymore. Okay, when I’m at a baseball game, I will track down that one stand that serves a veggie hotdog, but that’s baseball.

Now I try to get creative, or at least a little healthy. At Kris’ barbecues past, I’ve slapped marinated portabella mushroom caps and tempeh/veggie kabobs with peanut sauce on to the wire fire. This time I decide to try tofu; and I’ll admit it—even I was scared.

Tofu steaks can be delicious or disgusting—there’s really no in between—and two things can make or break you: texture and flavor. Well, that’s the case with any food, you say. But no! I counter. I dare say, no other food comes out as tasting like a damp sponge if not handled properly. (You’ll let me know otherwise in the comments, I’m sure.)

Through my careful planning, Kris’s Husband-Elect ‘s deft (and rain-soaked) grilling tongs of, and the watchful (and surely helpful) eye of my Charming Boyfriend, all at the Rainy Barbecue of Love and Togetherness enjoyed nearly perfect tofu steaks alongside all their other actual meats.

Your 4th of July, Canada Day (or Leigh Day, as it’s known around here), or any other grilling affair can too revel in Grilled Tofu Steaks of Victory. Here’s how:

Press the crap (water) out of the tofu
1) Place the tofu block(s) between two dinner plates (preferably ones with a little bit of a lip), and put something heavy, like your trusty cast iron skillet, on top.

2) Let the weight squeeze out the water for 15 minutes.

3) Drain off the puddle.

4) If your blocks are getting funky-shaped, give them a turn. Repeat steps 1 through 3.

Slice into cute little triangles
Geometry time. The number of pieces you’d like to get out of a block of tofu will determine where you make your cuts. I did mine like this:

Four pieces per block

You can also do this:

Eight pieces per block

Note: I used fresh tofu from the Korean grocery on the corner; each block weighs about 6 to 7 oz., yielding 4 pieces and two 3-oz servings per block. Water-packed tofu usually comes in 14- to 16-oz blocks. You’ll get the same number of 4-oz servings from a package of tofu that I got from two blocks of fresh tofu. Or you will get twice the number of 2-oz servings. Or you can go rogue and get 1 serving per block. I won’t judge you.

Lubricate well
Oil is your friend when grilling tofu since there is no drippy fat to keep things lubricated. I supplied the Husband-Elect with about 1/2 cup of oil for 7 blocks of tofu, and he used it all.

Coat the triangles in oil before putting them on the grill. Then baste them during cooking. Pretty simple. A little salt and pepper couldn’t hurt.*

*Use your best judgment if salt is your nemesis.

Don’t blink while grilling
According to CB, it only took five minutes to scorch these babies. Darlings, it’s all in the spin. That’s what we, in the food biz, call blackened tofu. After H-E got the hang of it, it only took about 1–2 minutes on each side for perfectly grilled tofu steaks.

To recap:
1) Place tofu slices on grill. Cook for 1–2 minutes.

2) Flip.

3) Cook for 1–2 minutes.

Serve with Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
A delicious sauce is not crucial to the perfect tofu steak, but I like one. I whipped up this little number from what I had floating around the kitchen. Amend to your tastes and pantry stash. While it’s packs some heat, it has beau coups of that flavor I mentioned earlier. Again, victory!


If you cried with joy over this post, direct your puffiness to

Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
Makes about 1/3 cup of sauce/about 4 1-tbsp servings (but a little goes a loooong way)

1/4 cup sriracha sauce (or any other prepared chili sauce)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
10 mint leaves, finely chopped

1) Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

2) Whisk together.

3) Serve over gorgeously grilled tofu to exclamations and accolades.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
Tofu Steaks: 190.5 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.42
Fiery Chili Lime Sauce: 22.4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.09
Tofu Steaks + Fiery Chili Lime Sauce: 213 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.50

Tofu Steaks
2 6–7 oz. blocks tofu: 492 calories, 24g fat, 12g fiber, 48g protein, $1.50
2 1/4 tbsp olive oil: 270 calories, 31.5g fat 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.18
Totals: 762 calories, 55.5g fat, 12g fiber, 48g protein, $1.68
Per Serving (Totals/4): 190.5 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.42

Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
1/4 cup sriracha sauce: 60 calories, 0 g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.15
2 tbsp lime juice: 9.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.10
1 tsp agave nectar: 20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.05
10 mint leaves: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $.04
Totals: 89.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.34
Per Serving (Totals/4): 22.4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.09

Tofu Steaks + Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
Totals: 851.5 calories, 55.5g fat, 12g fiber, 48g protein, $2.02
Per serving (Totals/4): 213 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.50

Stumble Upon Toolbar


chacha1 said...

damp sponge = that bread stuff underlying the piles of lentils at an Ethiopian restaurant.

I am trying hard to embrace world foods, but I'd rather eat tofu steaks any night of the week than that stuff. Especially with fiery chili lime sauce.

Anonymous said...

I want to try this. But, do you think there's any problem with marinating the tofu first? Would it be too moist?

Myrnie said...

Yum! This looks really good- thanks for the info on pressing the tofu. Somehow, in all my reading, I'd never read how to do that.

ScienceandtheCity said...

I have had success with grilling marinaded tofu steaks, and they are delicious!

First, Leigh is totally right - you have to get a good amount of water out of them or they are wet-spongeish. Then, I cut them and soak them in the marinade for an hour or two. Before grilling, blot off all the extra marinate with a paper towel (don't worry - the tofu has sucked up enough for flavor) and give them a good coat of veggie oil before grilling, 1-2 mintues per side.

For my marinade I use equal parts soy sauce, rice vinegar, and mirin, with a tablespoon or so each of grated ginger and crushed garlic.

Leigh said...

Ha... chacha1, injera is like a sponge, but I think it's dang tasty.

Anon, sure, marinate away. As long as there is oil in your marinade to keep the tofu from sticking to the grill, you should be fine.

autumn609 said...

Doing some tofu kabobs this weekend and this info will help get them grilled right. Great tips on pressing the tofu, I think that will make a huge difference.