Friday, September 9, 2011

Forgot to thaw your meat? Try...Tofu Sloppy Joe's!

Oh no. You've done it again.

After a long day at work (or school, in my case), you return home in the evening and realize that you never put out your frozen meat to thaw out. It is sitting nice and frigid in the freezer, encased in frost and icicles, hard as a rock.

Source: What's Cooking America

You don't want to try and thaw it now. Nuking in the microwave would just result in an exterior of tan-white cooked sections over a still-frozen nucleus. Darn, why does that cell have to have both a membrane and a cell wall as barriers!

...But I digress...way too far into biology.

The matter is that you have no centerpiece to your dinner tonight? What do you do?

This is where tofu comes to the rescue. Yes, all you carnivores. Tofu. Although many people cringe at the thought of tofu, prepared correctly, it can be the shining star of a dish. The great thing about tofu nowadays is that it comes it so many varieties and can keep in the refrigerator for one or two weeks without going bad. Even then, you can just freeze it for use later.

Source: Restaurant Widow

Last week, I had come home and had nothing for quick dinner options but ramen, soup in a can, or buying out. Luckily, I had a pack of firm tofu in the fridge, which would complement well with the abundance of tomatoes I had. The idea for tofu sloppy joes came up. Healthy, quick, and not too warm for these hot summer nights (which are fading soon!).

I started off by looking up recipes for tofu sloppy joes, coming across this and this, but nothing was really satisfactory to me nor to the ingredients I had at hand. So I improvised, which means the recipe below is a rough estimate of what I did. I admit, what resulted did not have the original smoky, hearty flavor of a classic beef sloppy joe, but it was very flavorful and made a great sandwich filling that was not sloppy at all. Maybe I should call these Tofu Clean Joe's, instead!

Tofu Sloppy (or Clean) Joe's (serves 4-6)
1 block (12-16oz) silken firm tofu
3-4 tomatoes, diced, some seeds and liquid innards removed
3-4 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2-3 Tbs Gochujang sauce (Korean red pepper paste, *see Notes)
1 Tbs ketchup
1 small white or yellow onion, fine diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 stalks of green onion, chopped
Sprinkling of sugar
salt and pepper

For assembly:
8-12 bread slices (Whole Food's organic multigrain is a great one)
8-12 green lettuce leaves
2-4 tomato slices per sandwich if desired

1. Drain the tofu and mash. Set aside.
2. Heat a medium skillet pan over medium heat. Add in some oil and saute the onion till yellow. Add in half of the garlic and saute until fragrant and lightly tanned. Add in the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. In a large pan, saute the garlic until lightly tanned. Throw in all the tomatoes and simmer. Add in the Worcestershire, Gochujang, and ketchup. Add in sugar, salt, and pepper until you get the taste you want. For more spicy, add more Gochujang. More tang, add more Worcestershire. More sweet, add more sugar or molasses or brown sugar.
4. Add in the tofu onion mixture. Simmer about 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning further as desired. Sprinkle top with chopped green onion.
5. To assemble, spread the tofu mixture 1/3-1/2 inch thick on one bread slice. Place tomato slices on top. Place two lettuce leaves on the other side of the bread and serve (let guests see the wonderful filling before they place the sandwich it all together!).

*This came out super tasty and my two housemates really liked it. Really try the Whole Food's organic multigrain small batch bread. Its texture, thickness, and taste is great for pretty much anything. I would definitely make this again when I have some extra tomatoes and silken firm tofu lying about.
* If I had more ketchup laying around and had the made the effort to cut one or two more tomatoes, it would have made more sauce, which I think would have added to the dish overall.
* If you don't have gochujang, you can probably just use some tomato paste from a can and add in pepper flakes or powder.

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