Garlicky Grilled Tofu

Bland and weird. Definitely weird. Those were the words that came to my mind when I first tasted tofu. It reminded me of a type of white cheese from Puerto Rico aptly named “queso blanco.” Like the cheese, tofu is mostly sold in blocks suspended in water and other stabilizing agents. Tofu itself is really high in water. Think of it as a sponge of sorts. A protein, carb, and fat sponge – yum, haha. In retrospect, the very first tofu I tried was not properly or, at least lovingly, prepared in two respects: First, it was not drained from most of its water. Secondly, it was bland, very bland. Like meats, you can really tell when tofu is not marinated or seasoned with love, so: If you’re having tofu, season it!  Unless you like its “queso blanco” texture, sans the taste; I totally respect that. =)

I don’t eat tofu that much, or any high-protein meat substitute for that matter, but there are times when I just crave it. Like yesterday. Luckily, I had a some just-to-expire tofu in the fridge, so I went ahead and gave it some love before eating it today. Our relationship was woven in roasted garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, and pepper. Delicious as it was, we had to part, or rather the tofu did, as I grilled it this afternoon and served it with some pico de gallo. So sad, yet satisfying. Oh, and I had what was left of my amaretto ice cream. Now that was sad.

Yields: 4 servings of tofu

Tools and Equipment

Stove Or Grill

Grill pan

Tong

Plastic zipped bag, small

Ingredients

1 Pckg Tofu

3 cloves Roasted garlic

1 Tsp Minced ginger

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

Pepper to taste.

Nonstick spray or oil 

  1. To squeeze-out some of the water in tofu, remove it from the package and wrap it with either a cloth or paper towel.
  2. Place the wrapped tofu between two plates and add a weight over the top plate, until the wrapping looks damp. You can repeat this as many times as you like. I generally do it three times to remove as much of the water as possible. It takes around 45 minutes total. Don’t stand there, looking at it, of course ;-). You can set it up, and return every 15 minutes or so :-).
  3. Place the strained tofu in the bag and add the rest of the ingredients. Refrigerate over night. You can cut it into as many servings as you want and marinate it, that way you’ll increase the flavor per serving. I like to marinate the block and spike the servings individually with the same ingredients just before grilling it. This allows the sugars and other yummy components to caramelize on the surface, creating a neat crust! =D
  4. Heat the grill or grill pan and grease the surface. You can use nonstick spray. Once hot, place the tofu servings. Heat until desired char and grill marks appear. No rules here.

Festive Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo. I won’t go into the literal translation of it, but it really is a refreshingly vibrant addition to any savory something. Cool, acidic, slightly sweet, and picante at the same time. Pico de gallo is traditionally found at most taquerías and other Mexican-influenced restaurants, but in Puerto Rico, you can find it just about anywhere criollo. In fact, there’s a chain of food restaurants called Pollo Tropical that offers a variety of signature Caribbean dishes and, just because it is so good with everything, they offer unlimited pico de gallo with your food. Did I mention Pollo Tropical is Cuban-owned? Talk about mixing cultures – yum.

As with sofrito, the recipe for pico de gallo varies greatly. Typically, it is slightly picante (or hot) from hot peppers, acidic and refreshingly sweet from tomatoes, onions and lime.  Some pico de gallo varieties are chunky, while others are runny. I made this recipe for pico de gallo adding a couple of twists and turns in terms of flavor, color and texture. A trio of peppers, garlic-infused oil, cilantro for freshness, and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce® to add depth to the hot jalapeños. The last item can be found in the Asian section most supermarkets in the US, but in Puerto Rico I’ve seen it in health food stores, as well as an Asian supermarket located in Condado County.

The forecast was cloudy with a “chance of rain.” Naturally, it poured, since early in the morning. How depressing. It’s nice to know that some pico de gallo is here to brighten my breakfast though.

Yields: 4 cups of pico de gallo

Tools and Equipment

Mixing bowl

Knife

Cutting board

Small saucepan (optional)

Stove (optional)

Ingredients

3 Cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced

3 Equally-sized bell peppers (red, green, and yellow)

3 Tomatoes

1/2 Vidalia onion

1/2 Green jalapeño

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C Lemon juice, about two lemons

1/4 C Finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tsps Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce®

Black pepper or pepper medley to taste

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-low, and add the garlic. Heat until the oil starts to bubble, in effect frying the garlic. Transfer the garlic and the infused oil onto a large mixing bowl and let it cool until necessary.
  2. Chop the peppers, tomatoes and the onion. For a runnier salsa, leave the pulp of the tomato. I like mine on the dryer side, so I removed it. You can puré the tomato pulp and add it to your next soup or sauce, like I did ;-).
  3. Cut the jalapeño in half and remove the stem and chop finely, be careful with all the flesh adjacent to the seeds, as it is the primary source of the heat. You can use gloves to be extra safe. Just make sure not let anything or anyone get near them once you’ve finished.
  4. Combine all the chopped goods with the garlic and oil in the mixing bowl from step #1.
  5. Add the lemon juice and the chilli sauce, mix again.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour. The longer, the better though, as it will allow flavors from the fresh veggies and fruits to mix together in both acidic and oily phases (read: It will taste 10x better).