Author Topic: The least expensive meat comes from beans.  (Read 10392 times)

Matt K

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The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« on: March 01, 2012, 08:12:35 AM »
I cook a lot. I cook a lot of different things. But every now and then I realize I've been ignoring a huge range of delicious options because of some childish predjudice ("Eww Sushi! I'd never eat raw fish" - how many people are eatting crow from having said that at one time?)

My latest cooking hurdle has been Tofu. Blocks of processed soy bean.  Tasteless crap pushed on us by enviro-good-doers and save-the-cute-animals-vegetarians. Or so I was told.

My brother in law is Chinese, and it was when visiting them that I had my eyes opened. Velveted and deep-fired tofu dipped in a simple hosin and chili sauce can be a thing of beauty.

So, eyes opened, I began to look for ways to bring Tofu into our diet. Last night I made Tofu & shitaki mushrooms in a black bean chili sauce that would rival any chinese take away. And I did it for $6 (including fresh shanghai noodles, a pound of organic tofu, and a pound of shitaki mushrooms). More than three pounds of awsome chinese take-away for $6 and 30 minutes of my time (about the same time it would take to have delivered actually).

A lot of the advice I've read for introducing tofu is to hide it: Break it up and put it into a spaghetti sauce - no one will know it isn't cheap ground beef!

Here's my gauntlet throw-down: Cook one simple meal with Tofu as the meat. Put the tofu front and centre, no hiding it in shame.

Some notes on using Tofu:
Tofu is sold in different firmnesses, soft, medium, firm, extra firm. The softer it is, the cheaper is it, but also the more water is in it. If you're going to be using Tofu like a cheese, use soft or medium, otherwise get as firm as you can.

Just before you cook the tofu, put it on a cutting board with a towel under and over it. Squish the tofu to try and push out any excess water.

Dry fry the tofu with just a few spices (I like chinese five spice, cumin, and chili flakes) for five to ten minutes (let it firm up some, if it has a mushy texture cook it longer - no one wants mushy 'meat'). Put it aside, cook the rest of your dish, and put the tofu back in when you'd normally add your cooked meat. So far this has worked very well for stir-fries.

kolorado

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2012, 08:31:28 AM »
Great challenge! Unfortunately I'm allergic to soy. Rats! Tempeh is what I hear most meat eaters say they like best. It has a texture to it.
We do love other beans around here though. Well, I love them and have gotten my hubby to a level of tolerance and respect over the years. :D Still working on the kids though.

Bakari

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2012, 10:25:06 AM »
If you are allergic to soy, try gluten.  It is usually made from wheat.  Personally, I like the taste more than soy products.

If you aren't allergic to soy, in addition to tofu and temphe and edemame, another form to try is textured vegetable protein, which you can get in bulk at natural food stores.  You can use it exactly like ground meat, or even mix it in with ground meat, in which case no one will be able to even tell it is there. 
It has the same amount of protein per calorie as meat.  Plus, the processing removes much of the phytoestrogens which are the reason some people are concerned about consuming too much soy. 
Anything I've said here useful or interesting?  Find a lot more of my thoughts here: http://randomthoughts.fyi

shedinator

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2012, 11:10:45 AM »
I've tried different tofu related foods in the past, as a large portion of my year is spent being effectively vegan. As far as I'm concerned, it definitely does not replace meat in any way, which is where a lot of people get hung up. They try tofurkey, or tofu bacon, or some other tofu approximation of another food, and it tastes nothing like the real thing, so they decide they don't like tofu. I imagine if rice had been marketed as a way to taste meat without killing animals, we'd probably think that was disgusting, too.

That said, I personally do not like tofu... with one exception. Silken (extra soft) tofu is an excellent protein additive to a smoothie or shake, especially if you can't use whey powder. It blends really well, doesn't change the flavor or texture of the smoothie much, and boosts the nutritional quality of even the healthiest blended drink. It's what helped get me over my initial tofu hangups. Of course, then I tried tofu as a meal in its own right and discovered it was not my cup of tea, but no food is going to be a hit with everybody. I'm told there are even people out there who don't like the taste of bacon.
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Matt K

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2012, 12:14:30 PM »
As far as I'm concerned, it definitely does not replace meat in any way, which is where a lot of people get hung up. They try tofurkey, or tofu bacon, or some other tofu approximation of another food, and it tastes nothing like the real thing, so they decide they don't like tofu. I imagine if rice had been marketed as a way to taste meat without killing animals, we'd probably think that was disgusting, too.

You got it. The idea of Tofu was always sold to me as a meat replacement. "Here try this, it's like meat, but no baby koalas had to die for it."

Tofu is not a pork chop, it is not a steak, it is not bacon (damn!). But neither is chicken, and trying to use chicken in place of those things never really works out either. But there are plenty of awesome chicken dishes, and there are plenty of ways to adapt a steak based dish taste good when using chicken. Same with tofu, accept that it isn't like any other meat, and enjoy it for what it is. And save a cute baby koala at the same time*.

I'm going to need to look for Tempeh at the local chinese market, it sounds pretty good.

*I have never cooked with cute baby koala, but I assume it would be tasty.

Debbie M

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2012, 12:46:14 PM »
Oh, this challenge sounds educational.  I want to try it!

So I googled how to "dry fry" tofu, which I'd never heard of before.  And yea, I have all the equipment and know-how for that.

But I'm still unclear on how to dry fry it with spices.  Do I sprinkle them in the pan first?  And maybe sprinkle some on top of the tofu so that when I flip it, there are spices on that side, too?

Matt K

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2012, 01:03:02 PM »
Oh, this challenge sounds educational.  I want to try it!

So I googled how to "dry fry" tofu, which I'd never heard of before.  And yea, I have all the equipment and know-how for that.

But I'm still unclear on how to dry fry it with spices.  Do I sprinkle them in the pan first?  And maybe sprinkle some on top of the tofu so that when I flip it, there are spices on that side, too?

I've tried sprinkling the spices in the pan and frying them for a few minutes before tossing in the tofu. It makes the house smell great, but I didn't find it added anything to the final dish. So now I put my sliced tofu into the preheated pan, sprinkle the spices liberally, and mix the tofu around to try and get a semblance of an even coating on everything. I flip/stir the tofu a few times, and then I take it out of the pan to make way for the veggies I'm going to fry (I readd the tofu about 5 minutes before everything is done so it can get coated in sauce). I think I use the term dry-frying just so it sounds like I'm actually doing something...

JennC

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2012, 10:16:22 AM »
I love tofu. I discovered this maybe 5 years ago when I made a concerted effort to include it into my regular mix of things to prepare at home. I think I started out by using it in chili (in addition to ground meat but replacing a portion of it) but that was really just pretending the tofu wasn't there.

My favorite way to have it is agedashi style, when it is deep fried and served with that lovely salty sauce. I only have this occasionally though and at the restaurant because it seems a bother to make it at home. I may try it yet.

I also love mapo tofu; this is sauteed ground pork with onion and cubed tofu in a very spicy red chili sauce. It's very easy to make at home. You could skip the pork if you'd prefer; it is really there for flavour, not quantity.

I also like to simmer the tofu block in a pan of water to heat it through and then slice it up and serve a soy, ginger, garlic, shallots sauce on top of it. This served over rice is easy and really yummy.

Tofu baked with spices and seasonings is great as well. And the dessert tofus are a tasty way to sneak some lean protein into your diet. My friends make faces at me when I bring tofu for lunch but I am forever "defender of the bean curd." I stand firmly by my choice.

skandrae

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2012, 10:32:38 AM »

I also love mapo tofu; this is sauteed ground pork with onion and cubed tofu in a very spicy red chili sauce. It's very easy to make at home. You could skip the pork if you'd prefer; it is really there for flavour, not quantity.


JennC, do you have a recipe for mapo tofu? It was one of my favourite things to make when I lived in Japan, but I only ever used the pre-packaged sauce. Now that I'm back in Canada (particularly in the part of Canada I'm in), I find myself craving it often, but don't know how to make it.

nondualie

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2012, 03:46:24 PM »
A couple notes on tofu:

1) I prefer and seem to have a better time digesting, the "sprouted tofu" variety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH7aueFpdm8 (NFI)

2) I only eat tofu once or twice a week since I don't think it's the healthiest thing in the world and would prefer to get my protein from grass-fed local beef, local eggs, or raw milk/yogurt

3) I also don't try to "hide the ball" with it; I'll have cold tofu salads, put it in soups, put it in a stir-fry, etc. 

4) marinating it works great...sesame oil, rice vinegar, onions, etc.

5) making your own miso or dashi from scratch isn't that hard and is effin delicious and good for ya

Overall, I mostly eat tofu out of convenience and as a replacement for chicken -- which I find to be the most disgusting show of our modern world -- read Jonathon Foer's "Eating Animals" and see if you ever want to have a chicken breast (even "free-range") again.

And it gives me something I can eat when I have to eat out in a group and I can't be sure where the restaurant is sourcing their meat.  I'd rather eat a serving of GMO tofu than tyson chicken.

Stack

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2012, 08:16:16 AM »
Here's a great way to get Tofu to feel "meaty-er" in texture.  Slice the tofu into 1/3's or 1/4's lengthwise so you have 3 or 4 patties.  Place a few paper towels or a real one in a casserole dish and lay the tofu patties on top.  Now put some towels on top of the tofu and put another casserole dish on top of that towel  Weight it down with books, a soup pot full of water or whatever.  Let sit for 20+ minutes.  This will effectively push all the water out of the tofu and leave a much denser and "meaty-er" texture.

 You can cube the tofu for stir fries, make strips for fajita's, pan fry the patties with spices and make sandwiches out of it, crumble it for the ground beef recipes, etc, etc.  No, it still won't replace meat, but it will have more of a meaty texture (close to chicken), and it will be easier for the carnivores to enjoy.

And you can get it at Costco when you ride there on your bike.

JennC

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2012, 02:30:15 PM »
Mapo Tofu:
(note this is not Japanese style, as I think in Japan they prepare mapo tofu but with a sweeter sauce. I have never tried it)

Sautee about a 1/4 to 1/2 pound of ground pork with chopped leek or onion. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In the meantime, plonk your block of tofu into a pan of water (jut covering the tofu) Bring it to a very light simmer.

To the pork add:
1 tbsp fermented black beans (mash them a little in the pan) (you can rinse some of the salt off of them)
1.5 tbsp chili bean paste (or more if you like the spice)
Heat all ingredients through

In a cup add:
1/4C dilute chicken broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
Mix well and add to the pork. Simmer in pan to allow sauce to thicken.

Remove tofu and drain. Cut into cubes and add to pan. Mix with sauce.

Serve on rice and with fresh chopped green onion if you like.

Promptly snarf.




Richard3

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2012, 02:35:47 PM »
As far as I'm concerned, it definitely does not replace meat in any way, which is where a lot of people get hung up.

I'm told there are even people out there who don't like the taste of bacon.

Yeah, as an omnivore, the best non-meat dishes I have had have all not attempted to replace the meat with disgusting chemically flavoured vege-"meat". There are all sorts of tasty dishes that don't involve meat and none of them pretend to have meat in them.

Even something as simple as caramelised onions (use a little balsamic vinegar when you're simmering them) can be a great focal point for a dish. Then you have mushrooms, cheese, nuts.

I've never been convinced by tofu though, except in miso soup, and even then, the lumps are my least favourite bit.

I'll take a modified version of this challenge though and make next week's lunch chilli without meat.


Stack

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Re: The least expensive meat comes from beans.
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2012, 02:11:47 PM »
Here's a pretty interesting you tube video a friend sent me that I'd like to share as it's relative to the topic of this thread.  It was taken of a lecture given at Georgia Tech I believe.  Its just under an hour and does have some graphic scenes, so consider yourself warned. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4