crispy glazed tofu with brown rice, beets, and sweet potatoes

7:22:00 PM

Do you like tofu? Do you not like tofu? Do you like tofu and you want to convert someone who doesn’t? 

None of that actually matters at all, I guess, because this is delicious, and you will like it regardless. I know the picture is terrible (it was pitch black outside) but I didn’t want to skip posting this recipe because it’s so good. 

When I was a kid, tofu was synonymous with “healthy.” It was stuff hippies ate. It was what Doug Funny hated. It was gross. 

Now, in a time when everyone is a health expert and you can find a myriad of studies paid for by various industries, tofu no longer has a health food reputation. People can debate soy for hours, just like they debate the virtues of coconut oil and eggs and coffee (all of which I also love.) The bottom line for me: it might be healthy, and it’s a very cheap form of protein (a couple weeks ago we got two pounds of organic tofu for two bucks!) and it will absorb the flavor of whatever you do with it. It’s a great base for so many dishes. We probably eat it about once a week. 

Regardless of whether or not tofu is “healthy”, this particular preparation of it isn’t exactly healthy. Coated in panko, lightly fried, and tossed in a delectable, ginger-y sauce. But you’ll pair it with a whole grain (brown rice, farro, or quinoa are all good options) and some yummy fall vegetables and it’ll rock your world.

The only non-vegan part of this recipe is the egg that you use in the breading (and the honey in the sauce, but you can use agave nectar.) I’m not sure of a great way to vegan-ify it. I’m open to suggestions! I’ve read about dipping the tofu in soy milk, then in flour, then in soy milk again before putting into breading. I’ve also read that vegan mayo works, but I have no idea how it will taste. (We bought vegan mayo once. I will not be buying it again.) It might sort of work not putting anything on it since tofu is kind of wet to begin with, but I haven’t tried it.

This recipe is from Crepes of Wrath, which is full of lots of delicious recipes. Check it out! The only real change I made was to use brown rice instead of quinoa as I really don’t like quinoa (I know, blasphemy.) I actually meant to use farro, but lost it somewhere deep in the cupboard to the point I thought I didn’t have any … so brown rice it is. 

This will convert pretty much any tofu hater. Seriously. 

crispy glazed tofu with brown rice, beets, and sweet potatoes
adapted (barely) from The Crepes of Wrath

for the brown rice and vegetables
1 cup brown rice, uncooked
3-4 beets, peeled and cut into cubes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar (optional)
salt and pepper

for the tofu
1 lb tofu (if your package is a little less, that’s okay)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup panko breadcrumbs 
½ tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1 egg, beaten in a shallow dish with 1 tbsp water
canola oil (probably about ½ cup in all)

for the sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, minced (about 1.5-2 tbsp)
3 tbsp honey or agave nectar
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp sriracha or garlic chili sauce
dash of sesame oil (optional, but tasty if you have a bottle)
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup water
sesame seeds and chopped scallions for garnish

Start by pressing the tofu. Cut tofu into several slices about ½-¾ inch thick, lay slices flat on a thick layer of paper towels, top with another thick layer of paper towels, and put a heavy skillet on top. Let sit for about 20-30 minutes.

Cook rice according to package directions and add salt and pepper to taste. While rice is cooking, roast the vegetables: preheat the oven to 400 degrees (I use convection setting). Toss the peeled, cubed vegetables with the olive oil, honey or agave nectar, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes (will take shorter on convection oven, longer in regular oven.) You want the vegetables browned in spots and slightly crispy. Stir halfway through.

When rice and vegetables are done, stir the vegetables into the rice, taste the mix for seasoning, and set aside. Keep warm.

Cook the tofu: After tofu is pressed, cut into cubes. Combine the panko, flour, and 5-spice powder in a shallow dish. Working with a few pieces of tofu at a time, dip them into the egg mixed with water, then into the panko mix. Press to adhere the crumbs to the tofu, then set aside. 

In a large skillet or pot, heat about ½ inch of canola oil over medium heat until hot, then add tofu in batches. It’ll take a couple minutes for the tofu to brown. Once it’s brown, flip over with tongs and brown the other side. When tofu is cooked, remove from pan with tongs and place on paper towels to drain. Continue breading and pan-frying tofu until all is cooked.

Lastly, make the glaze. Heat the two tsp of olive oil in a saucepan, then add in the shallot and saute until softened. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for 30 seconds. Then add the honey/agave nectar, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sriracha/chili sauce, and sesame oil. Cook until it boils, then stir in the cornstarch/water mixture and continue to cook and let thicken, about 2-3 minutes. Once sauce is thick, stir in the fried tofu and cook for just a little bit so it re-warms the tofu. 

Serve tofu with the rice mixture. Season with sesame seeds and scallions.

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