Let me just make sure to start off by saying that I’m not one of those militant vegan or vegetarian types. I’m not a vegetarian. I will never be a vegetarian. I have no interest in it.
But I do love tofu, which seems to often fool people into thinking I am vegan/vegetarian. I don’t get it, but whatever.
Here’s the thing about tofu, okay? If you like cheese, then you are being way hypocritical if you then bash tofu for being gross. It’s not gross. It’s simply soy milk that has had a coagulant (curdling agent) added. Those resulting curds are then pressed, or sometimes flavored and then drained/pressed. (source: wikipedia’s article on tofu: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tofu)
Sound familiar to you? It should.
At its simplest description, cheese is milk that has been curdled through addition of some coagulant. It separates into curds and whey. The curds are separated out, flavored, and pressed into their final form. (source: wikipedia’s article on cheese: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese)
So. If they’re basically made the same way, how can one be gross while the other is a much-beloved part of almost every world cuisine? I respectfully assert that I may have just blown that part of your argument out of the water.
I will accept that a lot of people have issue with the texture or the flavor. In which case… Look, there’s different textures of tofu. You can also get different *flavors* of tofu, where the manufacturers add herbs and spices and whatnot. So seriously, just keep trying until you find something you like. Not everyone is an equal-opportunity tofu lover like I am. I’m okay with that. But discounting the entire tofu world because you had one bland, poorly-prepared tofu experience? That’d be like me swearing off all cheese because I happen to not like Camembert. It’s just a little unfair. (And then I wouldn’t be able to indulge in Port-Salud, or Brie, or make pizzas or french onion soups or paninis… well, you get the idea.)
Plus, tofu is really really good for you. It’s a great healthy way to get protein, and there’s all those smart medical-types saying that people, women especially, should be eating more soy. So unless you want to just be eating soyjoy bars or drinking soy milk (which I find way too processed and sweet, at least around where I live) or snacking on edamame for the rest of your life, which are all great options but not all that exciting, you should really give tofu a try.
Now I don’t claim to know a lot about tofu or even a lot of great ways to use it. But we do all have the internet, and the internet is great for finding things out. Here are some ideas off the top of my head though, that I have tried and really liked.
– silken tofu: use this to add body to your smoothies in place of yogurt. Throw some into your next batch of hot and sour soup or miso soup.
– soft tofu: just a little bit firmer than the silken stuff (which will pretty much fall through your fingers, it’s that delicate) and I love using this instead of ricotta when I make lasagna. Also, I happen to really hate ricotta, but really love lasagna, so this makes me super happy. Just whisk up the soft tofu with an egg or two to help it really hold together as your lasagna bakes.
– firm tofu: this is what I use the most often. I’ve marinated it in chili powder and fried it up for delicious tofu tacos (and really, tacos for me are just a vehicle to see how much guacamole I can cram into my greedy mouth). I’ve tossed it into any and all sorts of stir-fries. I tend to cube this up and add it to my miso soup instead of the silken just because I like my tofu to be more regular-shaped and the silken harder to work with… and I’m lazy. I’ve made fantastic tofu appetizers by baking up some wonton cups and filling them with a mixture of tofu whisked together with soy sauce, garlic, and just a little sugar. It has gotten me at least one marriage proposal, from someone who has never and will never be romantically interested in me.
There’s also the super-pressed tofus, and tofu tempeh, and that stuff seriously cuts like steak. It’s what many people think of when they see “meat substitutes.” And let’s not forget the fantastic sweetened fried tofu skins, which are one half of the ingredients for inari sushi. (The other ingredient being sushi rice.) And of course since we are in the Western world, there’s tofu hot dogs, ground tofu, soy burgers, etc etc etc.
So really what it boils down to is that you have to have an open mind, and you have to keep trying. You won’t like it all. Not even I like it all. But I do love tofu in most forms, and I think you should too.