tofu, happily ever after


Once upon a time I thought making my own tofu was impossible. Of course, once upon a time I'd eat a can of chickpeas for dinner and call it a day. Times have changed! Though I still love chickpeas.

It started with Hodo Soy. Delicious, fresh, non-GMO, medium textured Hodo Soy. Aseptic packaged tofu from the grocery store paled in comparison; my omnivorous sweetheart turned out to like fresh tofu, so I knew we  could never go back. When the Hodo Soy stand left our usual farmers market, I tracked it down at another, then another. Then it left the East Bay farmers markets completely! I hunted it down, packaged, at Berkeley Bowl West, then at Whole Foods. One day, the medium tofu was inexplicably gone forever. I started hoarding the firm tofu. What were we to do? "You'll have to start making tofu," my omnivorous sweetheart said.

I bought Andrea Nguyen's Asian Tofu. It started to seem possible. Then she put together a tiny kit for purchase. It started to seem impossible not to.

Her instructions are clear and her troubleshooting tips super helpful. I won't reprint the recipe here, but I really do recommend picking up either Asian Tofu or the smaller e-book. I do have some notes for first time tofu makers!




Be sure to use a large enough pot when cooking the initial soymilk. It foams! It rises! It really, really does. I had to stop halfway through the first simmer and pour it out into a larger pot. Dangerous! Even if you think it's silly to use that giant soup stockpot, do it.

Save the pulp that results from straining the soymilk. This is okara, a food in itself, high in protein and fiber. Traditionally it can be simmered in broth or sautéed with vegetables; it can also be added to baked goods or hot cereals. I made a scramble with some of my first batch and it was incredibly - almost alarmingly! - eggy in texture.

If you, like me, stock up on cartons of pumpkin purée during the autumn months, surprise! A one pound carton fits perfectly into the top of some particular tofu molds. You can also use a colander instead of a specialized mold if you don't mind having a non-rectangular block.

Be very careful when moving your brand new block of tofu from the press to your partially water-filled storage container. New tofu is delicate! Be equally careful when topping off the water to completely cover the block, use low pressure.

Clean up quickly - soymilk and tofu both are very, very sticky.

Feel like a wizard! You just made tofu! 


how to open a pomegranate

"pomegranate" comes from the Latin "malum granatum," or "seeded apple"

This is how my grandmother taught me to open a pomegranate: put on one of my grandfather's old work undershirts and have at it!

halved pomegranate on its way to being quartered

This is how I open a pomegranate as a less-messy but almost certainly less-fun adult: with a small knife, slice off the crown and then score the tough outer skin of pomegranate in quarters. Try to puncture as few seeds - more properly, arils - as possible; you will puncture some, but don't worry about it too much. You can try to make the scores in curves but while it is then easier to open it is more complicated to cut in the first place and can be frustrating. Fill a large bowl with water. In fact, it's a good idea to fill the bowl with water before you start cutting the fruit. Submerge the scored pomegranate and - gently! - underwater, pull the quarters apart.

You can flip the quarters inside out and tap the seeds out that way, but sometimes the skin is too thick and you crush more seeds than you would if you just push them out gently and rub them with your fingers and thumbs. The papery insides will float to the top where you can skim them away. Drain and pick through the seeds to make sure there are no inner rinds and membranes attached. Leave draining above a bowl or spread out on a plate or baking sheet to dry for an hour, then refrigerate if saving for later. Otherwise, have at it!

pomegranate arils, draining