They say people have a cilantro gene, I so agree, you either hate or love that herb. I also believe that there is a tofu gene. You either love it or not. I was the NOT part but wasn't sure if it was the texture or the taste.
Don't get me wrong, I am well aware of the benefits of soy and from time to time I have made dishes that include tofu, thinking that we might have to ease our way into making it a regular part of our diet. I started with a dish nobody doesn't like.....cheesecake, but the consistency was all wrong and not what I was used too. I then tried a Chinese stir-fry. I ate everything but the tofu.
Thinking it was all in my mind, I bought a well known soy based fruit yogurt, but I only ate half. I gave up trying after that until now.
To celebrate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Soyfoods Council is challenging The Recipe ReDux to inspire family, friends and readers to add more soyfoods to their diet by creating recipes using one of the most versatile soy foods available - tofu.
This was a double whammy challenge for me. If I can't inspire me how can I inspire anyone else? This time I was determined to create a recipe for a dish using tofu that would not only taste good but have a consistency I could live with. After weeks of deliberation I took my own advice that when in doubt stick with what you know and do that the best you can......and for me that's Italian food.
I had just made a batch of Eggplant Parmigiana when it hit me. Why not see if it was possible to make tofu ricotta cheese. It seems that like everything relating to tofu, there are those that think the consistency is just not like ricotta, while others say if you close your eyes and not concentrate on the taste, you would swear you were eating cheese.
HEY out there, why would I want to do that? I want to make a cheese substitute that tastes like a creamy cheese without the dairy. If you can buy soy cheese that tastes like Swiss, cheddar and blue (and it does, I have eaten it), why can't we make a homemade curd cheese. After all, isn't tofu pressed curds?
It really is about the flavor then, and not the texture. Ricotta is milk and an acid so the acid was where I started. Now, what to make with it. Since I love eggplant and mushrooms, I would start there. I also wanted to keep the dish Vegan, and as healthy as I could but it needed to pass THE taste test...me and The Nudge.
Most eggplant dishes are fried in a breadcrumb coating, with an egg and flour dredge.
I am changing all that and using a falafel coating and baking each piece of eggplant. The mix has all the spices you need to season the coating.
I sliced the eggplant horizontal to the counter and after layering the cheese/mushroom mix between each slice of baked eggplant, stacked the layers back to the original shape of the eggplant so it will look like a log. If you prefer to slice them cross-wise like a loaf of bread, three slices will make one stack. I then am giving two choices on how to serve the same dish, one hot with a tomato sauce and the other, cold as a salad, with a vinaigrette.
This was really good. The cheese, when heated, became creamy and had the same consistency as ricotta. I have to admit that it passed both our taste tests. We both leaned towards the hot version because that is how we love our eggplant prepared but I am sure for the salad lovers out there, the one with a vinaigrette will be just as good.
So if right now I may not like a soy yogurt or a tofu stir-fry, I can make creamy Italian Baked Dishes that include an ingredient I know will not only make my heart happy but will also make my tummy happy!
While most recipes with tofu call for you to drain it, I found that you do not need to do so for this recipe; just open the container! (Drained tofu is too dry to pass for a good ricotta)
For strict vegans who do not consume honey, using agave nectar works as well.
Tofu Ricotta Cheese
makes 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 12-oz. Extra Firm Silken Tofu
- 1/2 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- In a small bowl, mash the tofu with a fork or crumble with your hands. Mix in the remaining ingredients until well combined. Ricotta will keep for 3 days in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Oven Fried Eggplant
makes 6-8 pieces
- 1 box (2 bags) falafel mix
- 1 cup soy yogurt (vegan) or regular plain yogurt (not vegan)
- 1 large or two medium eggplant (at least 1lb total weight), as even a width as possible
- Remove the stem and bottom of one large eggplant. Slice eggplant into about 1/4" horizontal slices (from tip to toe using a mandolin), keeping eggplant slices in order. First 3 bottom slices will not be used so stack will lay flat on platter.
- Add 2 teaspoons water to the yogurt to thin to the consistency of buttermilk.
- Dip first piece eggplant in yogurt on both sides and place on falafel mix. Turn and press to adhere as much coating as you can. Repeat until all slices are coated.
- Place (still keeping it in order) on a sheet pan that has been sprayed with olive oil. Spray the tops of all the slices with the olive oil and bake in a 400° oven for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, flip the slices over and bake another 10 minutes.
makes 4-6 servings
- 1 recipe oven fried eggplant
- 1 recipe tofu ricotta
- 1 (12oz) container sauteed sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup favorite spaghetti sauce or favorite Italian salad dressing
- On a heatproof platter, center first slice of eggplant and spread 1/4 cup cheese, then a layer of sliced mushrooms on top.
- Continue layering, ending up with the eggplant as the last layer.
- If serving as a hot appetizer heat eggplant in a 350° oven for 15 minutes while you simmer the sauce. Cut 2" vertical slices in the stack, pour some sauce on each plate and top with a slice of eggplant.
- If serving as a cold appetizer (or salad) cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour up to overnight. Cut a 2" vertical slice in the stack and serve with dressing and maybe a few olives or roasted pepper strips.