Saturday, September 07, 2013

Red Chile Tofu Tacos

If you've been reading along, or have just tuned in randomly, I'm doing a post a day for Vegan Month of Food Blogging (Or check out #VeganMoFo as it's hashtagged all over Instagram, Twitter and Facebook).

My "theme" if you could loosely call it that, is my thoughts on turning the "Big Five-Oh", a milestone that I hit at the first of 'Month of Food Blogging". Nothing too deep or profound, just a few rambling thoughts to go along with my recipes, which is exactly what would happen is you pulled up to the bar in my kitchen to visit with me while I cooked anyway...

So what are my thoughts about turning 50, on this sunny, late-summer afternoon? My thoughts today are simply this:
Celebrate how far you've come, how much you know, how wise you are!

Whether it's some inner personal journey, or a half-century of public achievements, you are a MUCH different person than you were ten, twenty, thirty years ago. Sure, when I graduated college, I felt infinitely wise and all-knowing and proud of how much I'd accomplished in my (ridiculously short) life time!
Then real life came along and I realized how ill-prepared I was, and how little I really knew about mortgage amortization, higher-order abstract syntax, IRAs or oxygen–hemoglobin dissociation. I'm pretty sure I still don't know some of those things... and sometimes I feel just the same, and just as unprepared for LIFE as I did when I was twenty-something; I realize AM different though - there are parts of me that move differently, hair that's a different color and many more years of life experience added to my resume.

It may not seem like a big deal right now (or it might, depending on your perspective), but every day, I PROMISE, you're learning something, acquiring knowledge, gaining life experience. Think back on how far you've come since you graduated high school or college. Since you first learned to cook, or went vegan or vegetarian possibly? See? Think about how much MORE knowledge you'll have in another twenty or thirty years?

Red Chile Tofu Taco with guac!
So, I'll give you an example: Twenty-five years ago, (I know it's a shock), even though I was vegetarian, I did NOT know how to cook tofu.

See how much more experienced than me you'll be when you reach this age? You'll have been cooking tofu forEVER!

I barely knew what tofu WAS and had certainly had never heard of Red Chile Tofu Tacos. This is where my kids are way ahead of the tofu-learning curve, since they've been eating these things almost their whole lives.

Obviously, I DID eventually learn how to cook tofu (without the help of a computer, the Internets or any blogs, amazingly) and this is currently one of my all-time favorite (and MOST requested) ways to prepare it.

Taco Salad with Red Chile Tofu
and cheezy cashew cream.
This recipe is one of my favorites because my kids LOVE it, but also because it transforms plain, basic tofu into something just about anyone will eat willingly, even the avowed tofu-haters or skeptics.

I also love how it takes advantage of the beautiful, rich, deep red chiles from New Mexico. They are not necessarily hot (depending on how hot a variety you choose), but flavorful and earthy. Recently, friends from New Mexico visited and brought us a huge bag and we've been using it liberally and happily.

Note: Powdered red chile is pure and simple, ground New Mexico red chile pepper pods (sometimes called red Hatch chiles); NOT the same product as the little jars of spicy, salty Tex-Mex style "chili powder" you'll find in the supermarket. (This is what I use, you can also find it in single packets).

This tofu cooks up flavorful and crumbly. It makes a wonderful filling for burritos, tacos, nachos or taco salad. It's a bit different than the spicy, tangy, tomato-based taco fillings you may be used to, but I think you'll find the rich, deep flavor of the red chiles quite addicting. The beauty of this tofu is that once made, it can be stored in the fridge several days, and used in so many ways. I use a mild red chile, so it's not spicy-hot at all, use a hotter variety if you prefer.

Red Chile Tofu

  • 1 lb. block extra firm tofu, crumbled and mashed fairly fine
  • 1 Tablespoon oil or as needed
  • 3 - 8 Tablespoons Mild New Mexico powdered red chile (depending on heat and personal taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or orange juice for a sweeter, less acidic taste)
  • 1/2 cup water

Tofu and seasonings
Heat well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add oil and crumbled tofu. Mix a bit to disperse oil throughout tofu.
Add dry spices. Mix lemon and water and pour over tofu. Mix and stir with a metal spatula. Let saute about 5 minutes and stir, scraping pan so tofu doesn't stick.

Continue to let tofu cook for about 5-6 minutes and stir, scraping the pan each time to scrape up dark bits and to keep tofu from sticking.

Red Chile Tofu, about half done

Cook this way for about 30 minutes, stirring and scraping at 5 minute intervals until moisture is mostly evaporated and tofu is evenly rich red with brown bits, and texture is crumbly.

Yes, it does require "babysitting" but use the time to prepare other taco "fixins", make homemade tortillas or clean your kitchen!

Serve warm in any way you'd use "taco burger", or store in fridge for up to four days, reheating if desired (I LOVE it cold in taco salad).


Amey said...

I'm enjoying your theme! I just turned 40 a couple of months ago, and I enjoyed reflecting on it and what it meant. So far, I am enjoying the increased sense of self-comfort that I have as I age. Also, I too am enjoying my increasing tofu cookery skills. I love recipes like this, where the tofu totally transforms and just becomes appealing to all!

luminousvegans said...

This looks so hearty and good! I definitely would have it bowl/salad style because I love eating tacos and burritos that way. Looks yummy with that bright green guac.

Zsu Dever said...

Love the blog and happy five-oh! Many more!

Cindy said...

That tofu looks awesome! And I'm a sucker for guacamole, too. :-)

Congratulations on your big birthday and all the achievements that have led to it.