I’ll never forget the first time that my friend Kim and I met up for breakfast. We had been making promises to have dinner or grab a drink, but our lives were too busy, our evenings too packed. But we really wanted to connect, so we finally tried for early morning breakfast. And the timing worked.
The breakfast was memorable because it was the single worst restaurant meal I’ve had in New York City. Kim’s bacon appeared to have been forgotten in a deep fryer for an hour. The frizzled bacon was next to watery poached eggs which were piddling all over the plate, soggying her toast. My oatmeal was cooked with what tasted like heavy cream – thick, heavy, gloppy. And most offensive of all, the coffee was weak and lukewarm. We vowed never to go out again and started the tradition of getting together every two weeks at each other’s houses to catch up, if quickly, over homemade breakfast.
Over the past several months, we’ve had breakfast five or six times. I’ve made Life Changing Bread topped with smashed avocado and eggs, frittatas studded with olives and goat cheese, and yogurt parfaits layered with berries and homemade granola. Kim’s made five spice-braised lamb belly on toast and Chinese fried eggs sprinkled with scallions and drizzled with a sweet Asian sauce. Each time we reflect on that first meal and wonder why we, two cooks, would ever have gone out.
Last week, I texted Kim the night before our breakfast to let her know I was (temporarily) eating vegan. Kim loves vegetables, but there is nothing vegan about her. She headed up the internet sensation, Charcutepalooza, which encouraged people in the online food community to make a different cured meat at home every month.
So when I said, “I’m eating vegan right now”, I got the response I had expected: “It’s a good thing you told me that!” Which really meant, “What the heck am I going to make?”
When I arrived, I saw her mise en place beautifully arranged on a cutting board – petit diced red onion, red pepper, mushroom, and some tofu. Within minutes of walking in the door, Kim had thrown together a tofu scramble, an idea she’d sourced from a vegan friend. She served it with warm flour tortillas and I helped myself to the giant bottle of sriracha in her fridge. For a woman who doesn’t do vegan, she cooked the best breakfast I’d had in months.
I’m sure tofu-phobes will have a hard time believing this, but tofu gets a bad rap.
Often, tofu is cut into big, fat cubes. The exterior is spiced and seared, providing a flavorful, crunchy shell, but leaving an interior that hasn’t seen the light of day and remains mushy and flavorless. The scramble works particularly well because the tofu is mashed up with a fork, allowing the spices and flavors to reach all surfaces.
Mom and I made our own version of a tofu scramble when we were together last week. She was admittedly skeptical, but I kept reassuring her she’d love it. And she was impressed. In fact so impressed she said she’d be making it for Dad. When I reheated the leftovers and served them to Andy the next morning, he enjoyed it so thoroughly he hardly said a word while eating it.
So if you’ve had a bad tofu experience, the tofu scramble is a good place to try it again. And…consider having a friend over for an unusual breakfast.
Scrambled Tofu with Black Beans, Chilies, and Cilantro
For a little kick, serve with your favorite hot sauce or salsa.
1 block (14 ounces) extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 4-ounce can whole green chilies (mild), chopped
3/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, thin sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus extra for topping
Salt and pepper to taste
4 8-inch flour tortillas
Mash tofu with a fork into scrambled egg sized pieces; transfer to a medium bowl and toss with cumin and tumeric.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet. Add chilies, beans, and scallions; saute until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tofu and cilantro; cook until heated though, about 2 minutes longer. Spoon a portion of the tofu mixture into each of four warm flour tortillas, garnish with extra chopped cilantro and serve.