After returning from our lengthy travels, we were all running on fumes. The afternoon after we got back, Mom and Dad were heading out to one of Dad’s book signings. Andy and I decided to hang back and keep the home fires burning. But before they left, I asked Mom what she was craving for dinner. Remembering a gorgeous dish we’d seen in California, she suggested polenta topped with a rich tomato sauce. I used that as a starting point as I looked through the fridge for inspiration and tried to come up with something that would satisfy us all.
As we caught up over pizza and wine the night before, Dad told us how he’d been trying to lower his cholesterol with diet. He had done some initial research into cholesterol-reducing foods. At the top of that list? Tofu. While dad is not tofu-adverse, he’s never been a fan. Who would be with meat on the table? Tofu can be bland and boring, but it can easily be improved because (like chicken), it’s a blank palatte. But for a lot of folks, it comes down to the texture, which is harder to fix.
In recent months, I have made it my personal mission to find ways of making tofu not just good, but great. Andy says this tofu I make for my sushi bowl is the best ever, but that night I improved on my personal best with this cornmeal-crusted tofu served over a rich tomato sauce. I took mom’s idea and flipped it around – tomato sauce on the bottom, polenta on the top – and was able to include the tofu I was so keen to prove could be good. The crunchy tofu and piquant sauce combined were a winning combination. I made a convert out of dad and made something that satisfied mom’s soul.
This cornmeal-crusted tofu can be used in a number of ways. Last night, I put a little spice mix in the polenta and served this crispy tofu over a Mexican kale dinner salad.
- 1 block (14-ounces) extra-firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 1- by 2- inch cubes
- Salt and ground black pepper
- ¼ cup polenta or cornmeal
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, thick sliced
- 2 medium-large onions, cut into chunks
- 2 cans (28-ounces) crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Place tofu in a medium bowl; season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Put cornmeal in a shallow dish; dredge each piece of tofu, coating on all sides.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; cook, turning only once, until impressively brown on both sides, about 6 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-hight heat, add mushrooms; saute until liquid evaporates and mushrooms started to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onions; sauté until light caramel brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add tomatoes, olives, and mushrooms; simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in parlsey.
- Spoon a portion of sauce into each bowl, top with tofu, and serve.