October 9th, 2009

Scrambled Tofu Revisited

Scrambled tofu is probably one of the most mundane vegan recipes there is. Go ahead and roll your eyes when you open a cookbook and see the obligatory entry, I know I do, even at my own. But for a new vegan it’s one of the most important dishes to learn. And for me, even though my inaugural tofu was scrambled 20 years ago, it’s still a staple.

It’s one of those things that changes with you, kind of like a culinary mood ring. My scramble used to feel incomplete without mushrooms, but lately I prefer a simpler texture, even onions aren’t a necessity anymore. I went through a broccoli era, and used to take a hardline anti-red pepper stance, but lately the cruciferous is out and nightshades are in.

But you don’t have to stop at breakfast, or limit yourself to a plate of scramble and hashbrowns. Look at scrambled tofu with fresh eyes! Here’s a few ways to spruce up your scramble, or use up your leftovers.

Serve in a squash bowl: Serve in half a baked squash (acorn or carnival would work perfectly.) Caramelized onions would be nice, too.
Breakfast burritos: Wrap up with potatoes, fresh salsa and guacamole.
Add to mac and cheese: Use up leftover scramble (or make some scramble just for the occasion!) by adding it to your favorite vegan mac and cheese recipe.
Lettuce wraps: Tuck scramble into lettuce, serve with fresh tomatoes and drizzle with vinaigrette
Make a sandwich: Not the most ingenious idea, but one of my favorites! A scramble sandwich with avocado, red onion and sprouts.
Make a knish: Make potato knishes and add a layer of scramble
Stuff peppers: Mix with a can of black beans and some salsa. Stuff into red peppers, bake and top with a little vegan cheese at the end.
Crepe filling: Serve in a crepe, with a vegan hollandaise sauce.

And in case you don’t have enough scrambled tofu recipes in your repertoire, here’s another for good measure (from Vegan Brunch.)

Basic Scrambled Tofu
Serves 4
For me, a basic scramble should have nice big pieces in it. It’s crumbled, yes, but not completely in crumbles. Just kind of torn apart and then broken up a bit when cooking in the pan. The flavor should be lip smacking and just a bit salty, but not overly so. Garlic, some cumin, a little thyme – that is the base. From there you can do countless variations using whatever is in your fridge that morning.

So this is my basic recipe. When you want a trustworthy and easy to modify standard scramble, this makes a great go-to.

Spice blend:
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, to taste)

1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Fresh black pepper to taste

First stir the spice blend together in a small cup. Add water and mix. Set aside.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to stir often. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. Use a thin metal spatula to get the job done, a wooden or plastic one won’t really cut it. The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the ban. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the nutritional yeast and fresh black pepper. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

You can include these additions to your scramble by themselves or in combination with one another.

Broccoli – Cut about one cup into small florettes, thinly slice the stems. Add along with the tofu.
Onion – Finely chop one small onion. Add along with the garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Proceed with recipe.
Red Peppers – Remove stem and seed, finely chop one red pepper. Add along with the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Proceed with recipe.
Mushrooms – Thinly slice about a cup of mushrooms. Add along with the tofu.
Olives – Chop about 1/3 a cup of sliced olives. Add towards the end of cooking, after mixing in the nutritional yeast.
Spinach – Add about 1 cup of chopped spinach towards the end of cooking, after mixing in the nutritional yeast. Cook until completely wilted.
Carrots – Grate half of an average sized carrot into the scramble towards the end of cooking. This is a great way to add color to the scramble.
Avocado – I almost always have avocado with my scramble. Just peel and slice it and serve on top.

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