January 28, 2011

Fresh tofu | Crochet



Recently, I was reading a blog post about buying fresh tofu and rice noodles in Seattle, and was seized with the obsessional need to find the tofu shop mentioned in the post (Than Son Tofu), and go buy some of my own. I started thinking about long ago in upstate NY, when we lived a block away from a tiny little shop where a Chinese man made fresh tofu every day. When he told me he ate eight small cakes of tofu each day, it almost killed my desire to eat any, but his tofu was so good, it was hard to resist. And I remember when we lived in Madison, Wis., buying fresh tofu from a tofu co-op called The Bountiful Bean. But we haven't bought any fresh tofu since coming to Seattle, just the stuff in the sealed packages. We headed to Than Son Tofu to see what we could find.



When we entered the small storefront, we were faced with large stainless tubs filled with hot, just-fried tofu, as well as all sorts of familiar and unfamiliar items. In the cooler, I found a package of fresh yuba, and there were bottles of still-warm soymilk (soybean juice) in bins at the front of the store. There was a young woman behind the counter who offered us samples of the fried tofu — onion, lemongrass and plain. I'm not a big fried-food eater, and you'll never find recipes for deep fried foods on this blog, but I'm not going to lie, fried food tastes good. Fried tofu tastes really good. And the fried tofu we sampled was irresistible, so into a bag it went.



My attempts to buy plain tofu went something like this:
Me: "I'd like to buy some soft tofu and some extra firm tofu."
Young Woman Behind Counter: confused look.



We went back and forth like this — me using words, and she using facial expressions, for a few minutes until I said, "I'd like to buy some fresh tofu." This got a big smile and the question, "how many?" "Three," I answered, and with a laugh she disappeared into the kitchen and returned with three pieces of warm tofu. I also grabbed a jug of soymilk, or soybean juice as it was described on the label.



So, what did I make with the fried tofu? It seemed destined for an Asian-inspired meal, but that's not what happened. We had a big, fresh bunch of my favorite vegetable — kale — in the refrigerator, and I really wanted steamed kale with sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and crushed red pepper. I just couldn't get past it, so we had the kale topped with fried tofu and green onions, with a side of brown basmati rice.



Next I had to think of something to do with the fresh soymilk. I know a lot of people make their own soymilk, so this would be no big deal, but if I buy soymilk, it's in a carton and rather bland, which is the way I generally prefer it. The fresh soymilk was very intensely flavored and thick — perfect for baking.



With bananas rotting on the counter, it seemed obvious that I should make banana bread, and I had intended to post a recipe for banana-oatmeal bread. Somewhere in the middle of combining ingredients, I lost track of how much flour I put in, and found myself winging it (á la River!) and unable to supply accurate measurements. This is really too bad because the bread turned out so well. I also left out some flavors I meant to include, so obviously I'll have to make another one. Which means I have to eat this one rather quickly, because I can't have two banana breads sitting in the kitchen!



Banana bread wasn't the only thing baking in our kitchen. After reading about Mark Bittman's changes at the NY Times, I followed a link to one of his well-known recipes — no-knead bread. I make no-knead bread often, guided by recipes from "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day," but I wanted to give Mark Bittman's recipe another try, so I watched this video, and got started. The dough had to ferment for about 18 hours, and then rise for two hours. The bread got baked in a large cast iron pot; I'm sure most of you have seen this recipe — it was hugely popular several years ago. Above you can see my bread (made with white whole wheat flour) rising in its towel cocoon.



I plopped it into the piping hot pot as directed, and put it into the oven.



When it was done, it had a fantastic crunchy crust, beautiful crumb and gorgeous yellow color. But it was rather like a large pancake, with very little rise. It spread out into the pot instead of upward. It tasted great but I really wanted a higher rise. Bittman has posted a newer video with his revisions to the recipe, if you are interested.



This was my breakfast today — not exactly oatmeal. There's leftover kale with sun-dried tomatoes and olives, hummus, cucumber, avocado and Bittman's bread.

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Crochet something and GET IT RIGHT!!!
Almost a year ago, I mentioned that I was trying to revisit an old interest in crochet. My skills were never highly developed, but I thought I could at least make a hat or scarf or two, and then progress to something more complex. I made a hat and scarf and that was the end of it. But, recently, a friend asked me to take a crochet class with her, and it forces me to keep making stuff since I have to appear at the class once a week with yarn and a project .



My biggest problem seems to be a streak of perfectionism that won't let me finish anything. I made this hat ... about six times! It was too big — ripped it out. It was too pointy — ripped it out. It was too small — ripped. It was ... And so on. I still don't like it but I had to stop ripping before the yarn became unusable. I still intend to make another version and a scarf to match because I really like the yarn.



I also made a "magic potholder." It's a very cool double-layer cotton potholder that can be made in about two hours — or six hours if you make it three times like I did. I think the magic part is that I finished it. (You can google "magic potholder" for directions. I used Sugar and Cream yarn, a size G hook, and I started with 30 chains.)

I'm making a hat for my granddaughter and I'm now on version two, but I promised myself not to make it more than twice.



It looks like I'll be crocheting for a while. Will I survive?

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This is what I saw when I looked out my bedroom window last evening.



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33 comments:

  1. that bread and that tofu look so fresh and inviting.

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  2. That crochet hat is the cutest!!!

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  3. I was just looking at that edible heart. So many awesome chocolates these days. Even though I don't eat much soy I am still fascinated with the local makers of it, cool story.

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  4. So what was the firmness of the fresh tofu? It sounds like it would be delicious.
    The same thing happened to me when I tried to make Bittman's bread but it is really tasty. I actually enjoy kneading, though, and like my bread in one day, so I don't make his often.

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  5. The tofu and breads look amazing! Great job with the crochet projects, too. :)

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  6. Raw girl,
    They're not raw, but they are fresh! :D

    Amy,
    Thank you! If only I could do it in just one try. :(

    Bitt,
    The heart box is very cute and just the right size. You could look into the fresh rice noodles instead of fresh tofu. The brand is called "Rose" and they are in the coolers opposite the miso at Uwajimaya, I'm told. I want to try some, soon.

    Foodfued,
    I would say the tofu is pretty firm — maybe not quite extra firm. It's just a very different taste and texture. My son made a scramble with it and I thought the taste was amazing, even though I don't usually like scrambles.

    Weird about the bread. I used white whole wheat flour which may have affected the rise, but I always use that. Maybe I should have let it ferment longer.

    Tiffany,
    Thanks. I have to say the bread crust lost some of its crispness the second day, but it still tasted good. Crochet is an ongoing challenge.

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  7. I'm currently out of the fresh rice noodles and tofu . . . you're killing me! I have been dreaming about that "soy juice", too. Your meal looks simply wonderful!

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  8. I've had that kind of tofu shopping experience, but never with the wonderful choices you got. Your kale dish looks delicious. And at last you can try fresh yuba!

    Your bread looks really good to me; the lo-rise makes it rustic and chewy...

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  9. So many things! First off, you look adorable in your hat! Did you notice you have a halo around you? I'm in awe of that halo!

    We have a similar store/restaurant in town where they sell cooked Asian food as well as fresh, uncooked. But no fresh tofu yet. I'll have to suggest that to them. I LOVE the kale dish you made.

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  10. Greyt,
    I'm still looking forward to trying the fresh rice noodles as I haven't bought any, yet, but the tofu is excellent. I used a small piec last night to make Japanese vegetable pancakes, and they were amazing.

    Zoa,
    I haven't tried the yuba, yet, and I can't quite remember what I'm supposed to do with it. Something with layers — I'll have to search your blog.

    The bread WAS really good, but I still wanted it to be higher.

    Blessedmama,
    Why, thank you. The halo is fake, I assure you.

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  11. I have heard so many times from so many people that fresh tofu is so superior to the store-bought variety, but I have yet to have an opportunity to try any. Next time I venture out into civil civilization where such goodies can be found I intend to put an end to my deprivation!

    Your meals all look and sound so delicious, if I could have I'd have made moony faces at you through your kitchen window till you took pity on me and brought me out a plate. Along with a piece of that delectable looking banana bread for dessert, of course! :-) Kale is my favorite veggie too, and we've been eating loads of it lately since our health food store got some really good organic kale in. We'll be having the last batch today in Green Smoothies from Color Me Vegan.

    I lol'ed at your "too pointy" hat description! I think the hat looks really cute on you - love that color!

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  12. I think I'm going to have to trek up to first hill too for some of that tofu!

    I think the hat looks adorable! I love that color...it's very fetching on. Also, those Farm Sanctuary necklaces are very cute.

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  13. I love your breakfast--I think it looks delicious. I love having leftovers for breakfast :-)

    Your had is gorgeous! Congrats on all the crocheting--I wish I knew how. Where did you find the class? Is it a community ed class or at a yarn shop etc.?

    Courtney

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  14. Laloofa,
    Fresh tofu is better tasting, it's true. Maybe you could make some yourself. :)

    I would certainly have invited you to share the meals if I'd known you were in the neighborhood. Wouldn't it be fun if all the vegan bloggers lived near each other. Maybe not all, because then we might start to bore each other — maybe just 10 or so.

    About the "too pointy." Do you remember the coneheads? 'Nuff said.

    Rose,
    I think you should. The tofu is really good, though I guess not organic.

    Thanks for the hat compliments. I'm going to make a scarf, next, and am going to try to make it only once!

    I was kind of attracted to the heart full of chocolate, myself. :D

    Courtney,
    Leftovers make great breakfasts, and are probably the only way I would get to have veggies. I'm not up to cooking much more than oatmeal in the morning.

    The class is part of a community ed. series, though I noticed lots of classes offered in the yarn shop when I was buying my yarn.

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  15. I really want some tofu now! awesome blog :)

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  16. Andrea

    Thanks! I don't know of a local yarn shop, but I will check out the community ed classes.

    Courtney

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  17. I was really interested in learning about fresh tofu as I think that is also available on Vashon, but I don't think I know enough about cooking to brave it yet. I just knitted my first hat and I was lucky--it came out pretty well the first try, funky, but definitely me. And thanks to Laloofah, I realize that you and I must have been enjoying the same sunset the other day. I wrote a haiku about it (I should warn you I'm really a beginner at this!). If you're interested you can find it at daphnehaiku.blogspot.com/2011/01/haiku-24.html
    Anyway, nice and helpful post--thanks!

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  18. You're so funny! When I read your title I thought you were doing some crazy crochet with tofu, and I was thinking that was some crazy-ass veganism.
    Fresh tofu...I miss it. Used to have a Chinese grocer next door to our apt. in Paris (we thought it was a front for the mob).
    Don't be such a perfectionist! You *are* perfectly imperfect!!! So is your crochet. ;)

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  19. Extraordinary visual of your communciation with the tofu clerk! And kale with sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives? Why haven't I ever thought of that? Throw in some pine nuts & I'm in business :-)

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  20. Katy,
    Thanks! Every time I see the picture of the fried tofu, I want some. I'm glad the tofu shop is not so conveniently located.

    Courtney,
    There are lots of free patterns and videos on line, too.

    Dafne,
    Tofu isn't hard to cook! Congratulations for completing your first knitting project and liking it! Liking what I make is the hardest part for me, but I'm working on it.

    I did go to your blog and read the haiku — lovely. Maybe I'll get up the nerve to share mine. :D

    Shellyfish,
    Well, you can make just about anything with tofu — why not yarn? Someday, someone will do it. I read that the newest fake leather is being made from tea.

    I'm very picky about hats — less so about scarves. There is a balance between process and product and I'm still a little wobbly. It's the opposite of those who turn out piles of misshapen goods, or sweaters with the sleeves too short. Someday I'll get it worked out. :D I like your advice and will try to keep it in mind as I start my next project!

    Abby,
    I wish I had photos of her facial expressions, then I wouldn't have needed words. I can still see her face in my mind.

    Pine nuts are a great idea! Next time.

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  21. You're killing me softly with fresh tofu! (I'm listening to that song as we speak!) How I miss my precious tofu! I think I miss it more than chocolate. That's saying something.

    Your banana bread á la River (heehee!) sounds like a very successful adventure! It's true, some of the best things are a result of winging it! Thank you for the shout-out! :D

    I want that crusty bread! Gimme! Wheat is something else I've had to cut down on, so basically you're killing me here!

    Your crochet goodies are beautiful! Miss E is going to love her new hat!

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  22. This is freaky! We commented on each other's blogs at the same time!

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  23. River,
    You make me feel so guilty. Here I am enjoying all this contraband while you can only look at the pictures. I sometimes wonder which of these foods (soy, wheat) would be hardest for me to give up; I could do it but it would make me sad, too. I know lots of people eat wonderful food without using soy, wheat or other irritating ingredients, and are healthier for it. Except when I'm doing baking experiments, I eat wheat a couple times a week. Is that too much?

    Freaky, freaky. And it's not the first time. We must share some extra-bloggery perception.

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  24. I dunno, but those crocheted items look pretty darned perfect to me. Love the potholder--and you look great in that hat! (I wish I could wear hats. . . ). The tofu and "juice" sound intriguing. I love savory breakfasts so what you had would be perfect over here!

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  25. I am interested in that tofu. It looks very good. I've been curious lately if the "Organic," packaged tofu I buy in the grocery store is really authentically pure, unadulterated tofu? I'd like to consume the best possible natural tofu. I love fried tofu.

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  26. Fresh tofu is so good!.. I love what you did with the fried tofu. Kale, sundried tomatoes and tofu together are so so good!

    I had a dream about you last night.. isn't that funny? I was thumbing through Woman's Day magazine and you had a vegan fashion column! hahaha. I NEVER read that magazine.

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  27. Ricki,
    I made the hat six times and the potholder three, they are as close to perfect as I'm capable of at the moment. :D Thanks for the compliment though I always feel weird in hats. Don't tell me you don't wear a hat in the winter in Toronto!

    Today for breakfast I had leftover brown rice pasta with a savory eggplant topping. Yum.

    Veganishta,
    I've always believed the organic tofu in packages is just that. Do you have local brands that you trust? I agree with you that pure, natural foods are best.

    Melody,
    The fresh tofu is spoiling me!

    HA! I never read that magazine either, except for the cover in the checkout line, and I doubt they'd want me to write about fashion of any kind. You've given me a good laugh — thanks for sharing!

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  28. That's great you found a place to get fresh tofu. Fresh is definitely the best. Cute hat. :-)

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  29. I never knew there was such a thing as tofu shops! And you look cute in your hat! Crocheting has special sentiment for me because my late great aunt taught me to do it when I was little. And she made me so many crocheted things, which I still have. I can't read a pattern very well, though - would like to be able to in honor of her.

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  30. Chow vegan,
    I just wish it were closer because I'm lazy and don't like driving. But it's definitely the best. Thanks!

    Jenny,
    There's probably a tofu shop somewhere near you!
    I mostly don't use patterns except for ideas, but I'd like to make something more than the little things I've done so far, so maybe I'll learn how to read them better. No one in my family was crafty — I've had to make up for that. :D

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  31. Andrea - you have a Lovely Blog award awaiting you at http://t.co/xTVccVw

    Cheers.

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  32. I can't get over how amazing fresh tofu looks! I'm so jealous of your find.

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  33. Raw_girl,
    Thanks for the award!

    Mo,
    The looks are nothing compared to the taste! Yum.

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