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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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A tofu/mushroom mixture creates a satisfyingly beefy taco (recipe)
Made-up meat
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Credit:Sid Heezen

Tofroom [toh-froom]: noun. 1. Tofu hijacked by wild mushrooms.

Okay, I made that up. But I did cook tofroom, and it was really good.

Tofu is kind of a blank slate, which is both a gift and a curse. People are sometimes disappointed when they eat it as a meat substitute. They want meatiness from a pallid, nondescript block of bean curd that needs a lot - a lot - of direction to resemble, say, chorizo. All the times I've wanted my tofu to be chorizo, I've been disappointed.

But tofroom may actually pose one solution for people who want their tofu to taste a little meaty.

The key is dried wild mushrooms. They add "beefiness" while also soaking up excess moisture in the tofu and flavorful liquids, like tomato sauce. The mixture cooked and crumbled as ground meat is a texture success.

There are a few types of people who seek out vegetable protein sources, or meat alternatives:

1. Meat eaters who like vegetarian food and don't mind if their vegetarian food sometimes tastes and looks like meat (i.e., people like me).

2. Vegetarians who may miss meat and buy things like Quorn Chik'n Patties and Tofurky roasts.

3. Vegetarians who don't want their vegetarian food to remind them of the chicken fingers and Thanksgiving turkeys they've sworn off.

The meat-like tofroom is perfect for people in the first and second categories. And even for people in category three, it still tastes a lot like mushroom.

Here's a recipe using tofroom as a spicy taco filling, paired with a fresh seared corn and garlic scape salsa with cumin seeds. Garlic scapes are green seed shoots that sprout from hard garlic, and they're here for a few fleeting weeks.

Tofroom Taco Filling

  • 1 pound firm tofu, pressed
  • 1 ounce dried wild mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, etc.)
  • 1 dried ancho chile (about 1 tablespoon ground)
  • 1 dried chipotle chile (about 1 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grind dried mushrooms and chiles to a fine powder. Combine with cumin, coriander and 1 teaspoon salt.

Press tofu by slicing it and laying it between paper towels with a heavy weight on top - The Complete Works of Shakespeare does the trick at my place. Crumble it and work the spice mixture in with your hands until well combined. Cover and let marinate in fridge for at least an hour.

Heat skillet with oil on medium high and sauté onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, tofu mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 10 minutes until tofu browns and liquid is absorbed. Add fresh oregano and serve hot in corn tortillas with seared corn salsa (below). Makes about 3 cups.

Seared Corn and Garlic Scape Salsa with Toasted Cumin Seeds

This salsa has summer written all over it. I love the hydrating sensation of biting into juicy wedges of tomato. Garlic scapes offer a gentler garlicky flavor than hard garlic, warmed by toasted cumin.

  • 1 cup cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • kernels from 1 ear fresh corn
  • 4 garlic scapes
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1-2 jalapeños, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil for searing

In a dry cast iron skillet, sear corn kernels on high heat until slightly blackened. Remove from heat. Lightly oil garlic scapes and sear in pan, about 2-3 minutes each side. Cook until tender and slice thinly. Combine all ingredients. Makes about 2 cups.

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