It has become quite apparent in the last few months that I am a compulsive food shopper. Not in the way you might imagine, though. Despite being a food nerd, I’m not particularly interested in obtaining obscure ingredients like pink salt from the Himalayas or white alba truffles, or pretty much anything that’s sold with the promise that it’s been aged in a dragon’s den or transported across the desert by galloping unicorns.
No, my compulsive food shopping does not revolve around sourcing exotic products. Instead, it involves hoarding things that go on sale. It goes something like this: “Ooh, tomato paste is on sale. I should buy 10 cans.” Then weeks later, when I tidy up the pantry, I come upon those same 10 tins of tomato paste, plus an inordinate amount of canned beans, dried mushrooms, baking powder, and a sedentary army of Asian sauce enhancers that I barely know how to use. More and more, my food-shopping M.O has become: “It’s on sale – get it.”
Aside from amassing ridiculous quantities of canned goods and hoisin sauce, there are also a few items picked up during a binge-shopping spree that end up residing in my fridge for a longer period of time than expected. Without fail, tofu consistently wins the prize for “item-neglected-the-longest”. It’s the one thing that I stare at blankly when I open the fridge door; the one item I have a hard time getting excited about. And once I’m distracted by something more immediately gratifying, say, a chunk of Gruyère or a bowl of leftover noodles, I catch myself making the same guilt-ridden promise to poor ol’ tofu: “Tomorrow. I will make you tomorrow.” The problem is that eventually “tomorrow” becomes the expiration date and, whether you like it or not, you have to deal with that chunk of soy bean curd sitting in the lonely spot on the top shelf next to the jam.
I don’t really know why I neglect the tofu in my fridge. I like tofu. It’s texturally interesting, it’s substantial, and it helps to balance out the omnivore’s diet. But I suppose what throws me off is how anaemic it looks, especially under that thin film of plastic that it comes in. To me, tofu straight out of the package is the aesthetic equivalent of bare legs that haven’t seen a lick of sun all winter – not the ugliest thing you’ve seen in your life, but also not the prettiest. And not the most inspiring thing to look at when you’re hungry after a long day and just want to tuck into a plate of something handsome.
But today it was me, the tofu and the expiration date. It also happened to be 8am on a Saturday. This is when not being finicky about strict definitions of “breakfast food” can be a blessing. If, however, you find the idea of having tofu before 11am a little unsettling, you can always toss in a few of the usuals (i.e. an egg, some toast and a little fruit) and Bob’s your uncle.
Breakfast tofu (serves 2-3)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- a thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
- 4 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp tamari sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin sauce
- 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 package firm tofu, drained
- Wafu sauce (to serve)
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Adjust quantities to your liking. Slice the tofu into uniform rectangles, each about 1/4″ thick. Place slices in a casserole dish and pour the marinade over the tofu. Let it bathe in the fridge for about 30 mins to an hour, turning once. (you can also let marinate overnight).
Remove from the fridge and allow the tofu to come to room temperature. Remove the garlic and ginger pieces. Put a grill pan on medium-high heat; when hot, place a few slices of tofu in the pan. Working in batches, continue to grill all the pieces, 2 minutes on each side, keeping the previous ones warm in the oven. For an improvised breakfast, this version was served with Wafu sauce, a scrambled egg, toast with cashew butter and some broiled mango.