Meatless Monday: Peter Berley’s Best Tofu
For the last two and a half years, since this blog’s inception, I’ve been name-dropping Peter Berley’s dill tofu. In fact, I wanted to talk about it so much, I spent most of this post about soup gushing about tofu.
With full wariness about repeating myself, here’s a little background on my dating life and dill tofu:
In high school, our best friend Carolyn (not to mention Jordana) was a vegetarian. This had a huge impact on our potlucks in early years, if this ode to eggplant parm was any indication. But perhaps more evocative of those days than the eggplant and even mine and Cara’s competing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, is the veggie (vegan, in fact) tofu dish that Carolyn’s dad, Donald, would make us for post-field hockey game picnics.
This tofu is flavored with white wine, mustard, and dill, and it was really my gateway dish into vegetarian cooking. Its deliciousness prompted me to cook it all by myself at age 15, and to buy one of my very first cookbooks in order to do so. The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley, still sits prominently on my cookbook shelf and contains the same set of orange post-it notes I used in high school to mark intriguing recipes. One of them, Whole Wheat Fusilli with Swiss Chard and Balsamic Roasted Onions, I made for dinner for an old high school flame the summer after graduation. He was a militant vegan, the type that won’t eat breakfast with you if your bagel is topped with butter instead of tofu cream cheese. Or will, so long as you will also listen to his rants about why butter, and all other dairy and meat products, are the devil. It was the first time I had ever cooked for a boy, and I served him Peter Berley’s chard fusilli and dill tofu (my tried and true dish).
Somewhere after college, perhaps when I started cooking for carnivores, I took a break from cooking tofu. Angelica Kitchen, one of the only reasons we would go below 14th Street in high school, was just a few blocks away. And if I ever got a craving, I let the master (Peter Berley!) do the honors.
We’ve tried to share with you all of our formative dishes, and I’ve known that this tofu must have its moment on the website, and once again in my kitchen. Finally, this summer, I got up the nerve to test out some tofu on Josh, lover of fried chicken and burgers.
I mixed together the marinade and remembered why this dish was so good for my high school self: dump-and-stir, i.e. too easy to mess up. Once it was in the oven, I remembered that it is also a particularly fragrant dish—one that comes alive after only a few minutes in the heat. As the tofu baked, the smell not only brought me back to high school, but to some of my first cooking memories, when I realized how empowering it felt to have a dish that I could make over and over again, play with, perfect, and have it come out delicious every time.
Josh devoured the tofu (more of it than I would have liked). But in the absence of leftovers, I might just have to dump, stir, and re-live that smell all over again, very very soon.
From my kitchen, reliving dill tofu memories, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Baked Tofu with White Wine, Mustard, and Dill
Makes 2 entrée servings
Adapted from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons mild honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound firm tofu, drained
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a bowl, combine the onion, oil, vinegar, wine, dill, mustard, honey, and salt.
Pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Slice the block 1/2 inch thick. You should get 12 pieces.
Place the tofu slices in a baking dish that can hold them in a single snug layer. Pour the marinade over the tofu.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the marinade is no longer liquid, and the onions are crisp and caramelized.
Serve as a vegetarian entree on top of a bed of lentils or rice. The tofu is great room temperature or warm.