Meatless Monday: Sesame Eggplant With Tofu

Vegetarians don't survive solely on tofu, but when we do eat it, it's flavorful, delicious and not at all boring.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Some people assume that vegetarians eat nothing but tofu. Tofu and plain lettuce. Maybe some vegetarians chow down on bean curd all day long, but for me, it's one meatless protein that I do eat along with beans and nuts and dairy and all of that good stuff. But contrary to the belief of many, I did not stop eating meat so I could subsist on tofu alone.

That said, I do like tofu if it's prepared properly. Tofu isn't difficult to cook, but on its own it doesn't taste great (it doesn't taste like anything, actually), but it does absorb the flavors of spices, sauces or marinades quite well. You can add it to a stir-fry and it will take on the flavors of soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Add it to a Thai or Indian curry and it will soak up the richly-flavored sauce. You can fry it to a crisp, French-fry-style, or slather it with barbecue sauce. Add tofu to soup and it will absorb the flavors of the broth and add interesting texture to your bowl.

Emeril's Sesame Eggplant With Tofu is a good recipe for those new to cooking with tofu -- it's quick and easy (ready in 30 minutes) and calls for simple, easy-to-find ingredients like garlic, sesame seeds and crushed red pepper that are just flavorful enough to make the tofu stand out (read: not be boring). But this one's not just for beginners; old pros will appreciate it as well as meat-loving friends who fear tofu. Next time someone makes an "oh-you-must-eat-a-lot-of-tofu" comment, give them a bowl of this and tell them, "I just eat amazing food made without meat."

Serves: 4

Total time: 30 minutes

1/2 cup peanut oil
2 pounds Japanese or Italian eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 pound firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 green onions, bottoms minced and tops sliced, reserved separately
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon dark Asian sesame oil

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large nonstick saute pan. When it is hot, add 1/2 of the eggplant and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook until the eggplant is nicely browned and softened, stirring as necessary to promote even browning, about 5 minutes. Add half of the green onion bottoms, 1 tablespoon garlic, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, and 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil. Toss to combine. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Directions

Repeat with the remaining ingredients plus the tofu.

Combine both batches in the same pan, add the green onion tops, and heat briefly until warmed through, 1 minute. Serve immediately.

More Meatless Tofu Recipes:
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