BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

How to Cook Tofu that Doesn't Suck

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 10 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $2.50
  • 1 Comment

When you're making a stir-fry, noodle dish, or salad, you want tofu that is firm and meaty, with a crispy exterior. 

Tofu is a healthy, inexpensive, protein-rich food. It's easy to find, lasts a long time in the fridge, and has lots of good belly benefits, thanks to the fermentation process required to make it. What's more, it's both an alternative to meat, and delicious in its own right. 

Well, it's delicious if you cook it well. And sadly, many cooks do not.

Soft, creamy silken tofu is a wonderful thing, maybe slicked with chili oil, floating in savory miso soup, or in dessert form with fresh fruit. But when you're making a stir-fry, noodle dish, or salad, you want tofu that is firm and meaty, with a crispy exterior. Still, so much tofu is often overly oily or just poorly cooked, rendering it limp, floppy, and incredibly boring. Of course, deep-frying the tofu solves this problem, but that can be messy and a lot of work (not to mention a lot of oil). But don't worry, there's a better solution.

I first learned this tofu cooking method when my college roommate Emily gave me Didi Emmons' wonderful book Entertaining for a Veggie Planet for my twenty-first birthday. Didi dries the tofu before dicing it into cubes, salting it, and pan-frying it. She calls the resulting crispy cubes "tofu croutons," as they resemble the toasted bread cubes you might toss into a salad (and are excellent in salads). 

In my version, I follow Didi's instructions almost exactly, except I always use sprouted extra-firm tofu which doesn't retain much liquid. I love this kind from Wildwood, which comes in convenient 2-packs.

I gently pat its outside dry, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.

I cook the tofu in 2 tablespoons of oil (I like to use coconut, but vegetable oil or grapeseed oil also work well) over medium-high heat, and salt it.

The tofu cooks in a single layer for 4-5 minutes, undisturbed (this is how it gets its lovely, crispy crust). Once one side has cooked, I give the pan a stir and let at least one more side get crispy.

Once it's crispy, I drain the tofu on paper towels or napkins and it's ready to go. There is usually a bit of oil left in the pan, which I usually use to fry onions or garlic for whatever I'm cooking.

Now the tofu is ready to use. Here it is on top of my favorite shirataki noodle salad

The cooked tofu will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 hours, so it's a great-do ahead task if you want to use it later in the day. It's perfect to toss into stir-fries, salads, noodle dishes, burritos, tacos, or even eaten straight, maybe with some homemade peanut sauce.



  • 1 16-ounce package of extra-firm tofu, preferably sprouted $2.50
  • 2 tablespoons coconut, vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil Pantry
  • a few pinches of salt Pantry


Recipe Serves 4


  1. Wrap the tofu block in a clean dish towel and gently pat dry.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch pieces.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the tofu to the pan, salt it well, and let cook, undisturbed, for 4-5 minutes (check after 4 to make sure it's not burning), until a thick, golden-brown crust develops.
  5. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to flip the tofu as well as you can, to cook at least one other side untiul it is also golden-brown and crispy.
  6. Drain on a paper towels or napkins to remove any excess oil.
  7. Use immediately, or within 4 hours. 

Lemon-Blueberry Sparklers

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $9

One of the magical things about living in the Bay Area is that, just as summertime is ending for everyone else, our warm weather season is just beginning. Around September in San Francisco, parks and beaches fill up, picnic season extends into late November, and it's not uncommon to detect swimsuits peeking out from under tank tops as people go about their days.

Another great thing about having summer in autumn is that, even though we're acting like it's summer, fall produce is still available, lining the bins outside our neighborhood grocery stores with yams, gourds, and winter greens. 

Labor Day Weekend marks the beginning of Fall for most people, but for us, it's just the start of our fun in the sun. Inspired by this fusion season, I love to celebrate the flavors and foods of both seasons. This usually means grilling pizzas (a major summer activity around here) with wintery fall toppings, like this White Pizza with Brussels Sprouts.

 Or this Green Pizza with Parsley-Sundried Tomato Pesto.

And even though those pizzas contain enough vegetables on them to qualify as a hearty serving, I still make salad. Since brussels sprouts and broccolini run a bit bitter, I like to balance it out with a hearty, slightly sweet fig-studded salad, like this one with kale and goat cheese.

As for beverages, wine and beer are a little obvious. Sure, this summer-fall feast would be great with a crisp Viognier, or even a good Pinot, but I prefer to balance the fall-heavy flavors in my food with something lighter--more reminiscent of summer. Something that reminds people of sweet, bubbly memories of long, happy days and time spent in the sun.

Enter: lemon-blueberry sparklers.


Sweet, effervescent Mike's Hard Lemonade is mixed with gently muddled blueberries and fresh mint leaves, and served over ice.

I usually make several glasses at once, since the fruit and mint need to be pummeled, and it's easier to do several at once. You could also serve this in a punch bowl or pitcher--just encourage guests to get some of the blueberry-mint mixture in their cups, along with the sparkling lemonade.

I often like to serve a non-alcoholic version as well, for kids and/or non-drinkers, made with sparkling lemonade (I like the kind from Trader Joe's). 

You can definitely make this using frozen blueberries (they're a great way to enjoy this year-round), but why not take advantage of the beautiful in-season fresh berries that will be available for the next few months?


Just add sunshine.

Disclosure: I'm a Mike’s VIP sponsored blog partner. I was compensated by Mike's Hard Lemonade for this post, but the opinions and recipe are my own. Please consume alcohol safely and legally.



  • 1 pint fresh blueberries $3.50
  • 1 large handful fresh mint leaves $1.50 for a bunch
  • ice
  • 1 24-ounce bottle Mike's Hard Lemonade $4

Recipe Serves 4


  1. Divide most of the blueberries between highball glasses (reserve a few for garnish).
  2. Divide the mint leaves between the glasses.
  3. Use a cocktail muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon to gently smash the blueberries and mint in each glass.
  4. Fill each glass with ice cubes.
  5. Pour the hard lemonade over the ice.
  6. Use a long spoon or a chopstick to gently stir the bottom of the glass, mixing it with the hard lemonade. This should turn the beverage purple-ish.
  7. Serve immediately.

Tempeh Bacon

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 22-25 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $6.50

They say there's nothing like falling in love for the first time; the excitement, the magic of connection, the rush of hormones--when you've never felt it before, it overtakes you, like liquor on the lips of someone who's never been drunk. 

I remember the first time it happened to me, as a seventeen-year-old at a retreat for a Jewish teen program. In the Marin Headlands, just above the Golden Gate Bridge, I went wandering down a sandy beach in the dark with a boy I'd only recently met, but for whom I felt a shock of electricity the moment he said hello. We'd snuck away from the other teenagers in our group, and were attempting to find a moment alone to talk, unsure of what it would bring (neither of us knew what we were doing), but compelled by the fluttering we were feeling in our bellies. Without understanding how or why, I knew he was someone I would be getting to know a lot better very soon.

Our first kiss didn't happen until later that night, in the dormitory bunk where our group was staying, and when it did, it intoxicated me instantly. In the days and weeks that followed, I could think of nothing other than when I could kiss him next. I was a cliche of an infatuated teenager, but in that moment on the beach, I was changed. I had tasted the zing of intense mutual desire, and I liked it.

Of course, we were children, and so, like most high school love stories, ours eventually died a sad but predictable death. We moved on with our lives, went to college, started our careers, met other people, and fell out of touch. Sixteen years after that night, I got engaged to my person at Cavallo Point, less than a mile away from that beach.

Recently, as Evan and I prepare for this next step, I've been taking something of a mental inventory of my romantic history--a sort of internal tidying and boxing up. Of course I had other relationships between that first one and this, my last; many that lasted awhile, and even one that seemed to have had a chance at permanency. Still, the memories that remain the clearest and most significant are of the first. I'm pretty sure this is because the first time imprints you in a way that can never really be replicated. The first cut is the deepest, as they say, but so is the first kiss. The first touch. The first time a boy tells you he loves you. And though the imprinting experience is intense in and of itself, I think its real purpose is to prepare you for what more is to come.

Because now, when I drive by the Golden Gate Bridge and see the exit sign for the Marin Headlands, I think instead about Evan and our recent engagement. Though the whisper of that first taste of love remains a sweet memory, it is quieter now. 

On a seemingly separate but definitely related note, I want to talk about tempeh.

I first tried tempeh right after moving to San Francisco at age 24. A Greek food stand in my neighborhood served traditional Greek gyros with lamb, and for vegetarians, as I was at the time, tempeh gyros. Tempeh is like tofu in that it is a protein source made from soy beans, but that's about where the similarities end. Where tofu is uniform in flavor, tempeh is fermented and tangy--and full of nooks and crannies that get crispy when cooked. It takes on the flavors of whatever you add to it, unlike tofu, which tends to just swim around in sauce.

I ordered a tempeh gyro, wrapped in pillowy fresh pita, topped with creamy yogurt tzaziki, cubed cucumbers and tomatoes, and the thinnest slivers of red onion. I had intended to eat it in my new apartment, but it smelled so good, and was so warm in the bag, that on my walk home, I found a bench and dug in. It was unbelievable. Somehow, the crunch and flavor of this soy product stood up to lots of yogurt and juicy vegetables. It was dense yet tender, and rife with umami flavor. I was in love. 

I cooked it myself several times immediately afterward, and it took some time to figure out how to make it as crispy as it was in that phenomenal gyro. Eventually I figured out the secret: plenty of oil and medium-low, consistent heat. Today, I like to crisp strips of it, spiced with paprika, smoked salt, brown sugar, and black pepper, in the oven and serve it alongside scrambled eggs, like bacon. Of course, you would never confuse it with real bacon (if you're looking for something like that, try my Mushroom Bacon), but it's smoky and crispy and utterly delicious in its own right.

I like this multi-grain tempeh from Trader Joe's. It contains barley and millet, along with the soy. If you're gluten-free, look for something without grains.

Smoked sea salt brown sugar, black pepper, and paprika impart smoky sweetness.

It bakes in a relatively low oven (350) for about 25 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet, until really crispy. 

And then I platter it up.

That gyro all those years ago was my first taste of tempeh love--my imprint. This bacon is my love letter to it.


  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt $2 (see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar Pantry
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika $2 for 1 ounce
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper Pantry
  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh, cut into long, thin strips, about 1/8" thick $2.50
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Pantry


Recipe Serves 2-3


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
  3. Combine the smoked salt, brown sugar, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  4. Put the tempeh slices in a rimmed dish, like a pie plate, and drizzle the oil all over, using your hands to ensure each strip is coated lightly.
  5. Wash and dry your hands, and sprinkle the spice mixture all over the oiled tempeh strips, making sure they are evenly coated.
  6. Arrange the coated strips on the prepared baking sheet with a little bit of space between them.
  7. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until brown and very crispy.
  8. Let cool slightly, then serve warm.

Kale Salad with Figs

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Estimated Cost 10.50

Welp, I started planning a wedding.

My wedding, to be clear. To Evan, my official taste-tester, fashion consultant, and number-one dude.

We've been working hard to get the big stuff figured out. So far we have a wonderful wedding planner (Ali DiLuvio), a date (next summer), a venue (a gorgeous winery in the Sonoma Valley), a caterer (Park Avenue in Cotati) , a rabbi (who also happens to be a long-time close friend of Evan), a photographer (Jennifer Bagwell), and a cake (Patisserie Angelica). There's still so, so much to do. And man, there have been a lot of decisions to make. 

What are the colors? 

How many people?

Which people? (Oh good, an opportunity to divide the people I love into ranked lists. That's not stressful at all.)

Standing chuppah or individual poles?

Do we really need flowers? We're getting married outside. Doesn't that basically count as one big flower? (My mother has informed me that I am incorrect about this, and yes we do need flowers.)

Buffet, individual plating, or family-style food?

Other desserts besides cake?

Father-daughter dance?

Mother-son dance?

How many toasts?

How many horas?

DJ or live band? 


Do we need to register? We basically have all the stuff we need already. (The feedback on that one has been a resounding "YES, unless you want 25 toasters.")

And so many more. 

But it's all good. We know we've already answered the most important question: yes, we want to marry each other. More than anything.

With all those details to consider, all those vendor meetings and Pinterest-stalking (OMG, so many mason jars), I'm trying my best to keep things as normal as possible around here. That means date nights where wedding planning talk is not allowed, stress-reducing cardio, focusing on all our work projects, and eating healthy, seasonal food. 

Today, I'm talking about kale. My favorite kind, Tuscan (dinosaur) kale, de-ribbed.

Sliced up into thin slaw-like strips.

Tossed with a simple vinaigrette--nothing more than good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

And topped with sliced fresh figs, chopped almonds, and some creamy clumps of goat cheese.

Now the only decision I have to make is whether or not to drink wine with my salad.


  • 1 bunch Tuscan (dinosaur/Lacinato) kale, de-ribbed and sliced thinly $2 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Pantry
  • a pinch of salt Pantry
  • 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese $3.50 for 8 ounces
  • 1/8 cup chopped toasted almonds $1.50 in the bulk section
  • 6 ripe figs, sliced into quarters $3.50 for a basket
  • pepper to taste Pantry

Recipe Serves 3-4


  1. Place the kale leaves in a large salad bowl.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and set aside.
  3. Sprinkle the salt all over the kale and gently rub it in (this helps break down the tough leaves).
  4. Drizzle with the dressing and toss well.
  5. Top the salad with the goat cheese, almonds, figs and black pepper to taste.

Rainbow Fruit Salad

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $13.00

I woke up this morning to the beautiful news that the Supreme Court of the United States had officially declared marriage is indeed a right for all.

All day long I have been weeping tears of gladness, my heart bursting with joy that my future children will be born in a land that legally recognizes all love as being equal.

That they will have the right to marry whomever they choose, no matter which state they live in.

That they will look at me with confusion and probably horror when I tell them that, not so long ago, marriage wasn't legal for everyone. 

And that my wedding will take place in a country that recognizes all marriage as being legal and meaningful.

I've been meaning to tell you: a couple of weeks ago, Evan and I got engaged. 

We had been talking about it for a long time. We were both ready--respectively, and as a couple.

I have never loved another person as much as I love Evan, nor have I ever been this sure about anything. I've never been someone who yearned for marriage in general, but I know with all my heart that I want to marry him. And I'm going to.

Every person deserves to have that option. 

To celebrate this joyous day (which also happens to be the start of Pride weekend in San Francisco!), I made fruit salad. 

Early summer produce is looking especially ripe and juicy these days.

It made the most beautiful rainbow.

The beauty of fruit is that there are so many options to get this symbolic color combination. Raspberries could replace the strawberries, orange slices could be swapped in for the apricots, yellow peaches could stand in for the bananas, kiwis could take over for the mint, and blackberries or boysenberries could fill in the bottom of the rainbow.

These fruits could also be baked into a tart, perhaps a goat cheese one, or served as part of a cheese platter.

However you make your rainbow, I hope it brings you a taste of the love and sweetness I am feeling. Today is a truly joyous day. 

Happy Pride!


  • 8 strawberries, ends removed, sliced $3.50 for a pint
  • 5 apricots, pitted, sliced $0.50
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced $1
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves $0.50
  • 20-25 blueberries $4 for a pint
  • 1 sliced Black Mission fig $3.50 for a pint

Recipe Serves 3-4


  1. Arrange fruits in a rainbow shape on one large platter or on 4 individual platters in this order: strawberries, apricots, bananas, mint, blueberries, fig. 
  2. Serve on its own, or add a drizzle of honey, whipped cream, yogurt, or vanilla ice cream.