Have I mentioned that I follow Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 philosophy of eating? If you haven’t already heard about VB6, it can be described as eating vegan during the day, focusing on whole foods and avoiding junk, and having a flexitarian diet for dinner. I like eating this way for a number of reasons, none of which I’ll trouble you with today.
I also have the metabolism of a hummingbird – one that’s slowed down a bit, but still and all, ZIP! Whereas the Mister can eat one meal a day and be quite happy, I lose my mind if I don’t refuel every three hours. Having a speedy metabolism is generally wonderful, but it does makes me susceptible to melting down like a small child if I’ve missed a feeding. It’s very awkward. There are a number of vegan recipes that will keep me sufficiently fueled, but my go-to source for long-lasting energy is tofu.
I’ve found that eating a few ounces of tofu keeps the hangries at bay for hours. My former favorite way of prepping tofu was to fry ½” slices that I’d air-dried and coated in salt and hot pepper. That’s very tasty, trust me, but it takes at least 20 minutes of active cooking to make and more fat than my slightly less-hyperactive metabolism really needs these days. I tried other ways of prepping tofu, but nothing really captured my fancy, so I stopped eating tofu regularly and started having frequent food melt-downs. My solution? Brined tofu. It’s fermented, takes just a few minutes of active time to prep, and tastes sooooooo good. Why not try it and see for yourself?
1 12–16 oz. block of firm tofu, preferably dense, high protein tofu
1 quart brine (filtered water and 2 ½ teaspoons sea salt)
Remove the tofu from its package and slice into long ½” slabs. Lay the slabs on a kitchen towel, fold the towel up to cover the slices, and let the tofu air-dry for a few hours. You can skip this step, but drying helps make the fermented tofu firmer. Once the slices have lost their surface moisture, cut them into reasonably consistent cubes and put into a quart jar. Cover the tofu cubes with brine by at least an inch, and put the ferment on the counter out of direct sunlight. Some brands of tofu float more than others – especially if you haven’t dried the tofu before brining. Just remember Karen Shockey’s moto: submerge in brine and all will be fine.
You can start eating the tofu within 12 hours, which is the point at which the tofu will be pleasantly salty. Fermentation kicks in within 48 hours, turning the tofu tangy, like feta cheese. Once the cubes are as salty and tangy as you like, drain the brine, drizzle the cubes with a little olive oil, and store in the fridge, where they’ll keep for a week. As I start eating the tofu before fermentation has completed, there’s not much left by the time the cubes need to be refrigerated. Starting at that 12 hour benchmark, I add the fermented cubes to grain or vegetable salads, or crumble them into a little hummus or tahini and use as a spread on toasted whatever. I’ll also nibble on a few cubes if I’m feeling a little wobbly after a hike or a run.
Once you’ve made the plain-munakins version of brined tofu, why not experiment? Add spices to the brine, or use leftover brine from other ferments. If you do use leftover brine, you’ll prob’ly have to add more salt. Taste the leftover brine – if it’s not as salty as a potato chip, add a teaspoon or so of salt. I’ve had great success fermenting tofu with leftover green tomato brine. It’s been so so so good! Please note that leftover brine might start to mold more quickly than fresh brine, so keep an eye on your ferment. And I wouldn’t recommend using leftover brine for anything that won’t be consumed within a week. Also, if you eat brined tofu for breakfast or lunch, as I do, be discrete about how much garlic you add to the brine…
And that’s it: instructions for making your own brined tofu. Try it and let me know what you think. That’s it for this week, my pets! With much affection and very fondly, your little munakins.