Every so often we challenge our twitter followers to challenge us in the kitchen. This is the result.

@itsnotlucky inquired about a use for silken tofu that doesn’t involve dessert

At the outset of this challenge I not only knew of no decent, non-dessert use for silken tofu, I didn’t know of any use period. I’ve tried to cook many different things over the years; silken tofu isn’t one of them. So I set about doing some research on the ingredient in an attempt to understand just what I had gotten myself into. Apparently all routes for non-dessert uses of silken tofu seem to lead to blending the blubbery mass of soy product into something resembling cheese. Almost all of these use it as a faux ricotta in vegan lasagna or stuffed shell recipes.

I could have regurgitated this into my own facsimile of one of those Italian classics, but where would the fun be in that?

It turns out, for a good while, the fun wasn’t in figuring out another use for it either. If I was a masochist, I could quite easily crank out a Tumblr entitled “Silken Tofu Disasters.” Each idea tested produced spectacularly bad results, frozen globs of tofu strewn about the kitchen here, melted strands of it over there, none of it edible.

Persistence can be a helpful trait in the kitchen, and one night over sushi dinner with my wife a final inane idea struck. Only this time it worked. Silken tofu as faux sushi. Texturally it’s not far off from raw fish, leaving me with questions of exactly how to inject some flavor into the tofu and how to handle it while assembling.

I settled on beets to try to get some tuna-esque color into the tofu and ginger, bay leaf and orange for flavor. Marinated for twelve hours in the mixture, the tofu took on a light pink color and tasted of citrus in a way that imparted freshness without overpowering the base. Placed atop an oblong ball of sushi rice and garnished with a small piece of the marinated orange, I was almost shocked when it passed the taste test, having grown accustomed to silken tofu failures.

Take note: assembly of this is not for the heavy-handed. You can look at a piece of silken tofu wrong and it will crumble to pieces so a delicate touch is required at every step of the way.

I don’t think I’m giving up sushi anytime but if you are a vegan/vegetarian this is a fun way to bring the spirit of the dish back into your life.

Silken Tofu Faux “Sushi” with Orange, Beets and Ginger

1 large orange, quartered and peeled

3 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 bunch of beets (about 1 lbs.), peeled and sliced thin

1 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

1 16oz package of silken tofu

1 ½ cups of sushi rice

2 cups water

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

First, prepare the tofu. Gently remove the tofu from the package and place on the cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the tofu with the knife parallel to the board into three quarter-inch thick pieces. Using a spatula, place those pieces at the bottom of a container suitable for marinating. Combine the orange, beets, ginger, salt and bay leaf in small sauce pan, put enough water in the pan to cover the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the marinade cool completely. Once cooled, pour it over the tofu segments, cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. A half hour before the tofu will be ready, put the sushi rice in a large bowl and rinse and drain the kernels about 10 times to remove some of the starch (I can’t remember where I picked this up but it’s always how I’ve prepared sushi rice.) Combine the rinsed rice and the water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover for 20 minutes. Once the rice has absorbed all the water transfer it to a large bowl and stir it with a wooden spoon to cool the rice, while slowly adding the rice wine vinegar. Once it is cool enough to touch, the “sushi” is ready to assemble. Using a spatula remove the tofu segments from the marinade and cut them into one inch long, ½-inch wide strips. Shape the sushi rice into an oblong, slightly flattened ball and top with a piece of tofu. Garnish with chopped segments of the orange from the marinade and serve with soy sauce.

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