Scared of Tofu? Grill It

There's something about bean curd that scares the bejeezus out of meat eaters. Even the most open-minded carnivores run for the hills at the sound of the word "tofu, " and to their defense, the squishy white stuff does require a bit of kitchen schooling as well as flavor-doctoring before becoming palatable.

But scaredy-cats, I gotta tell you: Summer is the time to get over your tofu terror because the white stuff luvs the grill. A kicky marinade and a handful of skewers is all you need to bring tofu to life.

Last weekend, I tried out the recipe below with delicious results. The hoisin sauce is key here, as it contains sugar that caramelizes on the edges like a good barbecue sauce does on pork or chicken. With the direct heat of the grill, the tofu cubes trade in their squishiness for a chewy (and dare I say it) almost meaty crust.

Come on, I dare you!

Barbecued Tofu
From "Asian Wraps" by Nina Simonds

1 pound extra firm tofu
¾ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup rice wine or sake
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

Equipment: five bamboo skewers, soaked in water for an hour

Place tofu on a plate and top it with a second plate, weighing it down with a large can, allowing it to drain, about 20 minutes. Slice tofu into 1-inch-thick pieces, then cut into cubes. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Mix the rest of ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour two-thirds of the marinade over tofu, reserving the rest for basting or dipping. Allow tofu to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Prepare grill. Clean grate, dry and then spray with oil to minimize sticking.

Remove tofu from marinade and thread on skewers, be careful not to crowd. When grill is medium-hot, place skewers on grate a few inches apart and cook about 8 minutes on first side before turning with tongs. If necessary, baste tofu with reserved marinade.

Remove skewers from grill when tofu is crisping on edges.

I got other grilled tofu ideas from Cheryl and Bill Jamison's new book, "The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining, " which suggests a quickie rub of peanut oil and Thai red curry paste (available in cans at Asian groceries) that gets brushed on pre-grilled tofu. Serve with a warmed-up sauce of coconut milk, lime juice, brown sugar and more of that curry paste. Doesn't that sound fab? I'll share the results of that experiment next week.

Got a favorite grilled tofu recipe? Share in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 23, 2006; 2:00 PM ET Flames , Vegetarian/Vegan
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The only way my husband will eat tofu (and this is because he doesn't know I use it) is in chili. I crumble it up and put it in the slow-cooker with the rest of the ingredients instead of ground beef. He loves it!

I agree that marinade is the key - tofu tends to take on whatever flavor it's with, so under-marinated tofu won't be very appetizing.

Posted by: Tofun | June 23, 2006 4:13 PM

What's the max time that you should marinate tofu?

Posted by: veg | June 26, 2006 10:57 AM

I grilled my tofu this weekend, but used Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce as my marinade. It was great. I highly recommend.

Posted by: nell | June 26, 2006 4:35 PM

So I broke out the marinade, poured a glass of wine, fired up the grill and put the tofu on the barby. Grilled the garlic and soy sauce soaked tofu for 8 minutes on a side. Let it rest for three minutes on a plate to allow the juices to return to the center. Took one bite, threw out the tofu and finished the bottle of wine. Please pass the porterhouse ...

Posted by: noun | June 27, 2006 8:44 AM

peanut sauce. peanut sauce & toasted sesame seeds.
if you want to get a resistant meat-eater to eat tofu, try Trader Joe's tofu & spinach egg rolls: they'll think it's cheese, and it'll make future attempts way easier.

Posted by: sarah | June 27, 2006 3:45 PM

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