Cornmeal-crusted tofu sticks

I’ve had this block of extra firm tofu in my refridgerator for a few weeks now — since the day I went and found those bags of chickpea flour and masa harina, actually.

Normally I just make my boring crispy panfried tofu slices and leave it at that. Nothing exciting, just crispy slices of protein to snack on. They’re pretty flavourless because I’ve never thought to do anything more exciting with them and I find them to be satisfying enough on their own. These tofu sticks are actually quite tasty! The texture is quite different than the panfried version, but still agreeable. Oven baking the tofu dehydrates the pieces and so makes them more hard and chewy and the cornmeal adds a grittiness that’s not all that unpleasant. The only thing that you want to be a little bit careful of is when you’re slicing the tofu into pieces, try not to make them too thin, otherwise you’ll be biting into a dried out pretzel stick. I suggest 24 pieces as a guideline for cutting the tofu into, but I think in the future I will make them thicker, resulting in fewer pieces per block which make for a more pleasantly textured snack.

For the last few days I’ve had the notion of tofu sticks stuck in my head but didn’t quite know what to do with the idea. I really wanted them to be more flavourful than just dredging them in cornstarch like I do the slices, but I am not at all familiar as to what flavours go well with tofu beyond what is normal for Chinese, Japanese and Korean recipes.

I looked at a few recipes and practically all them call for breading the tofu sticks with the usual flour, eggwash and seasoned breadcrumbs. I’ve been eating more bread and wheat the last week, but it’s still not really agreeing with me. I can do it in small quantities, but I still can’t go about having it at every meal. I think I am okay with the idea of limiting the amount of bready/wheaty stuff to an occassional indulgence, if that makes sense. One pita bread is okay on my tum, but a whole sandwich with two pieces of bread is definitely too much for me to handle which is a bit of a shame. The potato thing is still up in the air it seems. French fries are a mostly no-go, but baked potatoes and gnocchi seem to be alright.

Back to my tofu — reading a few recipes, I found one that called for cornmeal as part of the breading but also still used breadcrumbs. Seems kind of odd to me to be using both, but I guess it would make for an interesting texture contrast. The cornmeal sort of set off a “duh!”, lightbulb moment in my head, so I used that as my jump off point.
Flavour-wise, every recipe I’ve read just says to use your favourite seasonings. That is not helpful to me when my brain is all fuzzy from The Moose! So I went spelunking in my spice cupboard and in the pantry. Garlic is an absolute must, there is no way around that for me. Beyond that, I started pulling out all the spice blends that we’ve accumulated over the last number of years. When I first started cooking, they were the neatest thing in the world! Then I noticed that things started tasting the same after awhile, so I stopped using them. I’ve only recently taken a second look at the spice blends I have on hand and am using them on occassion when I’m too tired to think. The Hubbs likes strong and bold flavours, which is probably the biggest reason as to why he likes using them so much when he makes spaghetti sauce. You can take whichever of the blends that strikes your fancy and depending on how much flavour you’re after, you can sprinkle it on your food or you can bury it as a dry rub and if you’re really keen, you can mix up all the spice blends for something unique.

The recipe is pretty easy and actually requires less work than the crispy panfried tofu because you’re not hovering over the frying pan constantly flipping the tofu slices until they’re golden brown. It’s just cut, dredge, spray and into the oven! Thinking about it in hindsight, if using traditional breadcrumbs for the tofu, the resulting texture would probably be a lot less crunchy-hard, unlike using just straight up cornmeal like I did. The only advantage to using the cornmeal on its own is that there’s less risk of upsetting my tummy.

The only thing I’m still trying to figure out is what kind of dipping sauce to serve these with. Ranch dressing? Something tomatoe-y? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Cornmeal-crusted Tofu Sticks

1 block extra firm tofu, cut into 24 pieces.
cornmeal
garlic powder
roasted garlic & peppers spice blend
salt & pepper
veggie oil spray

Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking tray with foil, set aside.
In a shallow bowl, mix together cornmeal, garlic powder, spice blend and salt & pepper.
Dredge all your pieces of tofu in the cornmeal mix and place them on foil-lined tray.
Spray the tofu pieces lightly with veggie oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with your favourite dipping sauce.

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