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Tofu is a blank sheet waiting for a poem?

THE CYNICAL MAY SNEER at tofu as a meat substitute, but to vegetarians it is a chief source of protein. Scoffing meat eaters, who are often put off by tofu's amorphous texture and lack of pronounced flavor, aroma, or color, will appreciate it more if they think of it as a blank sheet of paper on which a beautiful poem may be written.

The Chinese and Japanese have scores of ways to deal with tofu. But Amelia Leslie reaches further afield, and prepares tofu in an Indonesian fashion, with a sauce based on peanut butter. If you like spicy-hot food, you could make the dish even more Indonesian with hot chilies or a hot sauce.

Tofu Indonesian-style

1/4 cup each smooth peanut butter, soy sauce, and water 1/2 teaspoon Oriental sesame oil 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon rice vinegar 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 1 tablespoon sesame seed 3 green onions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced 1 pound regular tofu, drained Hot cook rice Major Grey chutney

In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter, soy sauce, water, sesame oil, ginger, vinegar, and sugar until smooth. Mix in garlic, sesame seed, and onions.

Spoon about 1/4 of the peanut butter mixture into an 8-inch-square pan. Cut tofu into 4 equal slices. Lay slices side by side in pan (trim slices to fit, if needed, tucking scraps into corners). Spoon remaining sauce over tofu. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 4 hours.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375 [degrees] oven until tofu is hot in center, about 25 minutes. Transfer tofu to plates with a spatula; spoon sauce onto tofu and rice. Offer chutney to add to taste. Serves 4.

OMAR KHAYYAM, WHOSE paradise required only a book of verses, a loaf of bread, and a jug of wine, might have suffered seriously from malnutrition (along with the mysterious Thou, who sang beside him) if the loaf were the bubble bread we are all familiar with. Although this flabby loaf contains niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and a rich assortment of mono-and diglycerides (ethoxylated and otherwise), it is not especially rich in protein and fiber, two pillars of contemprary sound diet.

Oats and rye provide these two elements. Oats have kept horses (and Scots) in protein for centuries. As for fiber--well, oats don't exactly ream the arteries like Roto-Rooter, but they do seem to lower cholesterol. Still, the best reason for baking James Lee's oatmeal-rye bread is that it tastes great.

Oatmeal-Rye Bread

1 package active dry yeast 2-1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees) 1 tablespoon sugar 2 cups rye flour About 5-1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour 1 cup regular rolled oats 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt Butter or margarine (optional)

The night before, sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large (at least 4-qt.) bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Then add granulated sugar and rye flour; beat to blend well. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature up to a day (at least 12 hours). Stir in 5-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, and salt.

To knead by hand, scrape dough onto a board lightly coated with all-purpose flour. Knead, adding flour as required to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turn over to grease top, and cover with plastic wrap.

To knead with a dough hook, beat until dough pulls cleanly from bowl. If dough still feels sticky, beat in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time; remove dough hook and cover bowl with plastic wrap.

Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Shape each portion into a loaf and set in a greased 4-by 8-inch loaf pan. Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until about doubled in volume, about 1 hour. With a sharp knife or razor blade, slash top of each loaf in about 3 places, making cuts about 1/8 inch deep. Brush tops lightly with water. Bake in 350 [degrees] oven; after 10 minutes, brush tops lightly with more water. Continue baking until loaves are well browned, about 40 minutes total. For a shiny finish, rub tops of hot loaves with soft butter. Invert onto racks. Serve warm or cool. If loaves are made ahead, cool and package airtight up to a day; freeze to store longer. Makes 3 loaves, each about 1-1/2 pounds.

MUSHROOM SOUP IS SO readily available in cans that it seldom occurs to the cook to make it from scratch. The canned product is, in fact, so universal, reliable, and chameleon-like in flavor that it has become the base of a thousand casseroles.

If you seek a more intense mushroom flavor, however, look no further. Eric Lie, tooting his own horn, claims to have the answer to your prayers right here.

Flour plays a part in the thickening of this soup, but the basic body and emphatic statement of mushroom flavor come from cooking part of the mushrooms with onions until they are mellow and lightly browned, then pureeing them.

The flavor is further enhanced by adding sliced mushrooms before the final heating.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 pound mushrooms, rinsed and drained 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 large onion, chopped 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 6 cups or 1 large can (49-1/2 oz.) regular-strength chicken broth 1 dried bay leaf 1 cup whipping cream 2 to 3 tablespoons dry sherry Salt and pepper

Chop half the mushrooms; thinly slice the remaining mushrooms and set aside.

Melt butter in a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat; add chopped mushrooms, onion, and thyme. Stir often until the vegetables are lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Mix flour with vegetables.

Pour into a blender or food processor; whirl, adding as much broth as needed to get the mixture smoothly pureed. Pour mixture back into pan; add remaining broth, sliced mushrooms, bay leaf, and cream.

Bring soup to a boil on high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Add sherry, salt, and pepper to taste. Makes about 8 cups, 6 to 8 first-course servings.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Chefs of the West; cooking with tofu; includes recipes
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Previous Article:Matzo meal for crunchy cookies and cobbler.
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