Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Tofu 'steak' with spinach and bacon

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 Tofu "steak" with spinach and bacon It started with a search for a way to use up a lot of spinach, and ended with this Japanese-accented, not-quite-vegetarian main dish.
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Tofu 'steak' with spinach and bacon

I'll say right off the top that today's recipe isn't a very typical dish for me. I like tofu just fine, but normally tend to use it in more authentic Asian dishes than this creation.

But when a spring garden full of fresh spinach that had to be eaten up right now prompted a search for new recipe ideas, a little random Web-digging excavated several concepts that finally came together in this not-quite-meatless concoction. It's a "steak" of sauteed tofu topped with a mound of steaming, barely wilted spinach dressed with crunchy bacon and a touch of Japanese spice.

It's an odd combination to be sure, a strange blend of Asian and Western styles. But the flavors and textures worked surprisingly well, and if the crunch and seductive smokiness of bacon does a bit of violence to the image of tofu as quintessential vegetarian fare, I can't get too worked up about that. It's still a relatively healthy meal, and hey, I love bacon.

The procedure is simple: Slice a block of extra-firm tofu into two thick "steaks." Sear them in peanut oil with garlic and ginger; then cook a little bacon in the same skillet, using a little of the hot fat to wilt the spinach like a German salad. Finish with a splash of soy sauce and lime juice, then plate the spinach mix on top of the crisp tofu and serve with steaming white rice and a crisp, dry white wine.

Here are the details. It's a quick dish, shouldn't take much over a half-hour from start to finish.


(Serves two)

1 block tofu, extra firm
2 tablespoons white flour
Black pepper
1-2 cloves garlic
Slice of fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons (60ml) peanut oil
4 slices bacon
Plenty of fresh spinach, a large bowl full or 1 or 2 supermarket bunches
2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime


1. Slice the block of tofu in half horizontally to make two thick slices. Pat them dry with paper towels and then leave them parked on a couple of thicknesses of paper towel for 10 to 20 minutes or so.

2. Pat the tofu dry again. Put the flour on a plate and season it with the salt and pepper. Carefully dredge the tofu in the seasoned flour until it's lightly coated on both sides.

3. Peel and smash the garlic and gently smash the ginger coin to release some of their juices. Put the garlic and ginger with the peanut oil in a skillet or nonstick saute pan, and saute over high heat until the garlic and ginger sizzle. Gently tap the tofu on its plate so any excess flour will fall off, and saute the tofu on one side for 2 minutes or until the down side is crisp and brown. Turn it gently and repeat the process on the other side for 2 more minutes. Take them out and stash them on a plate in a warm oven, discarding the garlic and ginger.

4. Cut the bacon into 1-inch lengths and put it into the same skillet with any remaining peanut oil. Cook until the bacon is crisp and brown. While the bacon is cooking, cut the spinach into 1-inch pieces.

5. When the bacon is cooked, drain it on paper towels and pour off excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the skillet. Put in the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, just until it wilts. Don't overcook.

6. Turn off the heat, stir in the bacon pieces and the soy sauce and lime juice. Stir once or twice to blend, and pour the cooked spinach mix over the tofu. Serve with steamed rice.

MATCHING WINE: This would work nicely with just about any crisp white wine. A Sauvignon Blanc, for example, would complement the spinach well. The dish also went very well with a modest Austrian Grüner Veltliner, a natural match with Asian flavors.

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