I didn't grow up eating tofu, but I did grow up eating scrambled eggs. It was an easy, filling dish that I could whip up in a few minutes at home, or a safe choice at a diner where other options seemed too greasy or sweet. Before I realized how the poultry industry is conducted, eggs seemed like a sensible food to eat once in a while. And I really liked their texture, flavor, and versatility.
With about six months of vegan cooking and baking under my belt, I'm learning which animal-free ingredients contribute the right balance of protein, fat, and water to particular recipes. I've eaten creamy desserts, smooth sauces, chewy cookies, and tender cakes, all eggless. I've also had several versions of that protein-packed, vegan stalwart: the tofu scramble.
The scrambles that have crossed my path have been seasoned with pungent flavors such as cumin, curry powder, and garlic. While I enjoyed them and appreciated how simple they were to prepare, my palate needed a little time to recover from the heavy spices. For breakfast particularly, I wanted to create a scramble with mellow seasonings to complement the soft texture of tofu. One that emulates a plate of scrambled eggs.
The scramble starts with sautéed shallots, which become sweet and aromatic. Turmeric, with its powerful, golden color and relatively subtle flavor, is still in the mix (I can't totally break with tradition). But it is the only ground spice invited to the party. Instead, choose a combination of the lighter-flavored herbs from your pantry or garden: dill, tarragon, chervil, chives, maybe a touch of parsley or marjoram. Add dried herbs at the beginning so they absorb some of the tofu's moisture while cooking, and toss on fresh herbs at the end, so that they retain their vibrant flavors and colors.
The secret ingredient, the one that adds a touch of authenticity to this pan of faux oeufs, is a dash of black salt. Crystal gave me this fine, pinkish-hued salt, which is called kala namak and is used in certain Indian dishes. Its sulphurous odor can be overwhelming, but a small amount of black salt provides a convincingly egg-like aroma to this tofu scramble. Look for it in Indian grocery stores.
Tofu Scrambled "Eggs"
makes four servings
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 pound firm tofu, drained and lightly pressed
- 1/4 teaspoon black salt (kala namak)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh summer savory
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- freshly ground black pepper
- vegan parmesan-style sprinkle (optional)
Note: Dried herbs may be substituted for fresh. Use 1/4 teaspoon dried herbs for 1 teaspoon fresh, and add dried herbs with black salt and turmeric.
- Heat EVOO in a medium-sized, nonstick pan over moderate heat. Add chopped shallot to pan and sauté until aromatic and translucent.
- Add tofu to pan, crumbling into irregular chunks the size of walnut halves. Sprinkle black salt and turmeric onto tofu and sauté for five minutes, turning gently to combine.
- When tofu is uniformly golden-colored and is heated through, remove pan from heat. Sprinkle fresh herbs and several grinds of black pepper on top of tofu and turn to combine. Divide between four warmed plates and serve with parmesan-style sprinkle.