Pauline’s Caramelized Tofu is a recipe from Sweet + Salty by Lagusta Yearwood, the first cookbook by a talented chef and chocolatier.
Widely known for chocolates that are achingly delicious, creative, vegan, and ethical, she’s the force behind Lagusta’s Luscious and Commissary! in New Paltz, NY, and Confectionery! in New York City. Read more about Lagusta and her ventures in our piece, Chocolate with Heart.
Sweet + Salty: The Art of Vegan Chocolates, Truffles, Caramels, and More from Lagusta’s Luscious focuses on fine chocolate-making.
The recipes in this book, while making the art of chocolate accessible to home cooks, contain cross-references that make them tricky to share on a blog. So Lagusta offered one of the non-confections in the book to share with our readers — this easy caramelized tofu recipe, one that her mom loved and made often.
It’s a lovely tribute to her late mother, Pauline Dublin Yearwood, a respected journalist and devoted vegan and animal rights activist.
And now, here’s Lagusta:
My mom was (1) the best person to have ever walked this earth, and (2) not much of a cook. She would probably dispute both these charges. She made up for a lack of innate cooking ability by taking fantastically enthusiastic whacks at recipes, to often interesting effect.
Like many people who don’t cook much, this didn’t stop her from having wildly specific food preferences. She loved, in order, (1) saucy foods; (2) burnt foods; (3) creamy foods; (4) sauces; (5) sweet foods; (6) more sauces, please. Never did a human ever love wet food as much as Pauline Dubkin Yearwood.
She made this caramelized tofu recipe a lot. It’s sweet and saucy, so it was a natural fit. It’s not her recipe, but I associate it with her because of her love for it. I used to make it all the time for the meal delivery service I ran for nine years, but it’s originally from Deborah Madison’s excellent Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a heavy book I worked my way through in the early 2000s like it was a textbook, which it was.
My recipe is fairly modified; the original is perfect in a different way. This formulation works for all kinds of vegetables, too. It feels defiant—caramel for dinner!—because it is. Who cares? At our café, our house soy sauce is organic gluten-free tamari, but you can use shoyu or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or whatever floats your boat, fermented soy-wise.
What to serve with caramelized tofu
As for the recipe, it’s the closest you’ll get to making tofu as delectable as candy! It’s sweet + salty indeed, and since I love dishes that are both hot and cool, I used it to top a simple slaw dressed in a tangy sesame-ginger dressing.
You can also use it to top noodles or grains. Or, just enjoy it on its own as a side dish.
Recipe from Sweet + Salty by Lagusta Yearwood ©2019 Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, NY, reprinted by permission.
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- 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu (14-to 16-ounce tub)
- Grapeseed or other vegetable oil, for frying
- Sea salt
- 1/4 cup tamari or shoyu or other soy sauce
- 6 tablespoons natural granulated sugar or light brown sugar
- Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.
- Press the tofu (on a tray or platter, blanketed by paper towels) under a heavy weight for an hour or so (or in a tofu press if you have one). Or don’t. Pressing dries out your tofu and makes it fry better, but if you don’t have time or inclination, you’ll still be fine.
- Cut the tofu into whatever shape you prefer. I usually do a medium dice kind of a thing.
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a 9-inch skillet and fry the tofu in it when it’s nice and hot. Don’t stir too much; let it get browned on each side before you turn it, about 5 minutes, then use a good turner with a thin metal edge (something you’d use for pancakes) to confidently scrape it up from the bottom and turn.
- When all sides are golden brown, remove the pan from the heat, transfer the tofu to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Stir the tamari and sugar together in a small bowl.
- In a clean pan, heat a tablespoon or two more of oil over medium heat. Add the tamari mixture and the tofu. Toss well and simmer for a few minutes, until the tofu is syrupy and lovely looking. Add some water if it looks like your caramel is getting too browned.
- Remove from the heat and let the tofu cool in the syrup for a few minutes before serving.
Sweet + Salty is available wherever books are sold
More about Sweet + Salty by Lagusta Yearwood
What do you get after fifteen years of pot stirring, truffle rolling, and chocolate tempering? The cand ywitches of Lagusta’s Luscious confectionery shop have cracked the secrets of vegan confectionery; now they will help you make bars, bonbons, and get over your fear of overcooking caramel (hey, it’s burnt caramel and that’s a thing).
SWEET + SALTY: The Art of Vegan Chocolates, Truffles, Caramels, and more from Lagusta’s Luscious (Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Hachette Books, on sale September 24, 2019) features over 100 luscious recipes for caramels, chocolates, bonbons, truffles, and more.
With an emphasis on savory flavor pairings that match a modern palate hungry for sweets with less sugar and intriguing, fresh flavors, these confections prove that you don’t need animal products to create treats that are decadent, innovative, and addictive.
Ranging from five-minute chocolate sauce to candy bars with show-stopping layers of caramel and ganache, these recipes are essential for everyone from home bakers looking to expand their sweets game to pastry chefs looking to provide plant-based options to their guests. SWEET + SALTY is a smart, wickedly fun, completely innovative introduction to at-home, vegan confections.
This is not your average “desserts-that-taste-like-they-are-vegan” cookbook, but an ethical, guilt-free, delicious celebration of vegan practices. Lagusta’s business model is built on sourcing local, plant-based ingredients and using ethical, Fair Trade chocolate. The book comes with a primer on choosing best ingredients–and what exactly that means when it comes to sugar and chocolate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lagusta Yearwood is a restless rabble-rousing chef-turned-chocolatier. She trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and is the founder of Lagusta’s Luscious, the first vegan chocolate shop in the world.
In addition to their flagship production space in New Paltz, NY, Lagusta’s Luscious operates a café, Commissary, and a retail sweets shop, Confectionery! in the East Village in NYC, which is a collaboration with her best friend’s vegan macaron business, Sweet Maresa’s. Learn more at Lagusta’s Luscious.
Here are more easy tofu & tempeh recipes.