Sunday, May 10, 2009

I made tofu parmesan!

When I first moved to Brooklyn, way back in 2005, my cousin Rachel sent a cookbook from a restaurant called The Grit, her favorite restaurant in Athens, Georgia. The Grit serves tons of vegetarian versions of traditional comfort food and is frequented by local legendary rockers the likes of Micheal Stipe. I think I made this recipe for the first dinner party I ever hosted at the apartment, and it was a total success. Except that I misread the recipe as calling for TWO POUNDS of mozzarella cheese instead of two cups! I don't think I actually ended up using that much because the pan would have been overflowing, but I still used a whole lot. 2 cups of mozz is plenty, as you can see in the mouth watering photo above.

I know what you may be thinking, especially you Italian food snobs-- tofu Parmesan sounds sacrilegious--like one of those vegetarian versions of dishes that just should not be messed with. It sounds like it would be soggy and weird. But it's not! It's delicious, cheesy goodness that will win over the biggest tofu skeptic. The trick is that the tofu is sauteed, THEN coated in breading and THEN baked before you put on the sauce and cheese and everything else.

I used Alena's method of squeezing out some of the water from the tofu by stacking some books on top of it and leaving it like that for a good 15 minutes. Works pretty well. One of the keys to making good tofu is getting rid of as much water as possible.

Ok here is the recipe, with a couple very minor adjustments in bold:

Tofu Parmesan from The Grit Restaurant Cookbook by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer

3 (15 ounce) blocks tofu, extra firm
2 T olive oil
Soy sauce
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1 T chopped fresh parsely, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 c fine bread crumbs
1/2 t salt
1/8 t fresh ground black pepper
4 c marinara (I used Mama Vallese's homemade sauce, but I have made this before with store-bought. Ain't no shame in it.)
2 c shredded mozzerella
Chopped fresh or dried oregano, for garnish
A sprinkle of nutritional yeast
A couple garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan or glass casserole dish.
Tear tofu chunks of various sizes. Add a thin layer of olive oil to a non-stick skillet and place over high heat. Chop up those garlic cloves and toss 'em in. Cover bottom of pan with tofu chunks and saute, tossiping often and sprinkling with soy sauce and nutritional yeast, which helps make it crispy.

Repeat with another small batch of tofu (I did about one and a half at a time--depends how big your skillet is) until all tofu is cooked in this manner. Drain if necessary and cool slightly. Place in a bowl with beaten eggs and toss together.
Blend 1 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add to tofu and toss together.
Pour 2 c marinara into prepared pan and spread evenly. Distribute tofu over sauce. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until tofu breading is very well browned.

Remove from oven and spread top with 2 c marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Garnish with remaining Parmesan cheese, parsley and oregano. Return to oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes until top is well browned.

Yields 8 servings.

Take another look at all that beautiful cheesiness:
YUM. Nothin' more you can say but Y U M.


  1. Ted Hafer, RIP

    Anna Frances and I were at The Grit tonight for a "girls dinner" -- Henry opted for Mexican with friends. I made A.F. try Jamaican (sp!) Jerk Tofu which she loved. The Creole Black Eyed Peas weren't as much of a hit. I also had collards and a fabulous mozz and tomato salad. Anna Frances got her staple -- the hummus appetizer plate.

    Can't wait to go Gritting with you in person, Cousin Sarah!

  2. Girly, Michael Stipe is everywhere. we take a blood pact to not reveal the exact location of his house but swear a few weekends ago i ran into him 4 times. if i was there, he was there, bless his heart.

  3. YES. I will definitely make this!!! Those photos are so enticing.