Last night I made a dish with two ingredients that I don’t like very much, and it turned out so delicious that my husband is insisting that I make it every week, and my daughter, who doesn’t like three-fourths of the ingredients, ate every bite.
If you take a look at the title up there, you already know what the dish is. But what are the two ingredients I’m not so fond of? Spaghetti squash and frozen tofu.
Try as I might to like spaghetti squash, I’ve just never been a big fan. Sure it looks sort of like spaghetti, but it tastes nothing like it. In fact, it usually doesn’t have much taste at all, just a texture that varies from mushy to semi-crunchy depending on the individual squash and how it’s cooked. I’ve always wanted to like it because it’s so much better for you than pasta, but after the last time I cooked it, I just decided to leave it alone for a while, until last week when I saw a pretty striped one at the farmers’ market and picked it up on a whim.
As for frozen tofu, I don’t really dislike it, but I do think it requires the right recipe. As you probably know, freezing tofu changes its texture totally. It goes from being smooth and tender to spongy and chewy. If you freeze it not knowing that the texture changes and then try to use it in a recipe that calls for regular tofu, you’re liable to have a disaster on your hands. But in the right recipe, frozen tofu is really wonderful. It sucks up the sauce and flavors of a dish and provides a great chewy texture. I love it in jambalaya, and now I’ve found another great use for it in this recipe.
To begin this dish, I first prepared the spaghetti squash in a way I hadn’t before. In the past, I’ve sped up the cooking of the squash by microwaving it or steaming it. This time I roasted it with garlic, and the taste was much, much better. I still couldn’t sit down and eat a whole plate of it without a sauce on top, but it made the perfect foundation for the cacciatore, a rustic Italian-style stew. Roasting the squash takes a little while so I recommend doing it earlier in the day, if possible, or at least starting it before you make the cacciatore. I followed the recipe here, with two changes: I used olive oil spray instead of the oil called for and I cooked it for about an hour. I think the cooking time depends on the individual squash, so be sure to cook yours until it is completely tender.
Tofu and Vegetable Cacciatore
1 package (14-16 ounces) firm or extra-firm tofu, frozen and thawed (see note)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 green)
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
3 cups eggplant, coarsely chopped (about 1 small globe or two Japanese eggplants)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white wine (see note)
1 cup vegetable broth (I used fatfree “chicken-style” bouillon)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, canned
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
generous grating of fresh black pepper
Defrost the tofu and squeeze as much liquid as possible out of it. Squeeze it gently so that it doesn’t tear. A little liquid left inside will not hurt this dish. Cut into cubes about 1/2-inch thick. (Frozen tofu tends to expand when cooked, so err on the side of smallness.)
Spray a large non-stick pot with olive oil and saute the onion until it begins to turn golden. Add the rest of the vegetables, cover, and cook for about 5 more minutes at medium heat, stirring every minute. Add tofu and the white wine, and cook uncovered for about 1 minute.
Combine the broth and the tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add it, the tomatoes, and all remaining ingredients to the pan. Stir well and turn heat very low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Serve over spaghetti squash, pasta, rice, or potatoes.
Makes about 6 servings, each containing 142 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (25% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 691mg Sodium; 5g Fiber.
I freeze tofu the quick and easy way. I simply take the unopened box of tofu and put it in the freezer for at least 24 hours. When I’m ready to use it, I either put it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw or thaw it in the microwave. Then I remove it from the water and gently squeeze it between my hands to get out as much water as possible. (You will be amazed how much there is!) This is a great way to use tofu that is about to reach its expiration date; it will stay good in the freezer for months.
The white wine gives this dish a great flavor, but if you don’t have any, a light red wine will do. If you don’t want to use alcohol, substitute the same amount of vegetable broth.