Grilled Tofu With Flame-Wilted Spinach
Fritz Sonnenschmidt is about the last guy you’d expect to grill tofu. First because of his birthplace, staunchly carnivorous Germany; then because of his position as dean of that bastion of classical cuisine, The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. But the European-trained chef is open-minded enough to accept bean curd into the barbecue pantheon, and he’s venturesome enough to grill spinach. The port, orange, and balsamic vinegar marinade loads the tofu with flavor. Besides, how often do you get to grill spinach?
Method: Direct grilling
Advance preparation: 2 to 12 hours for marinating the tofu
Toasting Celery Seeds To toast nuts and seeds, heat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot, 3 to 5 minutes. (You must use a heavy skillet for this; do not use a nonstick one.) Add the nuts or seeds and cook over medium-high heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan to ensure even toasting (celery seeds will take 1 to 2 minutes.). Immediately pour the nuts or seeds into a shallow heat-proof bowl and let cool.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturefruity, light, tangy, umami
- 2 blocks extra-firm or firm tofu (1 pound each)
- 2/3 cup port
- 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- 6 to 8 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil or olive oil
- 24 ounces fresh spinach
- 4 oranges, peeled, cut into segments, membranes and seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons toasted celery seed (see Note below)
Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each block of tofu in half through the side. Cut each of these pieces in half again to form a total of 8 broad, thin slabs. Blot the tofu pieces dry with paper towels, then place them in a nonreactive baking dish.
Combine the port, vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, honey, and 4 tablespoons of the sesame oil in a nonreactive bowl and whisk to mix. Pour this mixture over the tofu and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight, turning the tofu pieces several times so they marinate evenly.
Stem the spinach, rinse it, and spin it dry in a salad spinner or shake it dry. Place the spinach in a large nonreactive bowl.
Set up the grill for direct grilling (see page 21 for charcoal or gas) and preheat to high.
Drain the marinade from the tofu into the spinach and toss to coat the spinach.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Lightly brush the tofu pieces on both sides with sesame oil. Arrange the marinated tofu pieces on the hot grate, placing them on a diagonal to the bars. Grill until lightly browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the grilled tofu to a platter or plates.
Place the spinach on the grate and cook until wilted (the edges will crisp), 2 to 4 minutes per side, turning the leaves with tongs. Place the grilled spinach on top of the tofu. Top with the orange segments, sprinkle the toasted celery seed over all, and serve at once.
2003 Steven Raichlen