New hack or ancient tofu technique?

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

“28 Brilliant Food Hacks That Will Make You A Kitchen Genius”: Who can resist clicking on a link like this and changing your life forever?

One such touted hack is freezing tofu. If you’ve been around the block a few times, you soon realize that there is not much new under the sun, or in this case, your kitchen counter. The Chinese were freezing tofu about 1,500 years ago.

Since tofu is 86 percent water, when you freeze it, the water turns to ice. The remaining proteins and other solids transform into a lacy but firm network. When thawed and squeezed, the tofu block resembles a delicate sponge, cohesive and highly absorbent. The texture is similar to a very tender meat. Think chicken, or rather Missing Chicken Salad.

Missing Chicken Salad has frozen tofu as its base, giving it texture, but the meaty flavor comes from nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast grown on vats of molasses. Despite its growing medium, the taste is a combination of nutty and cheesy.

Many people like to sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn. In addition to its savory taste, it is loaded with nutrients. It is a complete protein, and a single serving contains 100 percent of the daily required B vitamins. Nutritional yeast flakes can be found in the natural food section of major supermarkets.

Though the salad comes together in minutes, you have to freeze and then thaw the tofu. The latter takes a bit of time, so it is best to set it out the night before.

To freeze the tofu, take it out of the package and drain the water. Put it in a bag or container and store in the freezer for at least 24 hours. If you want to make the salad vegan, use a dairy-free mayonnaise.

If you think healthy means bland, give Missing Chicken Salad a try. Vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike will become fans.

Missing Chicken Salad

1 pound firm or extra firm tofu, frozen, thawed and well drained

2 tablespoons tahini

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 scallions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon barbecue seasoning

1 rib celery, chopped

salt to taste

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

Using your hands, squeeze out the water from the thawed tofu, and then shred the tofu into a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.