Falsetti: A fresh twist on a Korean classic
Back in the day, when I lived in New York City, it was a summer ritual to head to the beach on the weekend. My family went with another couple and their two kids. Seven of us squeezed into our VW Bug and headed out to Long Island.
Our friends George and Winnie loved to eat, so part of our beach trips involved elaborate cookouts. As we were aspiring young gourmets, hot dogs and hamburgers were definitely not on the menu. Ethnic was in, and bulgogi, the Korean barbecue classic, was a favorite.
Bulgogi, which translates as “fire meat,” is thinly sliced steak that has been marinated and then cooked on the grill. Because it is cooked quickly, a prime cut of beef is necessary. I still love the flavors of the dish, but I’ve lost my enchantment with beef. Tofu seemed like a good substitute to satisfy my cravings, and “tofugi” (my invented name) was born.
To prepare tofu for grilling, pressing out the water is essential. Begin with extra firm tofu. Drain the tofu and place it on a board with weights on top. You can slant the board slightly so the water drains into the sink. Alternatively, you can buy a tofu press on Amazon or elsewhere that makes the task less cumbersome.
Because tofu is more delicate than meat, to grill it outdoors you will need a well-oiled grill pan that is adapted for fish or vegetables to sit on top of your barbecue.
On a final note, if you have a blended family — a mix of vegetarians and meat eaters — the same marinade can be used for both beef and tofu.
1 pound extra firm tofu, well drained and pressed
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Slice the tofu in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise so that you have four thin slabs.
Combine the rest of the ingredients to make the marinade.
Place the tofu pieces in the sauce and allow them to marinate unrefrigerated for a couple of hours.
Using a spatula, remove the tofu slices from the marinade. Place on the grill and cook for about 4 minutes on each side. Heat the remaining marinade and serve it along with the grilled tofu over brown or white rice.
— 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. Reach her with questions and comments at email@example.com.