Papa Tofu: Crispy Crunchy Stuffed Tofu Pockets
Now that we’ve had some Nice Ass Greens, how about some Crispy Crunchy Stuffed Tofu Pockets to go with them? (Some recipeless cheezy grits are on the bottom of the ensemble, by the way.) These little tofu pocket gems come to us via Kittee Berns of Cake Maker to the Stars. I’ve had the pleasure of testing recipes for several of her zines and I have yet to make a bad dish (there was a grand total of one dish that I didn’t care for, but the rest have been uber stellar).
Papa Tofu, her first zine from 2007 features a mix of dishes ranging from Ethiopian to New Orleans fare to a staggering number of amazing looking desserts like orange cake and buckeye balls. It’s a great introduction to Kittee’s style. Some of my favorites include her Seitan Po’Boys and King Cake and Soft Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pretzels. I haven’t gotten into the Ethiopian food yet (which is surprising since I love the cuisine), but her second zine, Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food goes even more in depth into it (I need to get it stat, don’t know why I haven’t yet!).
This week, I decided to try out her Crispy Crunchy Stuffed Tofu Pockets–a variation of which is already on her blog and features a delicata squash stuffing (amazing, right?). I wanted to try out the tofu pockets because 1) it’d been a long time since I’d played around with tofu as a main dish, and 2) I’d just picked up some awesome Twin Oaks Italian Herb tofu from Richmond (Twin Oaks is a cooperative in Charlottesville that makes the best tofu ever). The idea of stuffing a tofu with greens and other veggies and then breading and baking it sounded divine and, knowing Kittee’s other recipes, I knew it ought to be worth the time and effort.
So was it? Most definitely yes. The tofu is indeed super crunchy and the pockets of veggie goodness lend a savory sauciness to the pockets. Without the stuffing, the tofu would be a little too dry, but with it, it was rich and juicy–the perfect main component of our Southern feast.
I made a few variations to the stuffing, using ingredients I had on hand, but stayed true to the original idea. The pockets are a little time intensive, but if you’re looking for an impressive vegan protein dish, these pockets will wow anyone–omnivore and vegan alike. And if you’re into awesome Southern/Cajun/Ethiopian fare, Papa Tofu is definitely the zine for you. I think it’s out of print, but many of the recipes can be found on Kittee’s blog, so head over there to check them out!
Crispy Crunchy Stuffed Tofu Pockets
Slightly adapted from Papa Tofu
For the Tofu & Filling:
16 oz extra-firm tofu
1.5 c chopped kale
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt free creole seasoning (I used Penzeys blend)
1/4 parsley, chopped
For the Breading:
1 c all-purpose flour, divided
2.5 salt-free Creole seasoning, divided
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/8 tsp chili powder
1 c unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 c raw pumpkin seeds, pulsed in a food processor
Rinse the tofu and blot dry.
Cut the tofu into 12 triangles. For a diagram, see here. The triangles should be approximately 1/2″ thick.
With a sharp knife, carefully cut a pocket into each triangle, down through the hypotenuse. Be careful not to cut all the way through the bottom or the side. Set aside.
To prepare the filling, in a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and red pepper and saute until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
Add the salt, cumin, and creole seasoning and cook 1 minute until fragrant.
Deglaze with a splash of water and add the kale. Cook until tender, 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and process in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth. Mix in the chopped parsley and season to taste with more salt if desired.
With a small spoon and your fingers, carefully fill each pocket with a heaping tablespoon or so of filling. The pockets should be quite filled but not bursting at the seams. Don’t worry if one of the seams rips through, it will be fixed when breaded.
To bread the tofu pockets, set a up a three bowl station.
In the first bowl, mix together 3/4 c flour, 1.5 tsp Creole seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp chili powder.
In the second bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk and apple cider. This will create a thicker, buttermilk to batter the tofu.
In the third bowl, mix together 1/4 c flour, 1/4 c nutritional yeast, 1 tsp Creole seasoning, 1/4 tsp salt, and the pumpkin seeds.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and oil a cookie sheet or line it with a silpat/parchment paper.
Place your tofu next to bowl 1 and place the cookie sheet next to bowl 3. Designate one of your hands as the wet hand and one as the dry hand.
With your dry hand, place one or two tofu pockets in bowl 1. Pat them in the seasoned flour and make sure they are covered completely, especially over the pocket slit. Shake off any excess flour and carefully place them in bowl 2.
With your wet hand, flip the tofu over so they are completely moistened. Place them in bowl 3.
With your dry hand, flip the tofu around in the breading mixture and firmly pat them down on each edge. You want all of the tofu covered with the crunchy bits. Lay them on the cookie sheet and repeat until all of the tofu are on the cookie sheet.
Spray the tops of the tofu with the cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes. Check the bottoms of the tofu–you want them to be a rich golden brown. When brown, flip with a spatula and spray the new tofu tops. Brown the other side, baking another 20-25 minutes.
When golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool. Serve with grits and some Nice Ass Greens.