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DISH: A weekly serving of food news and views

By JANET K. KEELER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 15, 2003


explanations from the inside out



To vegetarians, tofu is a wonder food because it's packed with protein, low in fat and able to meld with almost any cuisine or dish. To those prone to taking jabs at lifestyles unlike their own, tofu is another word to describe Birkenstock-wearing, green tea-drinking, hemp-loving New Age hippies.

Well, the naysayers don't know what they are missing.

Tofu is simply soy milk that has been curdled, drained and pressed into a block. Think cheese without the cow. Depending on how much of the liquid -- or whey -- is pressed out, tofu can be soft, firm or extra-firm. Most recipes call for regular tofu, which is found in refrigerated produce cases and comes packed in water. Silken tofu is less firm and is good for smoothies, while firmer tofu is best for grilling or sauteing.

The beauty of tofu is that it takes on the flavor and character of the ingredients it's cooked with. Toss it into a stir-fry and it absorbs salty soy sauce or pungent ginger. Use it to bulk up blue cheese dressing, and eliminate much of the fat. Tofu adds creaminess to soups, and it's at home as well in desserts such as puddings or pumpkin pies. Tofu can also be sliced, marinated, then baked or grilled.

constant comment

"I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tuna fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock." -- Author Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (Visions of Glory), who died last year at age 67.

this web site cooks

The folks at Boca Foods want you to eat less meat -- and presumably more of their Boca Burgers -- by going meatless on Mondays. Boca's Web site offers meatless recipes to get you started. Registered participants who submit a 100-word essay describing the healthful lifestyle change they want to make and how Boca Foods helped them get there are eligible to win $100,000. Entry rules are available at the Web site, or mail your entry to BOCA "Go Meatless" Entries, P.O. Box 4975, Blair, NE 68009-4975. Deadline is May 8.

cooking class


Plant City strawberries, now in stores and produce markets, are just one reminder that Florida's growing season is different from those of colder states. To get the best from your juicy gems, eat them soon after buying because they are highly perishable. Store uneaten berries in the refrigerator but do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Also, don't cut off the leafy cap until after the berries are washed or water will seep into the fruit.

winter cleaning

Forget spring; start pantry cleaning now. Toss out or replace:

-- Spices that are more than 3 years old. Spice manufacturers recommend discarding them after a year, but we think many of them have a longer shelf life. Give them a good whiff; if the oregano smells more like mulch than spaghetti sauce, chuck it.

-- Empty boxes or boxes with a quarter cup or less in them. If you can use the remainder at the bottom, use it. Soon. Otherwise, throw it out. Likewise the tiny bit of liquid at the bottom of vinegar, molasses, syrup, honey and oil containers.

-- Cans with bulges; the contents are probably rancid. If you have nonperishable food you don't think you'll use, donate it to a food bank. Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean there aren't people who need help.

beefed up bread


Israel is the first country to fortify bread and other wheat products with vitamin B-12, an online news service reports. Studies have indicated that a shortage of the vitamin might be linked to degenerative mental illnesses such as Alzheimer's and dementia, as well as anemia and other disorders.

eat your spinach salad

Dole's new baby spinach blends bring another dimension to bagged salads. Three varieties are available: plain baby spinach, baby spinach with radicchio and baby spinach with red leaf lettuce. The prewashed greens come in 5-ounce to 6-ounce bags and cost about $3.50 at grocery stores.

post modern 12-pack

coke cans

It's difficult to get excited about every new soda pop that comes off the assembly line. Colas with lemon, colas with vanilla, red pop, blue pop, no caffeine, too, have made us weary and leery. But we are positively giddy that the new 12-pack containers made for Coke products have made it to the Tampa Bay area after introduction last summer in several Southern states. Bulky square containers have given way to more fridge-friendly, elongated carriers called Fridge Packs. A perforated cut in one end allows cans to be pulled easily from the pack. Looks like someone built a better mousetrap. Can Pepsi be far behind?

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