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COOKBOOK WATCH

Let Tofu Be Tofu

June 07, 2000|JENNIFER LOWE

It's always better to be positive. "Your Jell-O salad looks fabulous" is much preferred to "Oh no, you didn't make Jell-O salad, did you?" It's that thing about saying something nice.

But what nice things are said about tofu? For all its supposed merit as a rich low-fat source of protein, tofu usually draws negative adjectives. So don't blame Deborah Madison for luring you to tofu with this title, "This Can't Be Tofu!" (Broadway Books, $15.) Would you thumb through the book if it were "Tantalizing Tofu"? Probably not.

Madison realizes she has a hard sell (the book's subtitle is "75 Recipes to Cook Something You Never Thought You Would--and Love Every Bite.") But if anyone's up to the task of pitching the white slab of soy, she is. Her 1997 "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" has been extremely successful, its recipes solid and good. The same goes for "Tofu's" recipes.

Although other tofu cookbooks often try to sneak tofu into cakes and sauces or mask its flavor, Madison plays up what's good about tofu: Prepared properly, it can be pretty darned delicious.

One of her best techniques involves simmering silken or regular tofu before gently frying it to give it that chewy texture you know from Asian stir-fry dishes. She also sets minds at ease when it comes to draining; though some recipes require you to practically throw tofu into the clothes dryer to extract liquid, Madison says paper towels often can do the trick. Whew.

With her recipes too, there's little need to troll the aisles of health food stores (as I have with some soy books). Though you might have to shop for miso, rice sticks or tamarind paste, the ingredients aren't ridiculous.

The only thing wrong with the book is that it could use pictures with the recipes. Someone on the fence about tofu might need more than black and white typed pages to be swayed. How about appetizing images? But then you might have to change the book title to "Yes, This Is Tofu!"

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