Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Other White Meat

Tofu's not something I cook with often. I used to eat it more when I was a semi-vegetarian in college, for no better reason really than being wary of handling raw meat, but since careening down the path of eating local, whole, farm fresh foods, I left tofu behind, along with all the other "Chik Patties" and overprocessed fake meats I stopped eating.

But after work the other day, I made a rare trip to Whole Foods to check out their organic chicken selection, since I wasn't able to stop at the farmers market the day before, and I needed more food for dinner that night. To my surprise, Whole Foods' organic chicken breasts are more expensive than at the Greenmarket! Why would I pay $10 a pound for factory farmed meat when I can get happy chicken breasts from Quattro's Game Farm for $6-7 a pound? No thanks. Seeking an alternate source of protein, I ambled (more like pushed and dodged) my way over to the tofu section. And what did I behold but a tofu package beaming "Local Tofu" back at me, made in Nyack, NY. No, it is unlikely that the soybeans were grown in the area, but I was happy to at least be supporting a local vendor. And at $1.99/package, tofu definitely trumps chicken in terms of keeping my savings in my pocket.

I've realized lately that I am spending more money than I'd like to on food, probably as a natural consequence of being a foodie. Of the money I spend, most of it goes toward food (and some to alcohol), since due to my anticonsumerism stance, I don't buy much clothes, or makeup or books or movies at all (thank you library). And yes, I totally espouse the idea that it's good to pay more to buy sustainable food, because it's important to pay the true cost of food. But I still don't like to see my money disappear. So I've been making a concerted effort to cut down costs by buying cheaper cuts of meat like sausage, cooking less meat, cooking with dried beans (at $1-2/lb in bulk, they are the cheapest protein ever!), baking my own bread, buying the less fancy vegetables like radishes that have dual uses (roots and greens), growing my own herbs, and meal planning up the wazoo to make sure food in my fridge gets eaten or frozen in some form before it goes bad. As food prices rise, we all want to find ways to cut costs, and Cathy also recently posted helpful suggestions on how to "combat soaring food prices."

So speaking of meal planning and using up what's on hand - after dinner that night (radish, bok choy, and tofu stir fry with soy sauce, sesame seeds, and quinoa), I combined the rest of the tofu with my leftover garlic scape pesto, this time adding parmesan and almonds to beef up the pesto. I left the tofu pesto salad in the fridge for a couple days to let the flavors mingle. Then, amidst all the running around before camping last weekend, it made the perfect lunch served on homemade bread with fresh lettuce. The tofu pesto salad sandwich was creamy and had a nice spicy kick from all the garlic scapes. I thought it would also taste good blended into a tofu cream cheese (speaking of which, I really need to attempt that), or warmed up on the stove a bit, for a form of imitation scrambled eggs. Something tells me we'll be seeing tofu a little more often around here.

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