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Think about your favorite really simple plates. Those vegetable hashes or sautés, the veg mélange you toss in the oven to roast, or the pot of greens and beans you pull out of the slow cooker after a long day. Now think about making them even better with 10-minute tofu and a creamy sauce the color of happiness. Together, they add light, chewy protein and a shot of richness. Let's go to work.

Up top is a mix of pinto beans and sweet potatoes spiced with cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika, then roasted together in a little oil. The roasting method works well if you don't have the tofu and sauce already made. You can work on those while the base roasts without any attention from you at all. Dinner is served, and now you've got your tofu and sauce to tuck in the fridge for another day.

Because tofu is wildly forgiving. True, you'll never get that lovely sear back after you've chilled it, but mostly, tofu stores like a champ. Then again, it takes only 10 minutes from start to finish, so it can be whipped up in a snap on any given day if you want it freshly made each time. Do what works best for your schedule.

The nicest effect with this combination really might be toast:

Start with a nice loaf (that's rye in the photos).

Then quickly cook some spinach or other tender green with a little smoked salt or garam masala. (If tomatoes are in season, let them in on the action, too.)

Top with the tofu and sauce, and you're set.

Now, a couple tips. First, cooking tofu on the hot stove top is a really great fuss-free way to get satisfying tofu anytime. It isn't as forgiving as baking (you can actually burn it on the stove, whereas tofu never seems to tire of hanging out in a warm oven), but it provides a great exterior chew while preserving tenderness on the inside. Folks in the States can spend a lot of time trying to make tofu drier, which can be tasty (tofu jerky!), but if you haven't tried embracing tofu's silkier side, you may find you've been missing out. You might decide some of the softer firm varieties out there (brands vary—no two "firm" or "extra-firm" tofus are exactly alike) give great results.

Second, for the sauce, orange bell pepper produces the boldest hue, but a yellow pepper will do fine if that's what's available. It still tastes great over stewed collards (or other sturdy greens) and black eyed peas (or whatever legume you're in the mood for).

It works over waffled hash browns:

seared tofu and sunny coconut-roasted pepper sauce over waffled hash browns.jpg

It works over green beans cooked in a little olive oil (or pesto or, as here, arugula relish) and garnished with toasted almonds:

It works on giant bagelwiches. It just plain works.

Seared Tofu

Print the recipes

serves 4

14-16 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

2 TBSP nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat a large nonstick griddle over medium-high heat (see Note below). Meanwhile, with the tofu in landscape position (long end toward you), cut into 8 even slices. When the skillet is hot, carefully add the tofu in a single layer, without touching. Whisk together nutritional yeast and salt, sprinkle over tofu, and let cook, undisturbed, five minutes. Flip tofu (the underside should now be golden) and cook another four minutes, until golden.

Note: you can also use a large nonstick skillet, but you'll likely need to work in two batches, reducing the heat to medium for the second batch to avoid burning.

Sunny Roasted Pepper-Coconut Sauce

yields app. 1 1/2 cups

1 large (or 2 small) orange (or yellow) bell pepper

1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp hot sauce, such as Valentina or Cholula

Heat oven broiler with a rack in the top position. Trim, halve, and seed the pepper. Place cut-side down on the rack and broil until blistered and blackened, 10-15 minutes, checking frequently after 10 minutes. (If needed, prop the oven door open slightly to keep the broiler from turning off.)

Meanwhile, add all other ingredients to a wide-mouth jar. When the pepper is ready, carefully transfer to the jar. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth, about 20 seconds (see Note below). Let cool a bit before using, or let cool completely before refrigerating. To use leftovers, gently warm only the desired portion.

Note: blending with an immersion blender with the skin on will add the flavor of the slightly charred skin to the sauce, while any tough skin will be caught by the circulation notches in the blender wand. If you need to use a food processor (or your immersion blender does not have circulation notches), you may want to strain the sauce if the texture is not smooth enough for your tastes.