A "recipe" is what you get
Sometimes I feel like I’m shooting myself in the foot, career-wise, with the whole “no recipes just vibes” thing. People want recipes; the cookbook industry proves this, my notifications prove this. Part of why I don’t share recipes is the question of replicability: whether I can ensure that, and whether I even want to do the testing work in order to ensure that. I don’t want to let people down if what they want is guaranteed results, you know?
But recently, I wrote a piece about cookbooks that teach adaptability, specifically Tamar Adler’s The Everlasting Meal Cookbook and Margaret and Irene Li’s Perfectly Good Food. As I wrote, I like how Adler classifies descriptive recipes versus prescriptive recipes and how the former teaches you to see what matters in a recipe: the order of things, the spices, the ratios of ingredients.
Accordingly, here’s the gist of how I’ve been making Buffalo tofu lately. Where it differs from other tofu techniques I’ve previously shared is that it involves less active effort, making it more weekday lunch-friendly, and uses way less oil.
Thinly slice crunchy vegetables like cucumber, celery, carrots, radish, fennel etc. Roughly chop lettuce. Finely chop any or all of the following: chives, parsley, dill, fennel fronds.
To make the Buffalo tofu:
Pat dry one block of extra-firm tofu. I generally don’t press tofu. Tear it into bite-sized chunks (you know the drill from THE tofu: textural variation). Toss the tofu into a big bowl and coat it with Frank’s Red Hot. Let the tofu marinade for about 30 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to an air fryer; leave the hot sauce in the bowl. Cook the tofu around 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, tossing halfway through, or until it begins to crisp on all edges. I’m going for that point at which the tofu has enough of a crust that I can toss it around in the basket without worrying it’ll break.
Melt some butter and pour it into the bowl of Frank’s. Toss the crisped tofu into the sauce until coated on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to put the coated tofu back in the air fryer, and cook it for about 5 more minutes until the edges brown. For saucy Buffalo tofu, toss these chunks back into any sauce that might remain in the bowl.
To make the ranch dressing:
In a bowl, add equal parts mayo and sour cream or Greek yogurt. Whisk in buttermilk (or water + lemon juice, or milk + vinegar) until as thin or thick as you like. Season with onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, MSG, and add half the chopped herbs, reserving some for serving.
Combine the vegetables and lettuce and salt and pepper to taste. Top with the tofu. Drizzle on dressing and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Or: Stuff everything into a pita.
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Add croutons if you want. I make mine by tearing bread, drizzling it with olive oil, and putting it in the air fryer until crispy.
Cooking the tofu in the oven should work. Putting it on an oven-safe wire rack on top of a baking sheet will probably best approximate the air fryer, though I can’t say from personal experience.
Fry the tofu or pan-sear it, but in those cases, I’d skip the initial marinade.
For blue cheese dressing instead of ranch, the same sauce base works; instead of herbs, cheese.
Replace the tofu with chickpeas and follow a similar method. They probably won’t need as long to cook. (Turn that into a wrap à la Noah Tanen.)
Speaking of THE tofu, as in my crispy glazed tofu: That technique will also give you a great Buffalo tofu experience, albeit one that takes much more active cooking time. To swap that tofu into crispy Buffalo tofu: Skip the marinade but follow the same general steps. Instead of making a glaze, make a Buffalo sauce.