An Easy, Thrilling Tofu Recipe for Just About Any Resolution

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of New Year’s resolutions, it’s that it’s a whole lot easier to do something than to avoid something.

Since I instinctively chafe at limits, I treat my heart like a toddler, highlighting the “yes” rather than the “no.” The idea of giving up steak, manhattans or Instagram would make me crabby. But frame it as: Let’s eat more vegetables! Or explore nonalcoholic aperitifs! Or read more books! And I’m delighted to comply.

Recipe: Sweet Chile Grain Bowl With Tofu

The ketchup in the sweet chile sauce sweetens everything and acts as a binder, allowing the mixture to season everything as it roasts.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Hadas Smirnoff.

For me, this year is going to be all about saying yes to more plant-based cooking. I want to become as fluent in tofu as I am in chicken thighs.

I’m already finding that there’s a lot of overlap in cooking methods. Each does well with a stint on a hot rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle them with oil, crank your oven and they will emerge crisp at the edges, golden on top and tender in the center.

In terms of flavor, tofu and chicken thighs may taste completely different, but they love a pungent, salty slather with some kind of marinade or sauce.

For this tofu grain bowl, I made an easy yet complex sauce by combining garlic, soy sauce and chile crisp with a big dollop of ketchup. The ketchup serves two purposes. It sweetens everything and acts as a binder, thickening the mixture so it can cling to the tofu pieces and season them as they roast.

Tomatoes mellow the spicy tang of the sauce.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Hadas Smirnoff.

What makes this sauce truly special is its chameleon-like nature: It changes depending on how you use it. Brushed onto the tofu before roasting, it caramelizes, forming a savory-sweet crust. Tossed with some sliced cabbage that’s spread on the pan next to the tofu, the sauce helps the thinner cabbage pieces singe and blacken appealingly. And drizzled onto the grain bowl at the end, it stays bright and snappy, adding a spicy tang that is mellowed by its fruity tomato pieces.

As for the grain part of the grain bowl, it’s the cook’s choice. Use whatever you have and love — cooked or leftover rice (brown or white), barley, quinoa, farro, millet. If you’ve sworn off carbs or, let’s say, you’re increasing your salad intake, pile everything onto a mound of greens.

Framed any which way, it’s easy to say yes to this delightful, adaptable recipe.

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