ROBIN INSLEY: In your book, you outline
a variety of soy foods. Tofu and miso seem to be the ones getting
the most attention. What's the difference between the two?
DANA JACOBI: They are two of the
four traditional food made from soybeans — the others are
soymilk and tempeh. Traditional means these foods have been made
for centuries in Asia, where the soybean originated. Asians still
produce them by hand in cottage industries as well as industrially,
with some artisans making particularly fine examples of tofu and
Tofu, the most familiar soy product, is made from the milk of
the soybean. There are two "families" of tofu. Silken tofu, what
the Japanese call kinugoshi, is made like yogurt; the milk is simply
is coagulated to a custardy texture. The other kind, momengoshi
or cotton tofu, is made like cheese. A natural coagulent is added
to soymilk, producing curds and whey. When the watery whey is drained
off you get a firmer kind of tofu.
Miso has enormous range of flavors. It can be blended into barbecue
sauce and used to flavor dishes like chili, soups or stews. It can
also be mixed into salad dressings or spreads. One of my favorites
is a "PMJ" -- a miso with peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wholegrain
bread. I mix a sweet, pale miso with the peanut butter and use marmalade
for the jelly. The combination is just sensational.
ROBIN INSLEY: What are some innovative
ways to work with tofu?
DANA JACOBI: You can freeze it,
press it, blend it, etc. Each of them changes the texture in interesting
ways. Since the book was published, I have found that when you puree
silken tofu, then drain it like yogurt cheese, you can get something
that's similar to marscopone. I just used this drained tofu for
making tiramisu and it was incredible. For cannoli, soft regular
tofu, pureed, is perfect because its slightly grainy texture is
like ricotta cheese. I add orange zest, chocolate, all thing you
put in a cannoli cream. This not just delicious; it's amazing.
ROBIN INSLEY: People seem to be afraid
to experiment with cooking with soy products. Can you suggest a
good place to start?
DANA JACOBI: In dishes for beginning
soycooks, I focus on using tofu or soymilk in recipes where their
flavor disappears, taking on the flavors of other ingredients. If
there is a beany flavor, add a little lemon juice; it just neutralizes
that taste instantly.
The right density of tofu is important to make a dish succeed.
What one manufacturer calls firm is softer than the same item from
a different company. I recommend buying several different brands
and textures at the same time and opening them all. Once you see
the differences, you will easily make the right choice to suit any
Tofu marries wonderfully with mushrooms. (The mushroom ragout
in my book is sensational). I have a sweet pea soup where I combine
cilantro and soymilk with green peas and ginger. The soymilk gives
the soup body while the other ingredients provide color. This soup
looks as vibrant as it tastes.
ROBIN INSLEY: What's the best way
to cook with miso?
DANA JACOBI: It depends on whether
you want to focus on the health benefits or the flavor. Miso contains
lacto bacillus bacteira which is very heat sensitive so heating
it kills the enzymes. Miso can be used cold of warm. You can heat
miso but do not boil it. Miso is used in a stew or chili when added
towards the end. People do tend to use too much of miso which can
be a little overpowering. I would never use more than three tablespoons
for four- to-six servings because it intensely flavors the food.
ROBIN INSLEY: Are tofu and miso nutritionally
DANA JACOBI: Tofu and miso have
significant differences, nutritionally speaking, even though both
are good sources of phytochemicals recently been linked to important
health benefits and which are making everyone excited about soy.
Miso is a combination of soybeans and grain. Because it is fermented,
it is rich in live organisms, including lactobacillus, yeast, and
enzymes which add benefits and beyond those from phytochemicals.
It has remarkable flavor. Miso is protein-rich but you only use
a bit of it in the dish.
Tofu, which is not fermented, is also a high protein food. Most
of it is remarkably low in fat. Silken tofu contains only 2.5 grams
of fat in a serving. And it's the healthy kind of fat, high in essential
ROBIN INSLEY: I have been hearing
a lot about the particular soybean called edamame (E- dah-mah-may).
Can you please tell us what it is?
DANA JACOBI: Edamame is a kind of
fresh whole soy bean in its immature state. The Japanese boil them
in their pods in heavily salted water. In Japan, this popular snack
food is commonly served with beer. The Japanese eat them by popping
1-2 beans in their mouths. Edamame can be found at most Chinese
or ethnic food stores. They are a high fiber, high protein snack.
In America, edamame is being marketed as the sweet bean. Birds Eye
Foods is marketing them mixed with baby broccoli florets. You can
find this vegetable mixture in the frozen food section. Sno-Pac,
an organic food producer, has 10 oz. boxes that can be found in
natural food stores.
ROBIN INSLEY: In your book, you mention
that some research suggests that soy consumption may reduce a woman's
chance of developing breast cancer. Would you discuss this?
DANA JACOBI: True, but for now the
data substantiating this are mainly anecdotal. They have yet to
be clinically substantiated. But eating soy brings so many other
benefits. For some women (omit have shown to have) eating it has
produced a reduction in symptoms of menopause. Dr. Susan Love, the
highly regarded scientist, has commented on this. From my own experience,
I firmly believe that eating soy helped me avoid hot flashes. It
also seems to help people avoid osteoporosis. Clinical studies have
conclusively proven that consuming soy in sufficient quanity produces
a reduction in blood cholesterol.
ROBIN INSLEY: How much soy per day
would a person have to consume to see these effects?
DANA JACOBI: For cholesterol reducing
benefits, research indicates you need to consume 25-40 milligrams
of soy protein a day. That's at least one cup of textured vegetable
protein (TVP), about three glasses of soymilk, or between three
and four four-ounce servings of tofu. (The protein content in tofu
varies from nine to 13 grams.) Clinical trails use soy protein isolate,
a powder which is almost entirely protein. Personally, I prefer
eating whole soyfoods and find little problem in getting one serving
each of several kinds in a day. For example, I may have a soymilk
smoothie for breakfast, soy cream cheese (good stuff!) on a bagel
as a snack, and chili made with a TVP or a sald with tofu-based
dressing at dinner, and then a cup of serious dark chocolate pudding
Dr. Susan Potter's studies conducted at the University of Illinois
have been investigating what is the suggested amount of soy a woman
should consume a day to see an effect upon menopause.
ROBIN INSLEY: In relation to the
benefits of soy-protein, on a global scale, what are some of the
environmental benefits of eating vegetable protein versus animal
DANA JACOBI: Using land to produce
vegetable rather than animal protein employs the earth's resources
more efficiently. You can feed a multitude of people on acres of
soy where as it takes acres of soy to feed one head of cattle. Soybeans
are used as a rotational crop throughout the United States as well
as in Europe and Asia. As a legume, it is a nitrogen fixer; this
means it gives something back to the land even as it produces food
ROBIN INSLEY: A lot of people are
confused when they go to their local supermarket and are forced
to choose between so many different forms of tofu -- silken, soft,
firm, etc. Can you take us through some of these? How do you use
each of them?
DANA JACOBI: Silken tofu is great
for dressings, toppings, puddings, a lot of dessert uses. Its creaminess
expands the uses for tofu. It brings cooking with bean curd to a
whole other, sophisticated level. Firm silken bean curd can be cut
into little cubes and used in miso soup. But no silken tofu can
be used in a stir- fry because it breaks apart and becomes mushy.
Soft regular tofu can be scrambled with an egg to make a breakfast
burrito. It's also perfect pureed for dips that need body, and in
desserts which need body, like Cannoli Cream. Firm and extra firm
tofu can be cut into slabs, marinated, and grilled. Besides being
good in stir-frys, they are also good cubed and added to chili or
stews. Matching the texture of tofu to the recipe you are using
is important. For a creamy dessert, a silken tofu usually gives
the best result. Regular soft tofu stays slightly grainy, even when
pureed. Because a texture of tofu varies in density from brand to
brand, the best thing is to buy a few brands at the s ame time and
decide which has the taste and density you like best.
ROBIN INSLEY: One thing that makes
cooking with soy so pleasurable is that it presents such a range
of flavors. What is your personal favorite soy dish?
DANA JACOBI: I love my Chocolate
Silk Pie, which is made with silken tofu pureed with equal amount
of a high quality chocolate like Valrhona. I also love the Wild
Mushroom Ragout because the tofu in it marries beautifully with
its meaty chunks of porcini and cremini mushrooms. Sweet Pea and
Coriander Potage shows how elegant soymilk can be. I like these
elegant dishes because they have big, complex flavors that unroll
in layers. In Asian cooking, I love those Korean dishes combining
delicate, freshly made silken tofu with meat, vegetables and hot
ROBIN INSLEY: What tips would you
give a home cook who is beginning to experiment with incorporating
soy into his or her daily diet?
DANA JACOBI: Soymilk is a good place
to start. It is easy to use on cereal and makes great smoothies.
Recently, soy yogurts have been improved, so give them a try, too.
Miso is simple to use and adds exceptional flavor to dishes. Try
mixing a tablespoon of pale, sweet or white miso into sauteed carrots
as a glaze, or mashing miso into potatoes in place of butter. It
makes them creamy, fluffy, and adds remarkable flavor.
To enjoy bean curd, is remember that it is a sponge for flavors.
Serve a sauce or marinade with it, or combine it with other ingredients
that give it flavor. Think of tofu as an ingredient, a partner,
just like the rice in a casserole or the mayonnaise in a dip. What
you put with it is they key. Mostly, think of highly flavored, strongly
colored ingredients, from spinach, broccoli or sweet potatoes, to
curry powder, cinnamon or chocolate.
ROBIN INSLEY: For those chefs, what
advice would you give for fitting soy foods into their menu? What
kind of dishes would you recommend?
DANA JACOBI: I recently taught a
class at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and found
that a growing number of chefs are interested in soy for various
reasons. More of their patrons want meatless dishes and are looking
for greater variety, too. Soy is easy to incorporate into a host
of soups, salad dressings, eggless egg salad and dips. The mushroom
stew in my book holds for a number of days and can be reheated easily.
The same is true for the chocolate silken pie.
Experimenting with soy often pays off. One team of chefs I taught
at Greystone put a dry rub on slabs of tofu and smoked them. The
results were stunning. You can fry cubed tempeh to sprinkle on a
salad in place of crouton; see how soymilk and soy cheese make a
creamy, rich macaroni and cheese casserole; and discover how tempeh
"bacon" flavor zips up meatless hash and split pea soup.
Finally, check out prepared soy products. Some great salads and
burgers are available and new items appear every time you blink.