Tofu Escabeche

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 45 minutes, plus time to cool

Escabeche (ESS-ka-beh-chay) is a kind of backward marinating. Originally a method used for preserving, it is essentially a mild pickle applied to protein (probably fish originally) after it has been cooked. The technique is not at all difficult; here the tofu is floured and pan-cooked, then layered in a dish or shallow bowl. A highly seasoned marinade it can be almost anything spicy, acidic, or even sweet is then cooked in the same pan and poured over the tofu. The whole thing is refrigerated for a couple of hours or a couple of days then served cold or at room temperature.

You can add almost any vegetables or seasonings that you might like slightly pickled to the mixture in Step 2, along with the garlic: Bell or chile peppers, mushrooms, fennel, onion, olives, capers, and so on, are all good.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

11/2 to 2 pounds firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 8 slices and squeezed lightly (see Preparing Tofu)

All-purpose flour for dredging

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

2 bay leaves

5 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1 cup red wine vinegar or other vinegar

1 cup red wine

1 cup vegetable stock or water

Chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Put about 1/3 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, dredge the tofu slices lightly in the flour and add them, one at a time, to the skillet. Do not crowd: you may have to cook in batches. Sprinkle the tofu with salt and pepper as it cooks. As the pieces brown, turn them and brown the other side; total cooking time per piece will be 4 to 6 minutes. When the pieces are done, transfer them to a platter or gratin dish; they may overlap slightly.

Cool the pan and wipe it out. Add the remaining oil and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn color. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and cayenne and stir; add the vinegar, bring to a boil, and simmer for a minute. Add the wine, bring back to a boil, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring back to a boil, and cook quickly to reduce the mixture to about half its volume.

Pour the liquid over the tofu and refrigerate. The escabeche will remain good for at least a couple of days. You can serve it cold or bring it back to room temperature before garnishing and serving.