The earliest English-language documentation of the word towfu appeared in a 1770 letter from an English merchant to Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was apparently too pre-occupied with his own inventions – bifocals, the Franklin stove, America – to pay the soybean curd proper attention, or we might not have had to wait two more centuries for tofu to enter our national diet.
Yet, a dearth of celebrity endorsements might not be tofu's sole setback. The whitish block, usually a pound in weight and marked ready to eat, is inscrutable at first approach. Bland and sometimes jiggly, it can present as a medium striving to become matter, or matter yearning, Buddha-like, to find perfection in freedom from flavor. But that's not fair. Tofu, like life, is what you make of it. Marinated, it absorbs; fried, it crisps; enrobed it in a righteous sauce, it high steps like a chorus dancer.
In today's recipe we arranged a playdate of tofu, green beans, garlic, and sesame seeds, with an à la minute teriyaki sauce playing the dance music. I hope you'll give it a try and let it serve as inspiration for further experiments with an underused ingredient that's also a powerhouse of cheap, sustainable protein.