A mouthful to pronounce, but relatively simple to make, this lemon achiote grilled tofu recipe is a favorite of mine this time of year - meaning the time of year we pretend there's a real grilling season in San Francisco. All I need is a jacket (or a ten minute break in the wind and fog), and we're in business. I'll be back from South America in a few days, and wrote this up before I left, the beautiful brick-colored hue you see on the tofu comes from using achiote powder in the marinade. It gives the tofu a deep, rich, earthy flavor profile, making it a crowd-pleaser with vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. I'll grill up a bunch of this tofu and use it as a component in rice bowls or grain salads, thinly sliced in sandwiches, or even cubed into "croutons" in soup. The marinade gets a nice tangy backbone from cayenne-spiked, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and is rounded out with a bit of brown sugar.
Pronounced ah-chee-oh-tay, our title ingredient is available as a powder (or paste) made from ground annatto seeds. It seems like many in-the-know cooks who tire of chipotle, graduate to achiote. I use achiote powder and not the achiote paste. Two of the pastes I've found use red dye and preservatives (interesting because annatto is often used as a coloring agent). The pastes are also made with other ingredients like vinegar, and garlic, whereas the powder is simply ground annatto. Let me know if you know a brand of paste that you like that is all-natural, I haven't seen one - but to be fair, I haven't tried very hard.
Lemon Achiote Grilled Tofu Recipe
Look for achiote powder in Mexican markets.
2 tablespoons achiote powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar (or brown sugar)
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 big pinches of salt
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
12 ounce package of extra firm tofu, cut into 4 slabs
Whisk together achiote powder, cayenne pepper and sugar. Sprinkle the salt over the garlic, smash it with your knife, and mince it into a paste. Add this to the achiote mixture along with the lemon juice. Whisk until combined.
Place the tofu into an 8x8 baking dish and pour the achiote marinade over the tofu - flip it, flop it....make sure you get coverage on all sides. I rub the marinade into the tofu a bit. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, if I remember I'll flip the tofu once or twice along the way.
Place the tofu on a medium hot grill. Brush the top of each piece of tofu with some of the leftover achiote marinade, grill until the tofu is golden on the bottom with nice grill marks (rotate the tofu 90 degrees halfway through the grilling of each side to get those nice marks). Flip, cook the other side, brush the side facing up with more leftover marinade, and cook until the bottom is golden as well. Remove and serve over a salad, on a bun with all the fixings, or any other way you can think of .