Here’s a North American take on a Japanese favorite: grilled tofu with miso. Miso is a sweet-salty paste of cultured grains and soybeans. The singular seasoning method — studding the tofu with slivers of ginger — not to mention the creamy sweet miso sauce, is designed to make believers out of skeptics. And the tofu tastes great cold as well as hot, in the unlikely event you have leftovers.
Step 1: Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each block of tofu in half through the side to form a total of 4 broad, thin “steaks.” Blot the tofu steaks dry with paper towels. Cut the piece of ginger crosswise into 8 slices, each 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut each ginger slice into 5 slivers (you’ll have 40 in all). Insert 4 slivers of ginger into the top and 5 slivers into the bottom of each piece of tofu; they should go right in, but if you need to, make starter holes with the tip of a skewer. Place the tofu steaks in a baking dish.
Step 2: Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and black pepper in a small nonreactive bowl and whisk to mix. Pour this mixture over the tofu, turning the pieces to coat with the marinade. Let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.
Step 3: Place the mayonnaise, miso, sugar, grated ginger, garlic, lemon zest, and pepper in a food processor and puree to a smooth paste, scraping down the side of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula. With the motor running, add the oil and lemon juice through the feed tube. Taste for seasoning, adding more sugar and/or lemon juice as necessary; the sauce should be sweet with just a hint of tartness.
Step 4: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
Step 5: When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the marinated tofu on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Pour any leftover marinade over the grilling tofu, dividing it evenly between the 2 sides. After turning each piece of tofu, spoon a little miso mayonnaise over it. Transfer the grilled tofu to a platter or plates. Serve the remaining miso mayonnaise on the side.
Look for miso and tofu in the produce or refrigerated foods sections of your supermarket or natural foods store.
Any extra miso mayonnaise will keep for a week in the refrigerator and makes a great dip for grilled vegetables.