Every time I visit my home state of Oregon, which incidentally usually occurs during the summer, I breathe in the state and enjoy my time to its fullest. Family, friends, green as far as the eye can see, inexpensive (relatively speaking) housing, roadside wild blackberries, no sales tax, no getting out of the car to pump your gas; Oregon is easy living at its best. After a visit, I need to remind myself that the wonderland of greatness in the summer turns into a sunless, rainy, gray, borderline depressive state during the remaining eight, sometimes nine months of the year.
When I moved to California in 2003, I spent my first few months searching for things that reminded me of Oregon. Surrounding myself with foods such as Toby’s Tofu Paté, Chinook salmon, Tillamook cheese, marionberries and Oregon Chai made me feel like I was more at home in this strange, sun-filled state.
With the exception of my favorite dip, Toby’s Tofu Paté, everything on my Oregon list was relatively easy to source. Because it was 2003, before the days of social media and easy access to businesses, I emailed Toby’s through their very rudimentary website, and waited for a response to my “where can I find your product” inquiry. I received a response that Toby’s wasn’t distributed in California, but they were planning to expand soon. As the saying goes, you always want what you can’t have. And I wanted my tofu-based spread that’s great on bagels, crackers, chips and as a dip with veggies.
Since I couldn’t find Toby’s in my new state, I would make it a point to get my fill when I was in Oregon, and bring a tub or two back with me to California. Since 2003 Toby’s has rebranded. It is now called Toby’s Tofu Dip and Spread. I can imagine there was market confusion about a product with the word paté in its name, yet claimed to be vegan. Toby’s has since expanded its distribution to California. I can now find it at a few natural grocery stores in the Bay Area. I make a point not to buy it often because I like Toby’s to be a treat, not something I can get every day.
During a recent visit to Oregon, I bought Toby’s and asked a few friends to try it and write down what they thought was in the spread. A few people came up with an exhaustive list of ingredients. This served as the inspiration to try and recreate Toby’s, which is something I should have done years ago when I was suffering from homesickness and craving my favorite Oregon products.
Although I have grown accustomed to sun-filled days, expensive housing prices, sales tax and pumping my own gas, I still miss Oregon.
My kitchen notes:
I tasted my recreation and the real thing side by side, and although my version isn’t exactly the same, it’s pretty darn close.
Toby’s is vegan, but I use regular mayo in this recipe. However, vegan mayonnaise can be substituted if you want to stick to plant-based.
It’s important to use a sweet onion, like Walla Walla or Maui because a regular onion will overpower the flavor.
Toby’s Tofu Dip and Spread (which to me will always be known as and referred to as Toby’s Tofu Paté)
14 ounce package firm tofu
1/4 of a small sweet onion (I like Walla Walla)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch cayenne pepper
1. Drain tofu and place on paper towels for a few minutes to soak up excess liquid.
2. Put sweet onion in a food processor and process until finely minced.
3. To a bowl, add minced onions, chopped parsley, mayo, ground mustard, nutritional yeast, salt, turmeric and cayenne.
4. Crumble drained tofu into very small pieces and add to onion and parsley mixture. Mix with a spoon to combine.
5. Put half of the mixture into food processor and process until smooth. Add the processed mixture back to the bowl with the unprocessed mixture and combine everything together. Consistency should be somewhat smooth, but with a few chunks.
6. Enjoy with crackers, chips, on sandwiches or as a dip with vegetables.