Learn Eight Elegant Dishes In Our Japanese Vegetarian Cooking Class

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As much as I love giving cooking classes (and I do), I only seem to get around to it about once a year. This year, as last, I’m teaching a class jointly with Fumiko Arao.  Fumi, born and reared in Tokyo, cooked with her mother and grandmother from an early age. My exposure to Japanese food is more superficial, but I did live in Japan back in the 1970’s and was an apprentice in a vegetarian restaurant in Osaka.

Our upcoming class is a mixture of traditional and contemporary influences. I’ll begin with a modern soup, a purée of fava beans and sugar snap peas, and we’ll end with a light but rich almond mousse based on agar agar, a sea vegetable much used in Japan and other parts of East Asia. Fumi will show us three ways to prepare diakon, including a condiment made with nori and daikon leaves. She’ll also prepare kinpira salad with arugula, and together we’ll make stuffed tofu pouches simmered in a broth of dashi, soy sauce and mirin.

These classes always attract an eclectic group of enthusiastic cooks, and you’ll likely learn as much from the other participants as you do from Fumi and me. Of course, we complete the class by sitting down together to eat the meal we’ve prepared.  If you live outside the Bay Area and can’t attend in person, email me to register and I’ll send you the recipes after the class. Complete menu and registration information, after the jump.

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Photos: Top–Soup which is the essence of spring, a purée of fava beans and sugar snap peas. Above:  condiment made with daikon leaves and nori.

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More Secrets of Japanese Vegetarian Cooking: My Lunch With Fumi

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I drove down recently to Fumiko (Fumi) Arao’s home in the lush hills above Silicon Valley where we planned to test recipes for our upcoming cooking class. When I arrived, to my great pleasure, Fumi told me she was putting the finishing touches on lunch which we were to share with her husband, Ken. In a way, it was a simple lunch, but even so, it was apparent that Fumi had expended no small amount of thought and preparation time. Eating Fumi’s food is always interesting because she subtly combines traditional techniques she learned from her mother and grandmother in Japan with the principles of macrobiotics she’s studied in the U.S. Into this mix, of course, is the reality that Fumi is well-travelled and has been exposed to a rich mix of cuisines.

On a cool, rainy day, lunch consisted of warming foods, well cooked and seasoned. There was kabocha squash, baked and stuffed with seasoned tofu, thick fried tofu simmered with red wine, soy sauce and dried figs, blanched kale tossed with olive oil, umeboshi vinegar and toasted pumpkin seeds, and short grain brown rice cooked with ample quantities of fresh ginger. Well satisfied, we headed into the kitchen to work on recipes for the class.  But that is a story for another post. Fumi’s recipes are after the jump…

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Photos: Top–Fumi smoothes the tofu filling in the kabocha squash. Above: Our lunch of stuffed squash, thick fried tofu and figs simmered in red wine, and blanched kale with pumpkin seeds, with rice in a separate bowl.

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Aduki Beans Pair With Garnet Yams In A Colorful, Autumnal Potage

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One of the great things about dried beans is that they’re always in your pantry, ready to use. And while it’s never wrong to cook any bean at any time of year, I just think kidney beans and aduki beans (sometimes spelled azuki) go especially well with winter squash, sweet potatoes, and root vegetables which are so much in season now. A dish I love to make in the autumn is roasted chunks of kabocha, red kuri or butternut squash, mixed with tender, sweet cooked aduki beans. Everybody seems to like it, and this soup is really a variation on that theme.

If you’re not familiar with aduki beans, look for them in Asian stores and well-stocked natural food stores. They’re a favorite bean in East Asia, especially in Japan where they’re often sweetened, mashed and used as a filling in pastries, and even as a topping for ice cream.  I read that Pepsi Japan released an aduki-flavored Pepsi product a few years back , but I have no idea if was a hit or not! I do wonder if adukis aren’t prized as much for their red color, the color of celebration and good fortune in East Asia, as they are for their mellow, sweet flavor. They’re an easy bean to like, especially with their nutritional profile of being good sources of protein, iron, magnesium, potassium and folic acid. So, try your hand at this soup, it’s easy to make, warming and hearty enough to be a main course. If you do try it, leave a comment telling us how you liked it.  Recipe after the jump…

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Menu of the Week: See the Summery Japanese Dishes We Made in Our MacroChef Cooking Class

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The Japanese vegetarian cooking class which Fumiko Arao and I had been planning for months finally happened last Saturday (June 25th), and with 15 participants, we declared it a success. From a teacher’s perspective, cooking classes are a bit of a three-ring circus: at the same time as you are imparting information and answering questions, you are cooking a meal for a crowd (and it better turn out well if your credentials as a cook are to stand up!). This is the first time I’ve done a class with a co-teacher, and it was a great relief not to have to be responsible for every detail and every dish. I so appreciate Fumi’s depth of knowledge when it comes to Japanese food. It is also gratifying that we were able to raise $500, which was matched by an anonymous donor, for a total of $1,000. A check has already been sent to an agency which supports children impacted by the earthquake-tsunami in Japan’s Tohoku region.  If you would like to receive the recipes, I will send them to you for a $10 contribution, which will also be donated to the same agency (email me at alindersf@aol.com for details). Thanks to everyone who participated, and especially to Gerard Lum, for photography (watch this space for a short video of the class), and to Bob Griffin for assistance in countless ways.  More photos after the jump…

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Photo above, clockwise from top: goma dofu garnished with wasabi, tofu burger with ginger-kuzu sauce, dried daikon with arame and carrot, chirashi zushi, and turnip-carrot-napa cabbage amasake pickle in the middle. (All photos by Gerard Lum)

To make sushi rice, you need to cool the rice. Fumi stirs, while Kay fans.

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Learn How to Make Six Beautiful Dishes in MacroChef’s Japanese Vegetarian Cooking Class

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Although the Bay Area is chock-a-block with Japanese restaurants, the food they serve gives you only a hint of what Japanese cuisine, in it’s diversity, is all about.  Japan, particularly, has a rich tradition of vegetarian cooking, and it’s that tradition which Fumiko Arao and I will be demonstrating in a cooking class this Saturday, June 25th, at 10 a.m. in the kitchen of First Baptist Church in Palo Alto, the same venue as our Monday Night Vegetarian Dinners. If you’ve admired Japanese food, but been afraid to attempt it at home, join us to see how user friendly this style of cooking can be. Japanese vegetarian cooking is based on shojin ryori, a thousand-year-old tradition which began in Zen Buddhist temples. As you can imagine, through generations of trial and error, a rigorous cuisine arose which is at the same time practical, well-balanced, artful and delicious. We will take you step-by-step through the preparation and serving of six dishes, including rich and creamy goma dofu, (above). There are still openings for a few students to enroll, which you can do by emailing me: alindersf@aol.com. Cost of the class is $50, with proceeds going to earthquake-tsunami relief in Japan, or if you live outside the Bay Area, we’ll send you the recipes for $10. Hope many of you can attend, one way or the other. Complete class details after the jump.

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Fumiko Arao demonstrates the technique for shaving burdock, just one of many skills you can learn in a cooking class this Saturday, June 25th, in Palo Alto.

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New Cooking Class: Unlocking The Secrets of Japanese Vegetarian Cooking

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When Fumiko Arao and I got together in March to cook a Japanese vegetarian feast for this blog, the thought arose that maybe we should teach a cooking class together.  I’m happy to announce that we’ve decided to do it! Entitled “Unlocking the Secrets of Japanese Vegetarian Cooking,” the class will happen on Saturday, June 25th, at 10 a.m. in the kitchen of First Baptist Church in Palo Alto, the same venue as our Monday Night Vegetarian Dinners. If you’ve admired Japanese food, but been afraid to attempt it at home, join us to see how user friendly this style of cooking can be. Japanese vegetarian cooking is based on shojin ryori, a thousand-year-old tradition which began in Zen Buddhist temples. As you can imagine, through generations of trial and error, a rigorous cuisine arose which is at the same time practical, well-balanced, artful and delicious. We will take you step-by-step through the preparation and serving of six dishes which encompass land and sea vegetables (both dried and fresh), soy products, and rice, an element fundamental to Japanese culture and cuisine. I’ll have more to say about the class in subsequent posts, but for now, you will find a detailed menu and information on how to enroll, after the jump.

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Photos: Top, Fumiko Arao, co-teacher for the class, prepares chirashi-zushi. This great summer dish consists of sushi-style rice with seven or eight flavorful toppings. Above: the completed dish.

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Interested in Deepening Your Experience of Japanese Cuisine? Meet Elizabeth Andoh.

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If you love Japanese food but think it too mysterious and intimidating to cook at home, or if you just want to deepen your knowledge of this sophisticated cuisine, Elizabeth Andoh is someone you’ll want to get to know. Andoh, born into an American family of doctors, went to Japan on a fellowship in the late sixties, fell in love with the food and culture and married into a Japanese family. Having formally studied Japanese language and cooking, she is the author of five cookbooks. For thirty years she was Gourmet magazine’s correspondent in Japan, and is widely regarded as the go-to English language authority on Japanese food. If there are any books better than Washoku (from 2005), and Kansha (published last year) to give you a grounding in Japanese cuisine, I don’t know what they would be. Published by Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press, both are handsome books, with spare, but beautifully composed, naturally lit photographs by Leigh Beisch. While each book contains one hundred or more carefully written and well tested recipes, Andoh’s approach is not only to transmit recipes, but to lead the reader step-by-step to an understanding of cooking which is so practical and insightful that it will be useful no matter what style of cooking you pursue.

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Washoku, which she translates as “harmony of food,” opens with an explanation of the traditional ways of food preparation in Japan, including the ancient five “principles” which have long been an important underpinning of Japanese thought. Want to make sure your meal is balanced?  Does it include five colors, five flavors, five cooking methods?  She points out that these rules aren’t meant to be interpreted rigidly, but they do give you a viewpoint from which to evaluate your cooking and your thinking.She includes a detailed explanation of the Japanese pantry including beans, flour, fish, herbs, miso, mushrooms, pickles, noodles, rice, tea and much more.  This section alone is worth the price of the book. Recipe sections cover everything from stocks to noodles, to meat and poultry, to tofu and eggs, as well as dessert. Continue reading