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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Julia and Carl Ferré of Macrobiotics Today Magazine Interview The MacroChef

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I know that this blog sometimes feels like it’s just one recipe after the next, but my hope is that you will sense that these posts are grounded in a rich and inclusive way of thinking about food and energy and life.  If you’re curious to know more about all this, you may want to take a look at Macrobiotics Today, a 51-year-old bi-monthly magazine that goes into depth on topics which I only allude to in my brief posts. Editors and publishers Carl and Julia Ferré do a remarkable job, on a no-frills budget. Among the articles in the current issue (May/June) are an explanation of the properties of various natural sweeteners, a discussion of radiation, and how to minimize its consequences, a celebration of the special energy we experience in summer, and a story about our 24-year-old weekly vegetarian dinners in  Palo Alto. But the reason I mention this now is that a couple of months ago I sat down with Julia and Carl for an in-depth interview, which is published in the current issue. It turned out well, and I’ve included excerpts after the jump. To read the entire interview, go to their website (you will need to subscribe). While there, you can also download back issues and find out more about the French Meadows Summer Camp, which they sponsor. Their foundation is well worth supporting, even if you’re not deeply connected to macrobiotics.

Above photo: The May/June Macrobiotics Today cover features a photo by Gerard Lum of Alex and Beatrice Zorzella about to enjoy one of our Monday night dinners in Palo Alto.

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Japanese Food and Culture: A Vegetarian Menu to Celebrate Spring

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Clockwise from far left: short grain brown rice with aduki beans, hijiki with lotus root and carrot, shungiku and apple with walnut dressing, daikon and apricot sunomono, clear soup with brown shimeji mushrooms and watercress, tofu pouches stuffed with clear noodles and vegetables, with steamed asparagus. (Click on photo to enlarge)

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When Fumiko Arao and I came together recently to create this vegetarian meal, we brought very different backgrounds to her kitchen.  She grew up in Tokyo and learned cooking from her mother and grandmother.  I, long ago, lived in Japan and learned cooking as an apprentice in a six-table vegetarian restaurant in Osaka. But we agreed that the meal should be balanced, including rice, a sea vegetable, a pickle, soup, and an interesting entree, and that it should evoke the season, early spring. Also, we wanted it not to be so esoteric that you couldn’t reproduce it in your own kitchen. You will need to make a trip to a well-stocked Asian market such as Ranch 99, in the Bay Area, but if you do that, I’m pretty sure you’ll find all the ingredients you need.  And, of course there’s no need to reproduce the entire meal, pick and choose whatever seems interesting. Recipes and many more photos are after the jump. Continue reading

Wellness: Health Depends Not Only on Eating Well, But Also Digesting Well

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Bob Ligon practices Traditional Chinese Medicine in Akron, Ohio and does counseling and life coaching by phone.

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BOB LIGON’S TIPS FOR IMPROVING OUR DIGESTION, AND THUS OUR VITALITY

Editor’s Note: On this blog we talk a lot about what foods to eat and how to prepare them, not so much about how food is transformed by our body into the blood and the energy which fuels our lives.  Some time ago Bob Ligon, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine talked to our Monday night dinner group about how to improve our digestion.  It was such an interesting talk that I asked him to put it in a form which I could post. And here it is. Bob practices in Akron, Ohio, but is available for counseling by phone: 330-696-3385. The outline of his talk and his full bio appear after the jump… Continue reading

Warming Winter Soups: Daikon-Ginger Brown Rice Congee, Comfort in a Bowl

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Here’s an easy-to-make soup that has a lot going for it: the soothing digestibility of slowly cooked brown rice, the warming qualities of ginger, the health benefits of dried shiitake mushrooms, and the sweet goodness of onions, carrots and daikon. All the rice-eating cultures of Asia have a version of this porridge, whether it’s called congee, or jook or okayu as it is in Japan.  Most often it’s eaten in the morning and sometimes it is as simple as rice slowly simmered in a lot of water. Usually, condiments such as pickles, fried bread or tofu, or bits of meat are added at the table.  Because it’s so soft and creamy, congee is fed to people recovering from illnesses, and sometimes is the first solid food for babies.  You have a great deal of leeway to adapt this to your taste.  But do make it, it’s wonderfully warming to eat first thing on a cool winter morning. If you want this to be a complete meal with protein, toss in a cupful of diced tofu during the final five minutes of simmering.  You won’t be sorry! Complete recipe after the jump…

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Sea Vegetables: Arame, Carrot, Eda Mame and Arugula Salad

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If there’s a sea vegetable that’s easy to get to know and to like it would be mild tasting arame.  A member of the kelp family, it is sold dried and shredded and can be reconstituted in only five minutes, and it cooks quickly as well. Like most sea vegetables, it is high in minerals such as calcium, iodine, iron and magnesium, as well as vitamin A. In Japan it might typically be sautéed with julienned carrots and seasoned with soy sauce and mirin and garnished with toasted sesame seeds. Here, I’ve elaborated on that by adding eda mame and arugula and tossing everything in a Japanese-style dressing.  Quick to make and easy to eat, this might be a good introductory dish for people who aren’t sure if they like sea vegetables (full recipe is after the jump). If you can’t find arame at your natural foods store, Eden Foods is a good mail-order source. I’ve posted previously about sea vegetables here.

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Macrobiotics: Mary Morgan’s Healing Thanksgiving Day Feast

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Perfect squash being prepared for the steamer.

Note: Blog contributor Mary Morgan, who is currently working in New York City, decided to a take her Thanksgiving break in the lovely, but-chilly-this-time-of-year seacoast town of Camden, Maine.  Feeling under the weather with a cold, Mary spent Thanksgiving day in, resting and recuperating. Hungry when she woke up, and drawing on her long experience in the preparation of healing food, she made this meal for herself in a friend’s beautiful kitchen.  Having rested and eaten well, she felt better on Friday, and much better in time to celebrate her birthday on Saturday! Here, in her own pictures and words, is what Mary made for her quiet Thanksgiving of recovery.

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