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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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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