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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May 5th: Save The Date For a New Japanese Vegetarian Cooking Class

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Some of you have asked if Fumiko Arao and I are planning to offer another class in the art of Japanese vegetarian cooking. I’m excited to tell you that the answer is “yes.” We’ve scheduled the new class for Saturday, May 5th, beginning at 10 a.m. Like last year’s class, we’ll meet in the kitchen of First Baptist Church, 305 North California Avenue, Palo Alto. Fumi and I will get together in March to test recipes and finalize the menu, which will be completely different from last year.  Watch this space in March for menu details and a sneak preview. If you have a Japanese vegetarian dish you’d especially like to learn more about, leave a comment and let us know.  We’ll consider including it in the class. Also, if you live outside the Bay Area, for just $10, you can receive the recipes.  I’m hoping we can video part of the class, but I’m not certain if we’ll be able to work that in. In any case, save the date–May 5th. We’d like to meet as many MacroChef readers as we can.

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Photos; Top– Fumi teaches how to prepare chirashi zushi at our cooking class June 25, 2011.  Above: We all sit down to eat a meal together at the end of the class. (Photos by Gerard Lum.)

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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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