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.)

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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