I recently checked two Harumi Kurihara books out of the library. She’s the home-cooking star of Japan and I wanted to explore her recipes. Tonight I cooked 4 of them – with help from BN and my visiting sister GC, and they came out quite well. The only thing that went wrong was burning the first batch of sesame seeds but luckily I had more on hand.
But I’m glad we were able to pull off 4 dishes for one meal, because I see a unifying aspect of Japanese cuisine, with all its diversity, in that there is always a variety. Either you are presented with a series of exquisite little portions, or there is a delightful assortment of goodies in a compartmented box. (Bento!) I’m not sure my family-style spread looks authentic, but the flavors were good and we all had plenty to eat.
The funny thing is that when GC and I went to the Asian market this morning, they were closed for vacation. So, I bought miso at the supermarket and all the other seasonings and things I already had on hand!
Rice with Fresh Ginger
From Everyday Harumi
1 1/4 c Japanese sushi rice
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 oz shimeji mushrooms (I used shitakes), tough stems removed and sliced
1 1/2 c dashi stock (I used an instant tea-bag type of packet)
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 tsp sake (I didn’t have any, so I omitted it…)
salt – to taste
nori seaweed – to serve, optional
Wash the rice in cold water. Drain it in a strainer and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. In a large liquid measuring cup, add the dashi stock to the soy, mirin, and sake until it makes 1 1/2 cups liquid. I used my rice cooker, but for stovetop prep, put the rice in a heavy saucepan, add the ginger, mushrooms, and dashi stock mixture. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pan and place over high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down low. After cooking for 10-12 minutes, turn off the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes, keeping the lid on. Stir the rice, add a pinch of salt if desired, and serve garnished with some nori seaweed.
Eggplant “Dengaku” Style
Adapted from Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
This eggplant dish is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I’ve adapted it to my preferred method of cooking eggplant, roasting.
1 large eggplant
2 Tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
3 Tbsp hatcho miso (or substitute red miso)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sake (I subbed rice vinegar)
toasted sesame seeds to garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°
To make the dengaku miso sauce, combine the miso, sugar, mirin, and sake in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until thickened and smooth.
Cut the eggplant in half, and then run a knife around the inside of the eggplant, loosening the skin from the flesh. Score the flat surface with a lattice pattern.
Brush each cut side with 1 Tbsp of oil, and place cut side down on a non-stick or foil-lined baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until well-browned. Turn the eggplants cut side-up, and brush liberally with the miso sauce. Return to the oven until the sauce is hot and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Chicken with Soy and Balsamic Dressing
From Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
Marinate 1 lb boneless chicken thigh or breast meat (cut in bite size pieces) in 2 T soy sauce, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 1 clove garlic sliced, and coarsely ground black pepper for 30 minutes.
Saute 1/2 cabbage, cut in 4 thick wedges, in a mixture of oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the chicken with its marinade and serve on top of cabbage. Top with a handful of fresh basil leaves.
Sesame Salad Dressing
From Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
Combine & mix well: 2 T sesame paste (or tahini), 2 T ground toasted white sesame seeds, 2 T dashi stock, 1 T rice vinegar, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T superfine sugar, salt and hot pepper to taste.
We made a simple salad of red lettuce, finely grated carrots (an tip from Harumi), crisp cucumber from the farmer’s market, and green onions.
I was struck by an ingredient that’s very common in Harumi’s cooking – freshly ground toasted sesame seeds. I’m going to have to get a larger mortar and pestle…