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Japanese Lifestyle Diva Cooks

By Marsha Fottler.

The typical American’s acquaintance with Japanese cooking begins and ends at one’s favorite sushi bar. And that’s fine because savoring sushi prepared by an expert is a sublime culinary experience.

But, for American home cooks who’d like to delve more deeply into authentic Japanese cookery there’s a useful new cookbook called Everyday Harumi. It offers 70 recipes for simple dishes to serve to family and friends. These recipes come to us from Harumi Kurihara, the lifestyle diva of Japan. She is as famous and influential in the East as Martha Stewart is in the West. In her home country Harumi is known as the Empress of Domesticity.

This is Harumi’s 20+ cookbook. But she has other interests. Harumi is a lifestyle brand that includes 12 restaurants, 49 housewares stores, a magazine and television show. Yet she calls herself an ordinary housewife and says, “I still prepare meals for my husband, family and friends and I still look after the house and the housework.” In her spare time she runs an impressive culinary-related empire, wearing blue jeans and not bothering with makeup.

This Harumi book is intended for the American market. Every recipe is photographed (by Jason Lowe), the ingredients are easy to acquire and the directions concise and precise. With little effort, there’s no reason why a focused American cook won’t soon be turning out yakitori, onigiri rice balls, katsudon, yaki soba, or gari like any competent Japanese hostess.

Here’s a dish that can be eaten hot or cold. Harumi reveals that since her daughter was always fond of chicken, Harumi would prepare this dish for her to take to school in her bento box. In America this recipe would work for a tailgating party or Sunday brunch. Harumi notes that this recipe is oven cooked. “Ovens are still fairly unusual in Japan,” she says, “so this is normally cooked in what we call an oven toaster – smaller than a real oven but very convenient.”

Mimi Chicken Fillets with Mayonnaise
(serves 2-4)
4 skinless chicken mini fillets
½ teaspoon light soy sauce
grated garlic to taste
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Remove any gristle from the chicken. Put on a plate, cover in the light soy sauce and garlic and marinate for two to three minutes. Put the chicken on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and spread the mayonnaise evenly over the fillets. Finish by sprinkling the Parmesan on top. Heat oven to 450-degrees and cook for seven to eight minutes, until brown.

(Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food For Family & Friends, by Harumi Kurihara. Photographs by Jason Lowe. Conran/Octopus Books, hardcover, $29.99)

Flavors And More – October 2009

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