Cookbook Tester: Everyday Harumi


Harumi Kurihara is Japan’s most popular cookbook writer and food authority–she has books, a magazine, and shops where she sells her cookware and clothing lines. She’s like Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson and Australia’s Donna Hay wrapped up into one.

She’s famous enough to go by one name–Harumi–and likes to call herself a “simple housewife,” which is probably key to her appeal. Everyday Harumi, published this month, is her third cookbook available in English. The home-style recipes are organized by main ingredient or flavor: Shellfish, noodles, eggs, tofu, miso, ginger, sesame, and so on.

It’s a lovely book, full of dishes that you want to eat–katsudon; pork and vegetable miso soup–and the recipes are generally easy to follow, except that information is occasionally left out. The recipe for dashi stock, for instance, calls for 2-by-4-inch pieces of kombu. How many? We used four, and had a good result. Some recipes say heat “a little” oil in a skillet, or ask you to blanch tofu but don’t say for how long. We tend not to mind this very much, as it makes the cook pay attention and do what seems right without hand-holding. On the other hand, bear in mind these omissions if you want to buy the book.

We tested tofu with spicy minced meat sauce (a Japanese variation on mabo dofu), and mackerel cooked in miso. You can get all the groceries you need for both recipes at Sunrise Mart (29 Third Avenue).

Tofu with a Spicy Minced Meat Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
From Everyday Harumi
Harumi writes that Sichuan mabo dofu is greatly loved in Japan, but that this is her lighter, milder Japanese version. She suggests using Japanese soy sauce for this recipe. For the chiles, use dried red chiles de arbol, or the small, pointed dried red chiles you find at an Asian or Indian grocery. Superfine sugar is nice to have, but regular granulated sugar also works. Serve with white or brown rice.

1 1/4 cups dashi stock (see recipe below)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 tablespoon sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 fat cloves garlic
1/2 ounce fresh ginger, peeled
2 scallions
1 pound, 5 ounces silken tofu
vegetable oil
7 ounces ground pork or beef
2 dried red chiles, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

In a bowl, combine the dashi, soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. Finely chop the garlic, ginger and scallions. Set aside.

Drain the tofu, then cut into 1/2-inch square pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and briefly blanch the tofu, until slightly firm. Drain tofu in a strainer.

Heat a little oil [2 tablespoons works well] in a deep skillet or wok, and fry the garlic, ginger and scallions until fragrant. Add the ground meat, and brown. Add the chiles, and cook for two minutes, stirring. Pour in the dashi mixture, bring to a boil, and then carefully add the tofu.

Add the cornstarch-water slurry, stir until the sauce thickens, and serve.

Dashi Stock
Yield: 1 quart
From Everyday Harumi
Although this recipes does not specify the amount of kombu, four pieces result in a good dashi.

2-by-4-inch pieces kombu seaweed (dried kelp)
2 ounces katsuobushi (bonito, or dried fish flakes)

Into a large saucepan, pour 4 cups of water. Rinse the kombu briefly under cold running water, and then pat dry. Add the kombu to the water in the pot, and let it soak for 30 minutes.

Put the saucepan over high heat, and remove the kombu just before the water comes to a boil. Add the katsuobushi (bonito), bring back to a boil, and then immediately turn off the heat.

Let the dashi stand until most of the bonito flakes have sunk to the bottom of the saucepan. Line a strainer with a paper towel, and strain the mixture through it into a bowl. Keep the dashi in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Mackerel Cooked in Miso
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
From Everyday Harumi
Awase miso is a mix of red and white miso that is available at Japanese groceries. If you can’t find it, use whatever miso you can find.

8 ounces mackerel fillets, with skin on
1 1/4 ounces fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup sake
3 tablespoons awase miso
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce

Cut the mackerel into 4-5 pieces. Slice the ginger thinly. In a small saucepan, combine the sake, miso, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce, and bring to a boil. Place the mackerel in a single layer in the liquid, along with the ginger. Bring to a boil again, cover the pan, and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with the sauce poured over the fish.