This is a cookbook about real farm-to-table Japanese cooking, but it's also about something more ephemeral. The way ingredients look, smell, and feel before you even get them into the kitchen. Trusting your instincts. Using what you have right this instant rather than making lists and grand plans. With simple, nourishing dishes and richly detailed stories of Japanese farm life, Nancy Sington Hachisu creates a whole world between the fabric-bound covers of this book. Once you step inside, it's very tempting to stay.
• Who wrote it: Nancy Singleton Hachisu
• Who published it: Andrews McMeel Publishing
• Number of recipes: 160 recipes
• Recipes for right now: Grilled Tofu Pouches with Ginger and Scallions, Carrots Pickled with Konbu and Dried Squid, Miso Soup with Potato Slivers and Wakame, Shabu-Shabu, Egg Custard Squares with Crab and Spinach, Rice Simmered in Broth, Spinach with Walnuts and Miso, Sake-Steamed Kabocha with Miso, Foil-Wrapped Salmon with Butter, Pork Belly Simmered in Okara, Plum Sorbet
• Other highlights: This is not the kind of Japanese food you've likely encountered at Japanese restaurants. It's simpler. Less showy, though certainly still show-stopping in its own way. You'll encounter pickles, more kinds of tofu than you knew existed, miso and soy sauce, and vegetables both familiar and foreign. Many of the same ingredients are used again and again, recombined in different ways to make dishes that are both totally unique and contiguous.
I love the quiet and meditative tone of this book, so different than my usual mad-dash pace while getting meals together. Nancy Singleton Hachisu also manages to keep it real with stories of her own struggles with everything from learning to wash rice to letting go of control in the kitchen. If she can slow down her own mad-dashing and laugh at her bumps and baby steps, I have to believe that so can I.
This is an absolutely beautiful book, from the words themselves to the incredible photographs to the way the pages feel beneath your fingers. The recipes are accessible to cooks of all skill levels and call for ingredients that can be easily found at farmers markets and Asian grocery stores. If you are curious about real Japanese cooking, this cookbook will serve as both guide and muse.
• Who would enjoy this book? Cooks interested in Japanese cooking
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
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(Images: Emma Christensen)