The Bookshelf: Everyday Harumi

Everyday HarumiHarumi Kurihara wants Japanese cooking to come naturally. In her introduction of her new cookbook, Everyday Harumi, she writes, "I would like to see people around the world...being able to say, 'I feel like eating Japanese food. What shall I make?'" For those of us who have trouble making the food reach our mouths when using chopsticks, Harumi's mission may sound like a pipe dream. But she tries her best to keep things simple: while her list of pantry essentials adds up to 16 items, almost all of them can be found at upscale grocers like Whole Foods. And true to the book's title, the light soups, salads, and mains are largely uncomplicated—once you've made them, they can easily join your weeknight repertoire. When we spoke with Harumi, she revealed that her favorite Japanese staples include shira-ae dressing (which we saw prepared at the Astor Center last June), goma-ae (green beans dressed in sesame paste), and chawan mushi (a steamed, savory custard). She also loves pumpkin, which is popular in her home country. In the recipe below, its flavor is enhanced by the toasty notes of sesame seeds. We think the combination is revelatory, and since it involves commonly found ingredients and a method that's short and sweet, it makes for a smooth introduction between the Western cook and Japanese cuisine. Pumpkin with a Sweet Sesame Glaze Yield: 4 to 6 servings Ingredients: 1 2-pound pumpkin 1/4 to 1/3 cup superfine sugar 1 tablespoon light soy sauce scant 1/4 cup ground toasted sesame seeds Method: Peel the pumpkin if necessary, then remove the seeds and pith and cut into 1-inch square pieces. Put about 1-1/2 cups water, the sugar, and light soy sauce in a saucepan to heat. When it comes to a boil, add the pumpkin. Cook the pumpkin, constantly stirring once the liquid has reduced to prevent it from sticking or burning. When all the liquid has been absorbed and the pumpkin is soft and sticky, turn off the heat and leave to cool. When cooled, add the ground sesame seeds, mix together, and serve.

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