My Favorite Home Cook Next Door: Harumi Kurihara

harumi-2Equally as respectable as classically-trained celebrity chefs (with their new restaurants popping up all over the world like zits on a teenage kid’s face) are some of the emerging “home cooks,” who, despite their lack of formal culinary training, bring a joy of cooking to average food lovers like myself, thanks to a powerful vehicle like Food Network.

I like watching shows with veteran home cooks like Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson (seriously, can she be any hotter?) who unapologetically toss five sticks of butter to make a little entrée for two (you go ladies!). And although I fear that I have accidentally flipped the channel to an inappropriate station whenever I see her joyfully massaging ground beef while sporting a very low-cut shirt, Giada De Laurenttis (my friend Gabriel and I call her the “Baby Nigella” because she’s sexy but not as much as the undisputed Domestic Goddess) is actually pretty fun to watch too. I like the fact that they have somehow remained authentic and true to their culinary roots which makes watching their shows educational, as well as entertaining. (fyi, I can’t stand Ms. E-V-O-O, thank you very much!)

harumiOne home cook who is virtually unknown in the Western market and has gone completely under the food-obsessed American media radar is Harumi Kurihara, Japan’s version of the domestic diva, who has been inspiring millions of Japanese home cooks with Martha Stewart-like vim and vigor (and equally impressive empire with appearances in numerous Japanese television shows, 20-plus cookbooks and her own magazine … all while staying out of jail) for over two decades, introducing them to fresh and creative ways of turning ordinary, everyday ingredients into innovative dishes. My favorite talent of Harumi is her incredible ability to resurrect the often unwanted leftover food into a stunning new dish.

Her menus are delicious but surprising simple, quick and very straightforward — making many wonder why I didn’t come up with the recipe. Her food in an award-winning cookbook Harumi’s Japanese Cooking is perfect for people who are curious and want to dive into Japanese home cooking (like Japanese Somen Noodle Salad, Spaghettini with Fish Roe Dressing, Japanese-Style Green Risotto, and Tofu and Avocado Dressing), and equally appropriate for Japanese cooks who’s looking for some inspiration to add creativity into their everyday meals.

harumi-1Her Carrot and Tuna Salad (she says that this recipe, “has proved to be one of the most popular”) is a perfect representation of what you’ll find in her cookbook. There’s nothing special about this salad, really – just a mixture of julienned carrots with finely chopped onion and garlic, and a canned tuna tossed in mustard dressing – but when you take a bite into it, you will taste something so familiar but new, something so simple but robust, and something so healthy but hearty. I made this salad for the first time for dinner last night, and believe me, I was under her magical spell just after one bite!