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Lifestyle

October 19, 2012

Cooking Japanese from the farm

This is a fascinating recipe for a Japanese broccoli tossed in a dressing made with smashed tofu, miso, sesame, and vinegar. (The recipe calls for yuzu, a relatively obscure citrus, which I replaced with a lemon.) The whole blends into a meaty but velveteen vegetable dish ridged with nuttiness and citrus. The tofu, all the liquid pressed out of it, becomes a warm stage for the very Japanese combination of tastes. Tossed with fresh broccoli — or cauliflower, the author, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, suggests — a recipe like this, like many from Hachisu’s new cookbook “Japanese Farm Food,” is a new horizon for a bowl of cruciferous veggies. It’s a delightful alternative to aioli or hollandaise, which is as dressed up as broccoli gets west of the Silk Road. Put this broccoli beside a bowl of sesame noodles and you have a beautiful vegan dinner. Alone for lunch, this dish achieves alchemy: a light meal with substance.

Twenty-four years ago Atherton, Calif., native Nancy Singleton flew to Japan to learn the language and eat sushi. Life took a sharp turn when she met a young, lanky Tadaaki Hachisu. Today she is back in the U.S. to promote “Japanese Farm Food,” a gorgeous cookbook and fascinating testament to the life that unfolded for her after she married Hachisu, who had grown up on the family farm without running water, and was as curious about food as Nancy was. (He had already planted the very untraditional basil because he wanted to know what it tasted like.)

Nancy’s sushi pursuit made her a Japanese farm wife; she and Tadaaki have run the family farm for 24 years. While raising and homeschooling their three sons, Nancy also started an English immersion school for local children. In Japan, Hachisu makes her own miso, tofu, shoyu, vinegar, noodles; her husband grows their rice, the only rice they use.

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