When our copy of Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit ($30) by Candice Kumai arrived in the mail, we read it cover to cover in one sitting. After all, it did make our list of the most exciting cookbooks to come out in 2018. Out April 17, it goes way beyond food, unlike Kumai’s other titles. This one focuses more on Japanese philosophies and how they relate to mental health and overall wellness. Oh, and an incredibly delicious take on avocado toast that blew our taste buds away.

At the core is the concept of kintsugi, the prized Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer and dusting it with gold. Kumai uses it as a metaphor for our lives, “We’re so busy being hard on ourselves that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are also deserving of the self-care it takes to maintain our health and happiness. Golden repair [kintsugi] celebrates our imperfections. It teaches us that we are more beautiful for our flaws, our battle scars, and our lessons learned.”

One of Kumai’s pillars of self-care includes eating wholesomely. She says, “Cooking and eating nourishing foods are the foundations of my kintsugi-inspired self-care.” You’ll find descriptions of Japanese pantry staples, step-by-steps for making staples like soba noodles and sushi rolls, plus some unique Californian-ized Japanese foods in the book.

We asked Kumai to share some must-have Japanese items, and she responded with more than a few. “Throughout the book, gomashio [sesame seed salt] and tōgarashi [ground chili peppers] are used to finish everything,” she says. “I think people should stop being so afraid of hijiki [seaweed]. It’s really easy to cook with. Adzuki beans as well. They are packed with antioxidants. Matcha is another staple that is so pleasurable to make in the morning with a bamboo whisk. People should get to know the other teas like sencha, hochicha, and genmaicha… Shitake mushrooms, as you know, are absolutely delicious.”

Kumai also recommended getting familiar with miso, so we pulled two beloved recipes (avocado toast and kale caesar) that call for the ingredient. Say what? We know; though it sounds unusual, we promise the results are oh-so tasty, easy-to-assemble, and totally healthy. “I made the miso avocado toast on a retreat not too long ago and people went crazy for it. Like, followed me around,” she says. “It’s almost this perfect combination of sweet, savory, and umami with fat. I like it with Ezekiel Sprouted Bread or Uni’s gluten-free bread. There’s something oddly magical about it. It’s the easiest recipes in the book, and yet it’s one of the favorites.”

miso avocado toast

(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1. Toast the bread: Coat a medium skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add the bread slices to the skillet and toast on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

2. Slather a small amount of miso paste on one side of each slice of bread. Lightly spray the pan with extra cooking spray to prevent sticking. Return the toast to the pan, miso-side down, for just a minute or two, until lightly golden.

3. Remove the toast from the skillet and transfer to a clean work surface, miso-side up. Top with avocado slices and mash with a fork, if desired. Sprinkle with tōgarashi and/or gomashio, and serve immediately.

miso kale caesar salad

(Serves 2 as a main or 4 as small side salads)

Ingredients:

Miso Caesar Dressing:

Salad:

Instructions:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing until well combined. Add the finely chopped lacinato kale, raw white corn, and daikon radish and toss well to combine with the dressing.

2. To serve, plate up your salad into serving bowls and top with cubed avocado, toasted sesame seeds or hemp seeds, and furikake or nori, if desired.

Follow Candice Kumai and Brit + Co on Instagram to get some major motivation to live healthfully.

(Recipes and photos via Candice Kumai)