Saturday, July 14, 2012

Miso Tahini Kale with Wild Rice and Sesame-crusted Tofu: The perks of not being "busy"

I was mad.

"Who are you to judge me?" I thought as I read and reread Tim Kreider's now-famous op-ed column, "The 'Busy' Trap" in the New York Times. My friends had been "liking" and sharing and quoting the article on Facebook all morning as though it was authored by their first born.

They were so proud of Tim. So excited to post it on their profile pages as if to say, "Look at me! I'm not busy! I'm awesome -- just like Tim! Let's all hold hands and go 'drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long.'"

My stomach clenched every time someone new chimed in with their "attaboy" attitude.

To me it felt like an indictment. Like Tim was shining a light on me, exposing everything I do and say when "I'm busy. So busy. Crazy busy."

Essentially, exactly how I've been feeling every moment of every day for the past 4 months -- Palm Springs notwithstanding.

Tim's words lingered in the back of my mind that Sunday night as I mentally ran through the week ahead. The pitches I needed to follow up on first thing in the morning, the monthly reports that I needed to review, the dinner the next evening with friends, the gym and Bar Method workouts I needed to squeeze in before work each day, the curried quinoa salad I was making for a 4th of July potluck, a good friend's birthday party the day after... plus all the personal emails that I hadn't had time to respond to the past week -- each one an accusation demonstrating how terrible of a friend I've become because "I'm busy. So busy. Crazy busy."

Anger thrashed through my veins.
I wanted nothing more than to cut that giant pile of obligations and responsibilities in half, culling it down to the things I actually wanted to do, the friends I truly wanted to see.

I wanted to be like Tim and go for a long bike ride (or, more accurately, a long run by the beach). I wanted to wake up at a reasonable hour. I wanted to sip my tea and eat my yogurt and granola each morning without one hand gripped around my Droid, frantically checking work emails and Google alerts. I wanted to finish Tina Fey's Bossypants in two days because I had nothing better to do but sit outside in the sun, sipping rooibos petal iced tea and basking in the hilarity of her shag haircut.

For the next two weeks, I ruminated on it -- flashing back and forth between sadness that I didn't have the time or energy to "have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd;" and paranoia that despite my best efforts to be authentic in all my interactions that I was coming across exactly like the subject of Tim's article. Someone who wears her business on her sleeve as though it's a badge of honor.

The truth is I like being busy, but only to a certain extent. The 13 days I spent unemployed this past March were torture for me. While I loved staying out till midnight drinking sparkling wine on a weeknight, loved going to Bar Method workouts in the middle of the day, and felt more rested than I have in years, I missed having a purpose. Even if that purpose was and continues to be relatively trivial and unimportant.

What I don't want to be is so busy, so driven in that purpose that I miss out on life -- on spontaneous trips to Palm Springs, on Rosé-fueled conversations with girl friends, on "The Bachelorette" finale. You know, the things that really matter.

Last Saturday afternoon, as I stretched out on my bed with my laptop tuned to Bon Iver's Pandora station with no discernible plans for the evening, it finally hit me why people were so excited about Tim's article.

It wasn't because Tim was thumbing his nose at anyone who has ever declared, "I'm busy. So busy. Crazy busy."

It was because he was giving us permission to not be busy.  

That day I let myself embrace a few precious hours when I didn't have to be anything to anyone. I lay in bed reading food blogs and writing. I danced around my apartment to "Call Me Maybe." And, in the absence of mental chaos and obligation, I had the creative energy to come up with a new recipe -- that didn't involve quinoa.

Miso Tahini Kale with Wild Rice and Sesame-crusted Tofu
Serves 2

Notes: This recipe was inspired by the Miso Tahini Dressing recently featured on The Kitchn. I played around with the proportions of the ingredients in the dressing a bit, and used white miso instead of red, but jumped on Sara's recommendation to massage it into kale. To make it more of a meal, I tossed it with wild rice and topped it with finger-like pieces of sesame-crusted tofu. I didn't miss the quinoa one bit.

1/2 cup wild rice, rinsed
6 ounces extra-firm tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch-thick cutlets
1 egg
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil
3-4 cups raw kale, shredded

Miso Tahini Dressing

1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons white miso
1 tablespoon lemon juice
 2 tablespoons warm water

In a medium sized pot bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the wild rice, lower the heat, then simmer, covered, until tender, yet still slightly toothsome (approximately 45-60 minutes). Set aside.

While the rice cooks, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl whisk together the tahini, miso, lemon juice, and water. The dressing will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add additional water.

Set up mise en place for the tofu. In a small bowl, whisk together egg with soy sauce.  Place sesame seeds in a flat bowl. Dredge the tofu cutlets with flour, shaking off any excess. 

Heat large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan.

Dip each tofu cutlet in the egg-soy mixture, then coat both sides with the sesame seeds.

Place the tofu cutlets in the pan, lowering the heat to medium to ensure the sesame seeds don't burn.  Cook for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Remove from pan and slice into 1/2 inch thick strips. 

Place shredded kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with half the dressing, then massage the dressing into the kale until the kale becomes silky in consistency (approximately 1-2 minutes).  Toss in the wild rice and the remaining dressing, stirring until well combined. 

Divide kale-wild rice mixture between two plates. Top with pieces of sesame-crusted tofu.


Krista said...

what a lovely piece, diana. this is something i can totally relate to. difficult as it is to turn down work outings in the food world, it's so important for me/my sanity to take a night or two a week to NOT be busy networking, writing, blogging, bar crawling, and menu sampling to dance, drink wine, and make a meal for myself at home. i will definitely try out this recipe on the next one of those nights. that dressing sounds fantastic!

the actor's diet said...

hey dear! i'm not busy but i am overbooked when it comes to food…i have not forgotten our cafe gratitude date! maybe we can figure out something non-eating-focused to do together…like a walk, or maybe even bake something?

Diana said...

Krista - Thanks so much! I kind of thought you might appreciate this too since I know how much you are constantly juggling! Oddly enough, I've come to love my nights in more than a lot of my nights out... there really is no place like home after a "busy" week. Let me know if you try the recipe!

Lynn - Agreed re: being overbooked when it comes to food! I'd definitely be down for a walk or hike or something!

sarah j. gim said...

sorry i've been too busy to read and comment...


LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

i do love those rare but precious moments of not being "busy" i just wish I took that time to bake just for me and not for a blog post or bake sale, so yeah I feel ya girl. loving the sesame crusted tofu craving it with some seaweed right now if only i had time to cook :)