Happy New Year, dear readers! How are your resolutions coming along? Did you even bother to make any? An intention I set for myself even before I said goodbye to 2018 was to show up in this space more often, so with that… Hello! Here I am. And as promised in my last post, I’d like to fill you in on what’s been happening in my life over the past year. So, let’s dive right in.
Last spring, I upped and moved across the country to Seattle: not only to be with my boyfriend, but also to challenge myself in a new and exciting setting. This current chapter, so far, has seen me step back into the professional kitchen, publish a few articles with TheWashington Post, line up a few local cooking classes, and take on recipe features over at Culture. Building community has been slow-going, as it usually is, but I do feel like I’ve put down a good foundation. I’ve established new friendships, rekindled old, and have begun building a professional network as well.
This chapter has also seen me develop carpal tunnel in my right hand and undergoing another (albeit, unexpected) surgery on my left - both of which contributed to me leaving aforementioned kitchen. As a result, it’s been a roller coaster of highs and lows. With all the directions my life has taken the past two years, I’m often left questioning, well, everything.
What am I doing with my life? What am I working towards? This whole paving one’s own path is hard, why didn’t I just study something more practical? In a city where most twenty-somethings my age are making outrageous amounts of money and where computer, tech, and engineering skills are valued more than anything else, I, more than ever, have been grappling with what personal success looks like to me.
About a month ago, I came across this Instagram post by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge. She writes about how she, too, has been in question mode and unsure of what the future holds. How it’s so easy to fall into a cycle of self-doubt, dejection, and crippling anxiety. We hope and pray for a big break or revelation to hightail us out of it. Her realization, however, is that life may instead be showing her an important lesson: that change isn’t always a big and grand step. “Sometimes, [those moments] are small and cumulative and you have to stop and stay still and get quiet to really see them… Sometimes blooming is slow, painfully slow, and you don’t see it unless you wait patiently.”
Just like in nature, growth doesn’t happen overnight, but instead gradually. That oak tree outside took twenty years to get to the size it is today; that rose bush needed an entire season before it could flourish. As we are stretched and challenged, we are strengthened. As we adapt and put one foot out after the next, we push forward. It’s not until we look back (and we must give ourselves that chance), that we see how much, despite the twists and turns, we’ve accomplished and changed.
In all of this, I’m reminded how important it is, in these times of uncertainty and distress, to practice compassion towards myself. It may be taking a break and getting outside—a walk in the park with a friend or a run by the water alone. Or it may just be a nice long bath, an evening curled up on the couch with a good book, or heading over to my favorite bakery for a certain pastry I’ve been craving for weeks. More often than not, it’s carving out some time to step into the kitchen and prepare a dish that’s nourishing for both soul and body.
I hope these words help others who might be feeling the same way I do. We all lose our groove or get knocked down, but it’ll never be a question of whether or not we will bloom. Our entire lives, in some ways, is that process: “The simple rose, at each stage of its blossoming, is as open as it can be. The same is true for our lives.”
I have a few projects on the horizon that might trigger that leap or bound of positive change I’ve been hoping for. But for now, I’ll work on relishing in the stillness and practicing gratitude for all the good and bad that have lead me to this moment.
Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad with KohlRabi, Pomegranate & Lemon Tahini Dressing
This gorgeous kale salad spotlights all my favorite wintery foods and is light and refreshing as it is hearty and satisfying. Talk about nourishing! That being said, I’ve used this basic template of kale + tahini dressing as a springboard for many a meal with whatever roasted or fresh vegetable I have on hand. For example, I published a similar recipe for Culture last year, substituting collard greens for kale, Berbere-spiced sweet potatoes for the sprouts, and chévre for feta . Whatever you top it with, you can’t go wrong! Also, I love adding preserved lemon to the dressing for that extra savoriness, but feel free to omit.
¼ cup tahini
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2-3 tablespoons preserved lemon pulp, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
¾ cup olive oil
½ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves roughly chopped into bite-size pieces
½ small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into ¼-inch matchsticks
¼ cup pomegranate arils
¼ pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
¼ crumbled feta
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat it to 425°F.
Combine tahini, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, salt, and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season to taste as necessary and set aside.
Once oven is preheated, toss Brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a big pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Remove baking sheet from oven (careful it’s hot!) and add sprouts in an even layer (it’ll sizzle), shaking it a few times so that aren’t crowded. Bake, tossing them occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to slightly or completely cool.
Meanwhile, using your hands, massage 4 to 5 tablespoons dressing (or as much as needed to lightly, evenly dress) and a pinch or two of salt into kale in a large serving bowl. Add kohlrabi, pomegranate, pecans, feta, and cooled Brussels sprouts and toss to evenly coat. Taste and season and dress accordingly. Serve immediately.