I remember when I first got your email. It was the week after some negative comments had gotten the best of me, I mentioned it here and you'd written just to say hi. You appreciated my work; the food, yes, but also the way I wrote. I don't consider myself a "writer." I like writing, I can write letters, and I err on the side of vulnerability... you could classify me as a journaler, perhaps. Anyway, I keep coming back to your email because you remind me that I want to be relatable here. Even when vulnerability feels risky.
"I found your blog a year or two ago, and bookmarked it just for salad inspiration. But recently I've realized that your blog has become to me inspiration not just for salads and "bowl foods" and good food in general, but for good LIVING too. In the past 3 months, I've graduated college, gotten married, started a 9-to-5, and moved to a depressed inner-city. Our car has gotten broken into, we've started paying bills, we've learned that good communication in marriage is a full-time job, and, and, and, -- you know: real life happened. The better and the worse."
That's a lot to soak up in 3 months, lady. It wasn't the fluffy pep-you-up type of email, but the real-life-happened part of it that reminded me that we're all in a mess of things. I stop writing in fear of judgement but those aren't the people I'm writing to. We went to the beach late in the afternoon last weekend in search of a bit of perspective. I had let the prospect of a house purchase swallow me up and I needed out of my own head. I had gotten home from work in time for a late afternoon in the sun, and after a weeks-long-swell-drought there were finally some waves, so Hugh was eager to get in the water. He had been working at home all day and needed time in the waves with his buddies. I had been with people all day, so I needed to sit by myself and stare out into the ocean whose endlessness always puts things in perspective. The house was a massive decision, but not the most important we will ever make. And while it certainly comes into play, it is not the single point at which our future happiness and success will teeter upon. It is a house. Sitting there at the edge of the Pacific, so much that I had not thought about all week while I'd been wrestling with the "right decision" filled my heart.
My aunt who continues to fight cancer for the fourth time, sick and discouraged.
Friends with babies in their bellies and friends who desperately want babies in their bellies.
Health. Marriages. Lonliness. Divorce. Loss. All of it right in front of me or just a degree away.
I've re-read your email a dozen times now, Caroline. I keep the entirity of it in my personal email folder to remind me why I love this space and the awesome people I'd have never met if not for this website. Thank you for reminding me that there are people on the other side of this blog - some of whom are here for recipes or maybe the pretty photos, but most that are simply other people doing their best to craft a beautiful, meaningful life.
I hope more better than worse for you, lovely.
MUSHROOM BURGERS WITH ASIAN SLAW // Serves 4
For the slaw, I have this julienne peeler and think the quality is excellent. It is easiest to use when the vegetables are fresh and cold, the firmer the better for peeling purposes. A regular vegetable peeler works fine as well, your shreds will just be thicker. A great thing about marinating vegetables or tofu is that unlike meat, you can put them back into the marinade after cooking to soak up a bit more of the flavors. That said, chicken or fish, salmon maybe, could work here too if you're making food for a more omnivorous crowd.
- 4 large portobello mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce/tamari
- 2 Tbsp. maple
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil/ extra virgin olive oil
- squeeze of lemon or lime
- pinch of pepper
- 2 carrots
- 1 small english cucumber
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce/tamari
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 avocado
- sriracha mayo*
- 4 buns
Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the tough stem. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. In a shallow pan, mix together the soy sauce/tamari, maple, oil, splash of citrus and pepper. Add the mushrooms and rub the marinade into all of the surfaces. Let them sit for 5-10 minutes to soak it up.
Using a julienne peeler or vegetable peeler, shave the carrots and cucumber into thin or thick shreds respectively. Put them in a large mixing bowl with the red onion. Make a quick dressing by whisking together the tahini, soy sauce/tamari, sesame oil and vinegar. Pour it over the vegetables and toss to coat. Add the chopped mint and cilantro and give it all one more toss.
Grill the mushrooms for 5 minutes on each side or until they are soft throughout. Grill or warm the buns.
To assemble the burger, smash half of an avocado on the bottom of the bun, top with the grilled mushroom and a big scoop of the asian slaw. Spread a bit of sriracha mayo on the top side bun and enjoy.
* For the sriracha mayo, I use 1 part homemade sriracha to 2 parts veganaise or mayonaise. Stir and spread. The bottled stuff works just fine but try the homemade stuff at some point, it's a treat and has no preservatives.