When I was 16 years old, I had a blue belt in Aikido. Sounds impressive, but it was one level above beginner. Mom was a higher belt than I was—perhaps brown?—and was definitely more committed to it than I was. Because I am a night owl, getting up at pain-o’clock on Sunday mornings for class seemed to physically hurt me. This probably explains why I never got past blue belt.
Our teacher, Quang, was a kind and patient man who possessed a great deal of knowledge beyond Aikido. He practiced what he preached about healthy eating, acupuncture, and general tips for having a better life. Somehow those tips seemed to involve discomfort, but of course they were for our own good. For example, Quang recommended that we take only cold showers in the morning and scrub ourselves vigorously with a rough, scratchy towel to dry off. I understand how this would help circulation. I did try it once. After that I settled for sometimes getting the knob to lukewarm without yelping.
Quang also taught us how to eat a macrobiotic diet, a traditional diet based on the balance of yin and yang. Macrobiotics is comprised mostly of local, seasonal grains and vegetables, along with legumes, beans, and miso. Mom and I began to eat amazingly healthy meals at dinnertime. I can’t lie, though. Lunchtime in high school involved sprinting and stuffing ourselves clown-car style into the nearest vehicle, then speeding towards the nearest MacDonalds. I don’t think I practiced mindful eating just then. Also, as long as I’m admitting stuff, Mom and I still often enjoyed a dinner of Tostito Corn Chips, preferably eaten while standing up in the kitchen and chatting.
A couple of dishes from the Aikido days with Quang remain fondly in my heart and cooking repertoire. One of them is a white sauce that we typically ate over mixed vegetables and brown rice or quinoa. It’s easy and quick to make, it’s made of only four ingredients, and it tastes so good that it’s almost electric. While not attractive (or even exactly “white,” as its name suggests), this sauce makes up for its plainness with great, big flavors and virtuous healthiness. I also discovered that this sauce, when served with those veggies and brown rice, tastes great with tortilla chips crumbled over the top. I don’t think Quang would have recommended this.
Miso-Tahini White Sauce
- 1 cup white miso
- 1 cup sesame tahini
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 ½ lemons)
- ½ cup plust 2 T water (or more, for a thinner sauce)
- In a medium bowl, mix together the miso and the tahini until well-blended.
- Stir in the lemon juice completely.
- A couple of tablespoons at a time, add water until you reach the consistency you desire. The consistency in this recipe is fairly thick but I have made it thinner before also.
- You can add more tahini and water if the sauce is too tart for your taste.
- Pour over steamed vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, or farro. Other whole grains would probably also taste great with this sauce. This sauce also makes a nice dip for vegetables as well.
Makes 2 ¾ cups—this sauce is strongly flavored, so it makes enough for over two meals’ worth of sauce for several people. If you need less, this recipe is easily reduced.