Even with the cold rain outside, there were warm memories from old friends to greet me as I arrived at the Seven Spoon’s creator, Tara O’Brady’s, creative writing workshop on Saturday. Aran, our host and the creator of the blog Cannelle et Vanille, was warm and humble in her own way, welcoming guests with coffee, tea, and homemade, morning pastries. I was excited, but nervous in a way, as writing is not my forte, yet the focus of the weekend. My nervousness quickly dissipated as Tara’s bubbly personality made you feel as though you had been friends with her since middle school. Despite the dreariness beyond the windows, the room was electric with excitement
The moody, Fall, Seattle light was the perfect backdrop for our muse: a silky cauliflower soup with a feathery-light oregano oil, earthy dukkah, and a sprinkling of a warm chilli powder from the Basque Country. As the light came in from the pebbled wet windows, it laid beautifully over the room, beckoning me to take photos. There is nothing more stunning than natural light: the shadows, the depth, the emotion it can evoke.
I knew yogurt was “in” but I didn’t realize how dynamic it could be until this trip to Seattle. At the workshop, Aran and Tara served under a myriad of roasted vegetables, perfect for a cloudy, Fall day. The flavors were as fresh and vibrant as the colors: bright pink, sweet beets, deep orange and yellow, caramelized carrots and pillowy slices of acorn squash, all over a velvety yogurt punched with the spicy chilli powder again. It was the perfect combination for a grey Seattle day (so cliché but so true!).
That night my food adventure continued as I ventured to a quaint, well known restaurant in Seattle: Sitka + Spruce. After I ooohed and aaahed over the daily menu, finding it difficult to make a decision, I asked the waiter “If I’m looking for the most interesting and different dish, what would you recommend?!”. He says “Without a doubt, the charred shishito peppers with yogurt”. Again, there was the infamous yogurt and vegetables! This trend is taking over! Happily, I obliged to fill my grumbling belly with more yogurt and roasted vegetables, eager to see how this one differed from the first. Oh. My. I had no words. Charring the peppers had taken the intensity down to a sweet, caramelized, peppery flavor instead of the spicy punch you would have assumed. They were served with a thick, homemade yogurt, reminiscent of a labneh, that had been mixed with blistered leeks and god knows what other heavenly ingredients. Add to that ribbons of gently roasted, sweetened carrots, celery leaves and a dash of spice and you have a very different, but addictive dish!
For a city that’s known for its seafood, it was funny that the vegetables are what stole my heart (go figure). I knew when I got home, roasted vegetables and yogurt would be my main dish of the week. I rushed to Calgary’s elaborate spice store to dive into sumac, nigella seeds, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry leaves, and anything else I could get my hands on to add a little zing to my dish. The resulting creation was a combination of the leek yogurt from Sitka + Spruce and various roasted vegetables with a touch of my new friends, sumac and nigella seeds.
To say the weekend was inspirational is an understatement. Tara left me with so many sincere and thought-provoking seeds of advice to mull over. Her words and inspiration have changed the way I look at food writing, blogging, and even being a woman entrepreneur in this industry. So very thrilled for Tara’s cookbook coming out Spring of 2015!
Check out my “Steller Story” HERE with more photos from the Seattle workshop weekend! I’m having so much fun with this app!
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil + a dab more for the fennel
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 6 carrots, cut in half length-ways
- 4 parsnips, cut in half length-ways
- 4 radishes, cut in half
- 1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed, bulb sliced thin
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cup, sliced thin leek (dark green end removed)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup plain, thick, yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon sumac
- large handful of watercress
- nigella seeds, optional garnish
- micro greens, optional garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Set a large baking pan, or baking sheet with a lip, over low heat on the stove. Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil and honey to the pan and heat until the oil and honey are liquified. Once liquified, add the carrots, parsnips and radishes. Toss to combine then arrange in a single layer. Roast at 375 for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots and parsnips (my carrots were small so it only took 25 minutes). Toss the fennel with a little bit more melted coconut oil and with 6 minutes left to go, add the sliced fennel and continue roasting. (You only need to roast the fennel for 5-6 minutes, so add at the end).
- While your vegetables are roasting, prepare the yogurt: In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the leeks; sauté for 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they have softened, being careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt. In a small bowl, combine the leeks and yogurt. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- Once your vegetables have finished roasting, divide the yogurt onto 4 plates and arrange the roasted vegetables on top. Toss some watercress over the top and garnish with a sprinkling of sumac, nigella seeds, and micro greens.
- *This is a lovely combination for any roasted vegetable, so switch it up with whatever is fresh at your market: beets, squash, celery root, rutabaga, etc.
- *You should be able to find sumac and nigella seeds at any specialty spice store or some ethnic food stores.