Adjust + Ascend / Rose Harissa Roasted Vegetables + Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce
Funny how the Universe has a way of correcting you every time you think you’ve got it figured out. The second you get comfortable, it reminds you that you’re never done learning. Completed a lesson? No, it’s not time for recess; it’s time for the next part of your education to begin.
Sometimes — like this time — the nudges are relatively gentle, and that’s all it takes. Other times — like three years ago — you need to be shoved right off a cliff, dashing your skull and bones and blood and organs all over the ground, in order to wake up. Either way, the odds are that when you’re supposedly through the hard part, when you’ve gotten somewhere or achieved something and it’s all supposed to be better now, and yet you still feel that soul-tickle; that slight itch you can’t reach; that wisp of something in the back of your throat that you can’t get out; that means this wasn’t the salvation you were looking for, and the Universe is about to course-correct you.
The question is: Will you learn from it, or will you let it take you down? As for me, I may stumble a little along the way; I may kick and scream sometimes; but ever since my rebirth three Septembers back, I always choose the former.
I was gifted a mantra when pondering my latest cosmic wink-and-nudge the other day, in the way that sometimes these things just drop in. My guides and gods whispered in my ear: “Adjust and ascend.” Now, my work is to figure out what, exactly, that looks like.
I’m throwing some things at the wall to see what sticks. I’m listening and remaining open as best I can. I’m fighting the fear that sometimes creeps in when I attempt to close my eyes at night. But one thing is clear: to mine own self I must be true. (In a gesture toward this, I recently made a long-overdue, albeit financially challenging, investment: a DSLR, a real-deal camera, so I can make the things I’m seeing look as sumptuous and scintillating as they do in real life, whether for this blog or for the business. All the photos from around town and in my kitchen in this post were taken with the new toy.)
Don’t get me wrong, co-creation is a beautiful thing, and contributing to the collective is certainly an essential part of my life’s work. It’s one I haven’t always excelled at, and so I must be mindful not to wall myself off again; to retreat into the all-too-comfortable isolation of the mind, body and soul. And yet. As the Universal nudge jolted me awake, I looked up to find myself slipping away; with even less time and much less energy to honor my own visions; losing focus of what I want and what I do best and what my ultimate dreams really are. I am a fire sign; a person of intense passions, prone to polarities and extremes. How easily I can become the cause, if it seems like it will save me from myself; from my never-finished projects; from all those half-read books; from my indecisive mind. I will give every last thing I have to it, if it seems like The Answer; one I didn’t have to come up with the question for.
But as I recently heard on my favorite podcast, “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour”: When you ask the right questions, they tend to answer themselves. I’m slowly figuring out what those questions are. And so far, even just rephrasing them — or turning things that were statements instead into inquiries — is making the answers fall into place. Sure enough, the exact things both we and I need are starting to drop in.
This is how I am reminded once again that I work in the liminal; in the space in-between worlds. I think I see how to forge a clear path between the spheres of co-creation and self-realization; how to build a bridge that connects them, and that I can cross back and forth as needed. Just because I’m doing one thing doesn’t mean it has to be everything. Black-and-white thinking is insidious, and I am ever-striving to lay that burden down.
I am learning that I can hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts at the same time: This is what it is to be human; this is what quantum mechanics is; this is the true nature of the universe and the multiverse. Both sides now. I can be for myself and also for something new that I’m creating with another; I can be of the collective consciousness and also represent my own inspiration and intuition. Not only can I do this, I must. Going too far in any direction will always lead one astray.
For example. Last night I went back to a space I had banished in one such internal battle of extremes. I have stayed away, out of fear, from something that once brought me immense joy and meaning. Last year, it became everything. I started building my whole life around it, and so, of course, it all came crashing down. And I ran screaming from the wreckage, and came up with a million reasons to stay away, and then found something else to hang my entire life and identity and purpose upon.
As ol’ Richie Rohr says: “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
And so, I adjust and ascend. I hold two apparently opposite things at once, and take solace in the space between. I can be part of something without completely losing myself to it. I can participate without becoming indoctrinated. There are many houses in my soul neighborhood, and I can come and go between them — the house of work, the house of play, the spiritual house, my father’s house, my mother’s house, the houses of my friends and various communities — all while hanging shingles on my own abode, until I’m ready to move in. I can dabble in many worlds while my dreams come to me in little pieces. I can write passages instead of pages. I can let it be revealed to me a little bit at a time, and not have to Figure Everything Out, and maybe that’s the point, anyway: that the full picture is never actually revealed to you, at least not until the big finale.
I recently had a similar epiphany about cooking. When I use my beloved spice blends, I tend to only focus on one at a time. I make a dish with one flavor, one profile, one identity; one blend is What This Dish Is All About. But then, I was looking through the fabulous recipes on World Spice Merchants’ website (in preparation for a magical, holiday-themed event we’re doing with them this fall: a dream finally come true for this food blogger, dating back to when I was still trapped in my marriage, back when browsing the shelves and taking a deep inhale of the tantalizing aromas in those jars was the one pleasure in my sad and miserable existence, back when I saw no path to ever working in food and art and creativity for a living — but I digress). As I scanned the recipes, I realized something. Many of these blends are meant to be combined. It’s a rare recipe that calls for just one. I mix other, single-origin spices all the time when I’m following a recipe — I don’t use just cumin, or just coriander, for example — but I rarely use more than a big dose of one spice blend when I’m creating my own recipes.
I refer you back to Richie.
This revelation led to a delightful week of experimentation, using multiple blends to create variations on my old standby dish — a Middle Eastern-influenced roasted vegetable bowl. I’ve had the cuisine on the brain, as I am preparing for my pilgrimage to this land of my childhood dreams; to the source of my soul’s mystical yearnings. It seemed a fitting dish in which to mix things up.
Wouldn’t you know. It changed everything.
And so I give you this wonderfully, warmly, richly spiced bowl; made in many variations; multifaceted in flavor and texture; capturing all the elements and angles of experience … just like life should be. Let us hold multiple things at the same time, and end up all the better for it. xx
Rose Harissa Roasted Vegetables + Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce
1/2 red onion, sliced
3 large rainbow carrots, sliced in half and then lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 baby eggplant (or 1/3 - 1/2 larger eggplant), sliced
1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 brick extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed
Handful of kalamata olives, pitted
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Rose Harissa spice blend from World Spice Merchants (or to taste)
1/2 tsp Berbere spice blend from World Spice Merchants (or to taste)
1/4 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice blend from World Spice Merchants (or to taste)
Healthy sprinkle Syrian Za’atar blend (or other favorite za’atar) from World Spice Merchants
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional swap-ins: A few romanesco or cauliflower florets, sliced zucchini or yellow squash, sliced bell pepper, spiralized beet, broccolini
Mixed greens, preferably with spicy ones included in the mix, such as arugula or mustard
Fresh herbs, such as mint and parsley (savory, balanced, more traditional Middle Eastern flavors) or basil and cilantro (bright, citrusy, summery)
Any or all of the following toppings: Pickled shallots or other vegetables; a handful of sliced tomato and cucumber; fresh figs or dates; sliced avocado; coconut or greek yogurt; hemp seeds; sauerkraut; hummus; toasted almonds or walnuts; brown rice, freekeh, barley or bulghur; crumbled feta or dairy-free cheese (I used Miyoko’s Vegan Mozz in one of these pictured variations); harissa (I used Mina Spicy Harissa in several variations)
Roasted garlic tahini sauce: Two cloves roasted garlic; 3 Tbsp tahini; 1 Tbsp lemon juice; water as needed to reach a runny-honey-like consistency; salt and pepper to taste
**Note: I am not sponsored by any of the brands listed here, I just share what I use and enjoy.
This is an incredibly versatile recipe; like many of my bowls, it’s more of a template than a recipe proper. Mix and match any vegetables that roast well and are in season, and any toppings that fit the theme and feel right to you. I played around with this a bunch and included pictures from multiple variations. Explore and have fun!
Preheat the oven to 400F while you prepare your vegetables. Mix the vegetables, chickpeas, olive oil, spice blends and salt and pepper in a large bowl or two smaller bowls — ultimately separating the firmer, denser veggies, garlic, chickpeas and tofu for roasting first, and the softer ones together for roasting later (e.g., carrots, chickpeas, romanesco/cauliflower, garlic and tofu on one pan; eggplant, squash, bell pepper and olives on another). Roast the denser group for 15 minutes, then stir, rotate and add the more tender group to the oven. Roast for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, keeping your eye on things so they don’t burn and removing anything that starts to get crispy.
While the veggies cook, start mixing the ingredients for your sauce. When the veggies are done, remove them, and squeeze 2-3 of the roasted garlic cloves out of their shells and into your sauce bowl. (The two others can be chopped and distributed throughout your bowl.) Smash them with a fork into the sauce, then whisk rapidly to emulsify all the ingredients. You’ll end up with a wonderfully creamy consistency.
Fill your bowl with greens; top the greens with your veggies, tofu and legumes; sprinkle with herbs and layer in toppings as you see fit. Drizzle your sauce over the bowl, sprinkle with za’atar and enjoy.