Emily Brees is the founder of Oat & Sesame. She lives in the rolling hills of Northeast Pennsylvania. She works as a program coordinator during the day for a private university.
When she’s not cooking in her kitchen, you can find her gardening or enjoying the great outdoors. She loves pampering her cats, sharing recipes in her blog, whipping up new recipes, and spending time with her friends and family. Her blog is a witness to her creativity.
1. You've been to many places. What did you love eating most in Mexico? Barcelona?
Yes! I love to travel. Whether it be international or just around the area where I live in the Northeast. Enjoying food in a new setting and getting inspiration from chefs all over the world is exciting. In fact, I just returned from the Czech Republic and the Netherlands a few days ago. I have some new recipes inspired by dishes I ate while I was traveling that will be posted to Oat & Sesame soon! You can follow me on Instagram to see where I'm traveling and eating next!
In January I took a trip to Mexico. We visited the Yucatan Peninsula - Tulum and Merida - both amazing places. In Tulum, I took a cooking class at the home of a lovely Tulum native. I tasted crickets - apparently a common snack in Oaxaca. I have to admit, it was kind of delicious. But let's get real here, my favorite thing was learning to make corn tortillas. They are so simple and I've made them at least 6 times since my return. I just whipped up some delicious tacos - you can find the recipe on my blog and try to make them yourself!
I also wish I could recreate the Sopa de Lima from Merida. I just don't think we have the right limes here. They're a special native Mexican lime and the flavor is different. I might just fly back to the Yucatan for soup!
In Barcelona, the food was so different. I ate squid ink croquettes! And they seriously eat at 11:30 pm. I had to really try to stay awake just to eat dinner! There were a ton of little tapas that I tried. But by far the best thing I ate in Barcelona was artichokes. We searched out a particular restaurant I found on TripAdvisor (I do lots of research on the food before going anywhere). Even with the address in hand, this place was hard to find. We walked right by it several times. No sign, small door, and window, but little tables filled to the max on the inside. We ordered lots of delicious dishes, but the standout was the artichokes - seasoned perfectly with smoky paprika. I'd go back for those too.
2. Oat & Sesame - What is the origin story of your unique blog name?
I really wanted to come up with something unique for my blog. I spent countless hours writing down names I thought was great and then I hated the next day. I have a big whiteboard full of ideas for blog names if anyone needs one! So many blogs have clever names and I was struggling. One day I was at the book store rifling through cookbooks, go figure, and I came across the words "open sesame." I thought it sounded very close to Oat&Sesame. So it's a play on the saying "Open Sesame!"
3. What are a few ingredients that you find can make all the difference in a dish?
I find that the best dishes are simple. Fresh produce, hopefully, grown in your garden or on a local farm, makes a big difference in flavor. But if I had to pick just a couple of items from my pantry of fridge - citrus juice and zest, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs of all sorts, shallots, and garlic - lots of it! And nuts - what dish couldn't use a sprinkle of toasted nuts!
Sometimes when I'm at a loss for what I want to eat or make, I just open the spice drawer and start sniffing for what I'm craving. Often times, it's smoked paprika (an easy Chickpea Stew or Quinoa Breakfast Hash) or lemony Sumac (like in this Golden Beet Panzanella). Other times, it's just grabbing a bowl and start building - like this rice and bean dish.
4. Do you have rules when it comes to your cooking ingredients? Like for instance, is it important that you only use sustainable or organic produce?
There aren't necessarily rules - who likes rules? - but I do try to follow guidelines. I am very much aware of how our eating habits affect not only our individual health but the health of our planet. They have a symbiotic relationship and it's super important to keep these things in mind when making purchasing decisions. In April I did a project with a few university students to create an Earth Day booth on campus demonstrating the direct effects our food system has on, well, everything! You can check it our here. In addition, I research and spotlight companies with a commitment to make a difference in our world.
And then there are two community gardens that I manage plus my own garden - all organically grown. Some of our produce is donated to local food banks to encourage healthy eating among the disadvantaged populations in my community. So you can say I have a deep appreciation of where our food comes from and the work it takes to grow it!
5. You work with many companies/people to develop recipes. How do you ensure your recipe ideas are fresh and unique?
Let's be honest here. Not many food bloggers or cooks are really reinventing recipes completely. Most of us are tweaking and adding bits and pieces to develop our own take on something that we enjoy eating. It's just like any other profession, you learn from your mentors and a community of people you follow, then you make it your own.
A lot of my most inspired recipes come from meals I've eaten while traveling. When everything is new and delicious, it's easy to be creative! And of course, there is Pinterest and FoodGawker - a million delicious-looking photos to entice your appetite!
How to Reach Emily Brees of Oat & Sesame