tomato, feta and dill salad

Hello lovely people!
 
I hope your summer is off to a fantastic start. Things are feeling very summery around here. We’re having a Seattle heatwave (temps above 80°!) and people are hunkered down with their freshly-purchased air conditioners, freezers stocked full of ice cream and cases of rosé. (Ok, maybe that’s just us.) 
 
Last night we had friends over for a casual backyard barbecue. In line with my no-stress dinner party policy, I just threw a bunch of vegetables and sausages on the grill, opened a few bottles of wine and tossed together this easy-peasy 4-ingredient tomato salad.
 
I hope you won’t think me bossy if I say you should, too. 

I first had this deceptively simple salad at one of my favorite restaurants in Paris. I was a bit underwhelmed when it was placed in front of me. It didn’t look like much after all the flaky, buttery excesses of the culinary tour I’d just led.
 
But as I took my first bite, I understood that the chef had done that very French thing that young chefs are doing all over Paris. He had taken a few simple ingredients, combined them in an unconventional manner and let their utter perfection do the talking. 
 
This salad was so far greater than the sum of its parts. It was refreshing, earthy, salty, creamy and faintly sweet all at the same time. It tasted like summer. 

I knew instantly this comes-together-in-five-minutes-and-goes-with-everything salad would be the new workhorse of my summer suppers. And so far it has been. I’ve had it with Lebanese spiced chicken and cucumber-yogurt salad. With spicy grilled shrimp. With a soft boiled egg and a slice of toast. All within the last two weeks! 
 
So, friends, track down the very best ingredients you can find and give this refreshing little tomato salad a go--your summer will thank you!


Tomato, Feta and Dill Salad

  • 1 pint ripe cherry or other small tomatoes
  • Feta cheese, (preferably a creamy, not-too-salty variety)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh dill
  • Flaky sea salt

*Notes: Today I’m giving you a non-recipe sort of recipe. There’s not really any right or wrong way to combine the ingredients in this dish. If you love dill, sprinkle on a little extra. If olive oil’s your thing, pour it on! The key is simply to track down the best ingredients you can manage. Sweet, perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes. Fresh dill. Creamy, not-too-salty feta (My go-to is Valbreso). And the best olive oil and sea salt you can get your hands on. That’s most of the work done.
 
- For all you dill haters out there, I feel you. Dill was not, until recently, an herb I was particularly fond of. But there’s something magical about the combination of dill and tomatoes that makes it all ok. It’s the dill that provides a faintly sweet and sour complexity to this salad, so I encourage you to try it. But no hard feelings if you’re not into it--you can always substitute another herb such as mint (I love tomato and mint together), fennel fronds, and/or summer savory. A few finely snipped chives would be nice, too.
 
- And just in case your mamma never told you, raw tomatoes never, ever (ever!) go in the fridge. It turns their texture mealy and mutes their subtle sweetness. Store them in a single layer on your countertop or other cool location.

 

Slice the tomatoes in half and arrange them on a serving platter. Crumble some feta over the top and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle some dill fronds and salt over the top just before serving.
 
Makes 3-4 side-dish servings.

a portugal state of mind

I’m back home after six amazing weeks in Europe. It was a life-changing trip. I know I've written that before, but somehow it's always true. When I travel, I arrive home a different person from the one I left behind on my Seattle doorstep.

If I talk a lot about the transformative power of travel around here, that’s because it never ceases to amaze me. I keep expecting travel to become banal or boring or, at the very least, predictable. It never does.

Time away from home always manages to leave me awestruck at the vast and varied beauty of the world. And humbled at my small place in it.

One of the highlights of this last trip was the ten days I spent in Portugal. This sea-swept, sunny little country seems to take up a bit more real estate in my heart every time I visit!

I spent fantastic week in Lisbon seeing friends and doing research for an upcoming retreat. This city is a painting of bright sun, sparkling river and pastel-hued buildings arrayed along sidewalks paved in cream-colored limestone. To climb one of its many hills and look out over the city is breathtaking. Wandering Lisbon's ancient alleys for something as mundane as lunch with a friend takes on an intoxicating air of mystery. And the locals, at first reserved, are quick to offer a smile and a helpful piece of advice if you take the time to strike up a conversation. 

Then Beau joined me and we headed for the rolling, sun-drenched hills of the Alentejo. This part of Portugal is all golden grasses, vineyards, olive groves and placid cows napping in the shade of cork oak trees. I love bouncing over its dusty roads in our rented car--stopping for lunch at a tiny local taberna or pulling off to buy cherries from the back of a farmer’s truck. Wending our way up a one-lane road to a hilltop castle with stunning 360° views of the valley below always leaves me a bit giddy. And watching the sunset from the terrace of a 19th-century olive oil factory (now converted into a fantastic restaurant) leaves me feeling the whole region has been sprinkled in some sort of magic dust. 

I treasure all these golden Portuguese moments. I'm grateful, too, for the effect they have on me once I'm home.
 
Before this trip, I was running around like a crazy person, trying to jam an unreasonable amount of work into each day. I was stressed and irritable and argumentative (to the point of throwing a blanket on my husband’s head when he refused to acknowledge my infinite wisdom).
 
That version of me now feels a million miles away. A Portuguese state of mind lingers on, leaving me unable to recall what I was so stressed about exactly. I'm finding it easier to focus on work instead of scrolling manically through Instagram at five minute intervals. I’m energized to dive into creative projects that have been languishing on my mental to-do list. I'm miraculously able to stop working at a reasonable hour these days in order to take walks along the lake with Beau before we head home to open a bottle of wine and throw together a simple dinner. I’m sleeping like a champ.
 
Travel can do that. 

Which is precisely why I keep exploring. And also why I invite you to come with me: this last trip to Portugal was so inspiring, I want you to experience it for yourself!

I'm thrilled to announce I'm teaming up with my friend Filipe to bring you a week of food, wine, creativity and beauty in sunny Lisbon this October!

Filipe and I have so many amazing experiences planned for you. We've filled this retreat with the sort of people and places no traditional tour guide could take you to--some of our most talented creative and culinary friends and visits to our very favorite, locals-only spots!

You'll cook Portuguese specialties alongside local chefs and sample the custardy sweets the country is famous for. You'll travel to an organic farm and harvest sea urchins by hand at the shore. You'll visit the studios of a jewelry-maker and a ceramicist and learn to make your own wall-hanging with a local artisan. You'll stroll historic streets sampling hyper-local wines, cheeses and other Lisbon specialties.

This is going to be the best trip ever!!! (I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.) This retreat is the perfect way to banish burn-out, inject creative inspiration into your life and experience this stunning country.

Registration in now open and I absolutely cannot wait to share my Portugal with you! Click the button below to join us!
 
XO,
 
Olaiya

small is beautiful: drygoods design

It's time for another installment of Small is Beautiful! For those of you who missed the first one, SIB was born out of a desire to document and share some of the amazing independent businesses and creative projects near and dear to my heart. I also want to provide a space where small business owners can talk about how they got started and the challenges and joys involved in running your own business. Whether you're contemplating taking the leap into setting up shop yourself or just looking for cool places to check out in Seattle, I hope you enjoy hearing their stories.

This week, I'm featuring Drygoods Design. Owner, Keli Faw's ebullient spirit combined with the expertly curated selection of beautiful fabrics and notions makes this a space I love to stop into whenever I'm in Pioneer Square. I've taken several classes here and am always thrilled (and as a novice seamstress--somewhat amazed) at the beautiful garments and accessories I leave with!


An interview with Keli Faw, owner of Drygoods Design fabric shop and sewing studio

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Pinterest meets reality.

What is your background? 
I came out of college during an economic downturn so I headed back to retail and then as the economy improved I moved to corporate communications, PR, and marketing.

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture? 
Strangely enough, the current version of Drygoods was not originally in my mind's eye or plans. I started out as an online-only shop where I also made things to sell. I couldn't find fabric locally that I loved on a regular basis for my own line of goods so I decided I could take matters into my own hands. From there, it became more about getting the fabric to customers than the line of goods and then creating a retail experience that was not found elsewhere. After watching the power of our customers learning from each other, it just made sense to launch the studio and classes.

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business?
Initially, it was a three because the growth and expansion were very organic, all the while keeping my day job for a couple of years. I launched Drygoods a month before my second child was born knowing that it was now or never. And at that point, it was just me. When it came to opening a retail outpost a little less than a year later, it came at one of the worst possible times in my life. My father was terminally ill but I knew that if I didn't go for it, I would always wonder what if. He passed away a month before I opened the shop. It was crazy and dark, especially with two young children and frequently traveling husband but it's strange how adaptable we are. 

The first few months of having a retail presence were almost a blur. Then it became easier, but it's taken years to get a true handle on all that I need to do and do it well. As Drygoods has grown, the stakes are higher. Knowing that you have people relying on you for their livelihood, it's much more sobering.  Since then though, the scale has shifted much more to stress and freaking out, especially when it became clear we had to move from Ballard to another neighborhood. However, our move to Pioneer Square was a really good move. Not only is it a beautiful space, it's also central to so many parts of the city and we were incredibly fortunate that so many of our Ballard customers kept coming to see us.

What's the greatest challenge with your business? 
Managing the manic nature of retail. One day is amazing, the next can be the worst. In this city, we're competing with the weather, city events, and the purchasing behaviors that major online retailers are driving. We have an amazing customer community but we are not invincible.

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy? 
I love watching our customers and students react the same way we feel about fabric and/or completing a project. Watching someone catch the sewing and/or craft bug is so rewarding. And making the buying decisions around fabric. It's almost always like Christmas morning when a shipment arrives.

What's on your bedside table (be honest)? 
A few travel books for the US (my kids and I are scheduled to go on a four-week road trip this summer), the Hillbilly Elegy, the Alexander Hamilton biography, a bunch of receipts, my current knitting project, and my tarot decks

Secret hobby and/or obsession? 
It's not so secret but my cathartic moments away from the shop are found knitting, cooking, and working in our yard.

Favorite city? 
That might be the hardest of questions. In Europe - Paris, Stockholm, and Lisbon. The US - NYC and San Fran

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
Okay, this is the hardest question :). I think it would be to start it earlier and diving in sooner with a more concrete version versus going from an organic, "let's see how this goes" point of view. However, at the same time, it's hard to wish for another directive. I think of all the incredible people I've met through this all and I would hate that all the good and the bad didn't potentially happen because I took a different course of action about the business.

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Some of my favorite places to shop are Re-Soul in Ballard, Phinney Books, Velouria, Clover Toys, and The Palm Room