PRESERVED LEMON FROM SCRATCH

In searching for preserved lemon to make Warm White Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto and Preserved Lemon (yesterday's post), I quickly did a google search while in the middle of the pickle aisle at my local supermarket and found a forum on Food52 with commenters mentioning they had seen them at their local Whole Foods in the olive bar section.  One of the co-founders of Food52 also added on that a Middle Eastern market would carry it.  I didn't want to make another stop, so I tried another search for how to make my own, but discovered the lemons take 2-3 weeks before they are ready.  Oy vey.  One more google search in the middle of that pickle aisle led me to Mark Bittman's "Quick Preserved Lemons."  Just three hours waiting and the preserved lemons are in business!  They really added a nice flavor to the pesto and were worth the anxiety.


Quick "Preserved" Lemons

Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended

Ingredients:
4 lemons, unwaxed (or scrubbed of wax)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar

Dice lemons, including peel, removing as many seeds as possible.  Put the lemons and their juice in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and sugar: toss well and transfer to a jar.  Let the mixture sit for at least 3 hours at room temperature, shaking the jar periodically.  It can be served at that point or refrigerated for up to a week.

Yield: About 2 cups (I cut the recipe in 1/4 since I only needed 2 1/2 tbsp for the pesto, and had plenty left over).

The "preserved" lemons made in this quick recipe can only be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, whereas preserved lemons made the traditional way can last up to 6 months in the refrigerator. I would assume it is because of the much higher amount of salt used in the traditional recipe as well as the method of leaving the lemons more whole and submerging them in salt and lemon juice.


P.S. I've checked at two Whole Foods now and have not been able to locate preserved lemons anywhere in the store - I've checked (and asked) by the olive bar, by the pickles, by the jams, and by the spices but to no avail.  Please leave a comment if anyone finds a source for these locally, would love to compare to homemade!

WARM WHITE BEAN SALAD WITH ARUGULA PESTO AND PRESERVED LEMON

My family has grown quite significantly over the years, from five in my immediate family to now brother-in-laws as well as seven nieces and nephews between my two older sisters.  When I was in college and my sisters were newly married and later young mothers, we started doing a secret santa gift exchange to save money and unnecessary purchasing.  My cousin would draw names and email each of us the one (adult) person we were to buy a gift for, and over Thanksgiving when we were typically all able to get together we would go around in a circle and open them.  With just one person to focus on, it opened up a lot of time (and fun) to find the absolute perfect gift.  I still have the custom skull high top Converse sneakers with pink laces my brother-in-law got me.  After quite a few years of doing a secret santa, we all decided we missed a little the joy that comes from gifting to others, and decided to open up the possibilities a bit.  However, we didn't go back to buying gifts for everyone.  Instead, for Christmas as well as for birthdays, mothers day, fathers day, and the like, we would purchase if it was within our means and we happened across something perfect throughout the year, but no obligation.  So, a present might come on your birthday in August or a present might randomly show up in June when you were least expecting it.  Oh what more fun!  This is what happened a few months when a box from Amazon was unexpectedly leaning up against my door upon arriving home.  I opened it to find a copy of "Dinner: Changing The Game" by Melissa Clark.  Had this been shipped to me by mistake?  No, the address is correct.  Is there a note inside?  Nope.  Hmmm.  One of my sisters had texted a few days prior to double check my address, so I texted her.  Bingo.  A good friend of hers had said the cookbook was amazing and had been getting rave reviews so she bought one for herself and for me.  How thoughtful.  And unexpected.  And something we can now share as sisters.  All Summer long, we've been communicating back and forth with which recipes we have tried, how they turned out, and what the next ones on our list are (she was surprised I listed the Warm Squid Salad, but I'm sticking to my guns!).


Melissa's goal with "Dinner" was to help us figure out what to make for dinner without falling back on what we've eaten before, to give choices and help expand the way we think about dinner so cooking it becomes "one of the most satisfying and loveliest moments of the day."  She provides a list of ingredients to keep on hand and the history and uses behind them in the front of the cookbook.  The list can seem a little daunting as they're not all your average pantry staples (sumac, kimchi, and thai red curry paste to name a few).  But, I poured over this cookbook for hours the first day totally immersed in how attainable Melissa made incorporating these ingredients into anyone's arsenal.

The first recipe I made from "Dinner" was the Warm White Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto and Preserved Lemon.  I was drawn to it because it seemed like a nice light salad for Summer, but also because it would teach me how to make a version of pesto, which I could translate later for many other dishes if it became part of my "arsenal."


Most of the ingredients I had on hand, and the others I quickly scooped up from the local supermarket...except for the preserved lemon, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices.  I hunted all over the store to no avail.  Check back tomorrow for more info on how to make your own preserved lemon, in no time at all!


Total time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 to 8 cups arugula
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 1/2 tbsp chopped preserved lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
3 cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained
fresh lemon juice to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 to 3 tbsp thinly shaved shallot or red onion (optional)

Directions:
1) In a food processor or blender, combine 2 packed cups of the arugula with the almonds, cheese, preserved lemon, garlic, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Process or blend until everything is finely chopped.  With the motor running, blend in the 1/3 cup olive oil.  
2) Warm the beans in the microwave for about 1 minute, or in a small pot on the stovetop for about 2 to 3 minutes.  The beans should be warm to the touch, but not hot.
3) In a medium bowl, toss the arugula pesto with the warm beans, and adjust the seasoning to taste.
4) In a large bowl, toss the remaining arugula with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  (If you're unsure, add the seasonings a little at a time, tasting as you go, until you like it.  Be generous with the black pepper.)  Arrange the arugula salad on a large platter, and spoon the beans on top.  Sprinkle the shaved shallots over the beans, and serve.

LIBERTY OF LONDON COLLABS

Liberty of London was started in 1875 when Arthur Lasenby Liberty borrowed 2,000 pounds from his father-in-law to open a store selling ornaments, fabric, and works of art on Regent Street.  He quickly repaid the loan and bought neighboring properties to meet the demand for carpets and furniture and began collaborating with many British designers, "determined not to follow existing fashion but to create new ones."  Housed in a 1924 mock-tutor building on Great Marlborough Street, Liberty designs and manufacturers fabrics, accessories, fashion, and homegoods and has continued to collaborate with designers over the years including Yves Saint Laurent, Nike, Dr. Martens, Manola Blank, Uniqlo, and Superga.  There are a few exciting new collaborations this month from Anthropologie, JCrew, Topshop, and Nike.  Here are my top picks!


























YOGURT AND FRESH BERRY PARFAIT

I've always adhered to the mantra that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  My mom made for me (and still makes me when I go home to visit) a giant bowl of oatmeal for breakfast layered with raisins, flax seed, walnuts, and whole milk.  She taught me that a hearty breakfast and a healthy lunch will power you through the day, while a lighter dinner like a salad is all your body needs as it is about to go into rest. Her salads are no mean "light," containing a mix of greens, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, and Braggs nutritional yeast.  But, it makes sense to feed your body fuel when you need it and go lighter when it doesn't.

So, every morning for breakfast I scoop either oatmeal or yogurt into a mason jar for an easy, but hearty, grab and go on the way to work.  Summer weather has me gravitating towards the yogurt for obvious reasons (and the plethora of fresh berries at the grocery store make it a no-brainer as well).


I start with either organic whole milk plain yogurt or whole milk greek yogurt, then sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top.


Add some fresh raspberries, blueberries, or sliced bananas and drizzle with honey.


Repeat a second time and you've got a quick and delicious portable breakfast!


Many people (or most people I would garner to say) are nervous to choose whole over non-fat when staring at the cooler in the grocery store.  However, many studies have found consuming whole milk actually has numerous benefits compared to its lesser fat counterparts.  "At the simplest level, people eating more high fat dairy products will have enough calories so they won't feel hungry enough to need additional calories from sugary foods." (1)  "When people reduce the amount of fat they eat, they tend to increase their intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, the driving forces behind the bulk of our nation's chronic health problems." (2)

Choosing regular vs greek yogurt is primarily based on taste and texture preference since they are deniably different.  However, greek yogurt does have an edge with protein and sugar.  "In roughly the same amount of calories, it (greek yogurt) can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content in half." (3)

I have yet to try overnight oats despite not being a picky eater, I am wary that I would not like the texture.  Do you have any favorite overnight oats recipes that might overcome my hesitations?  What are some of your favorite things to make for breakfast on-the-go?

(1) Source: Time magazine
(2) Source: US News
(3) Source: US News 

READ SHOP

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a day of exploring with Christina Kwan from Tide & Bloom.  Part of our adventure took us just north of Atlanta to Vinings Jubilee.  We halted in our tracks when happening upon Read Shop..."What is this adorable place?!!," we said.  No surprise, it happens to be from the same visionary behind The Merchant, one of my favorite shops in Atlanta.  



With dark navy walls, leather seating, antique tables, and ladders for reaching top shelf books, Read Shop feels as if you've stumbled into a friends library.  Filled with a curated assortment of owner Dan Collier's favorite books, hand-picked selections, and NY Times best sellers, alongside a few thoughtful giftables and greeting cards, the shop evokes the same love for paper goods as The Merchant and Archer Paper Goods, while remaining its own delightful concept all the same.


The bookstore also boasts a coffee shop brewing Stumptown Coffee, an amazing company that supports coffee producers by forming partnerships with them through regular visits, implementing new techniques, identifying and investing in future producers, and paying a fair wage (you can read their story here).


What Dan Collier concept isn't complete without branded cups I'd love to buy in bulk?


Above the seating area is an inventive "chandelier" of books.


Owner Dan Collier has over 20 years experience as a wholesaler at the AmericasMart with the Daniel Richards showroom (which has recently expanded) and successful retail locations including The Merchant (on both the Westside and at Krog Street Market), Collier Candy Company, and Archer Paper Goods (both at Ponce City Market).  Dan is truly an inspirational entrepreneur and so I reached out to him to ask a few questions, which he so graciously answered.

Where do you glean inspiration to keep your assortments fresh and unique both in your retail locations and established showroom at the mart?
In truth we/I get inspiration from everywhere - social media, print mags, tv, word of mouth, and trade shows.  I question and listen to what our employees have to say about trends and I look to our manufacturers to set new trends.  And finally, my intuition speaks to me about what is trending up and down and I go with that most often.

With so many different facets of your business, what are some of your favorite tools to stay organized?
I'm old school by keeping things organized.  I have one of our assistant managers come into my office every couple of weeks and he files all of our orders, paperwork, etc.... And, I like to make piles of paperwork and catalogs, leads, etc.  Then, I go through and edit what I don't really need.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to a budding entrepreneur?
Owning your own business is all consuming.  You have to be willing to work, work, work.  I built this business on 14 hour work days, weeks without a day off, and making our business the single most important thing I do everyday.  Sometimes, I do take a day off and I do go on holiday...but because I'm more interested in producing, being away from work is not a priority.  I take great joy in working, and I love the people that I work with, It's fun for me.

What is your favorite travel destination, either for relaxation or creative insight?
London is my favorite place to go for both.  I go in September every year for Top Drawer and it's a great escape.

The Merchant, Read Shop, Archer Paper Goods, and Collier Candy Company all have a vintage feel.  Can you share a little about the direction for the Collier Department Store planned at the urban renewal project on Memorial Drive?
The department store will look and feel like nothing else we have done.  There will be no vintage, it will not have the same lines that our other stores have, it will have totally new offerings that we have not dabbled in the past.

Are there any future plans to create an online storefront?
We have just recently beefed up our online presence.  You can find our online store at shopthemerchant.com.  We are adding new product everyday!!

Read Shop is located at 4300 Paces Ferry Road SE Suite 125, Atlanta, GA 30339.  Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 7am - 6 pm and Sunday 8am - 5pm, Contact: 678.742.7853.  You can also visit a "mini" version of Read Shop at Krog Street Market near the front entrance.  Follow Read Shop on instagram here.

*The urban renewal project at the old Atlanta Dairies Cooperative at 777 Memorial Drive is a mix of shopping, dining, office space, apartments, music venue (from the owners of the Georgia Theatre and Variety Playhouse), as well as "The Yard," over an acre of outdoor space for events and to relax, set to open late 2017.  Collier's Department Store is anticipated to be 10,000 sf with "a focus on everyday conveniences like cosmetics and personal care, baby and kids, furniture, denim and workfare for men and women, home decor, confections, stationery, and books" (from What Now Atlanta).  We can't wait!

POTTING A FIDDLELEAF FIG IN A BASKET

I have to admit I've fallen in love with the fiddle-leaf fig just like nearly everyone else.  What first drew me to the plant I kept seeing popping up on blogs and in magazines wasn't entirely the plant itself, it was the idea of potting a plant or tree in a basket, which is how the fiddle-leaf fig is most often shown.  Something about the natural texture of the basket with the tall stem and the lush waxy leaves creates such a nice balance.  Below are some beautiful examples shown in inviting spaces...












I've had my fiddle-leaf fig for about a year now and it's doing quite well so I think it's about time to pop his pot in a basket and give him a permanent home!  I hunted around to find the perfect one - My fig is still quite small so the basket can't be too tall or the lower leaves won't clear the top (12-14" high will probably be perfect) and I prefer the clean look of a basket without handles, although not all of the great options I found meet this requirement.  Here are some of my favorites...

Small 14.5" diameter X 11.8" high $38


Bangla Storage Basket from Room & Board
12" high X 16" diameter $60


Large 14" high X 14" diameter $40


Medium 14" high X 13" diameter $100


3 great sizes perfect for a fiddle-leaf fig!  
Small 11" X 11" $48, Medium 12" X 12" $56, Large 14" X 14" $65

Medium 12" high X 14" diameter $30


Large 14" high X 14" diameter $45


Medium 11" high X 12" diameter $35


Large 12-13" high X 12-13" diameter $98


Small 14" high X 15" diameter $24.99


All of the baskets above must be used just as an outer decorative layer, the fiddle-leaf fig still must be potted in another pot.  However, Terrain has an all-in-one option that relieves worry about water damaging the basket and also about finding the perfect fit particularly for the opening of the basket so the pot isn't too noticeable tucked inside.

Small 13" high X 11" diameter $38


What's your favorite?

CHILLED CUCUMBER AND CORN SOUP WITH AVOCADO TOASTS


This cold soup from "Dinner" by Melissa Clark has to be the quickest and most refreshing meal for Summer days when I'd rather be relaxing out by the pool or enjoying a long walk - seriously 15 min prep time tops!  And, most of the ingredients were picked up at my local farmers market, which I shared in my last post.  Melissa recommends serving with avocado toasts, which I found to be a great compliment in flavor!  And, something I can now add to my arsenal to make for a quick snack.  Together, the two can be a meal.  Or, serve the soup alone in teacups or other small bowls as a first course.




Chilled Cucumber and Corn Soup
Makes: 2 to 4
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
1 lb cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
2 cups cold buttermilk (or use 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt plus 1/4 cup milk or water)
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
2 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed
1/2 cup packed mixed soft fresh herbs (any combination of mint, parsley, dill, basil, and cilantro), plus more for serving
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
3/4 tsp sea salt, plus more if needed
kernels from 1 ear fresh corn
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions:
1) In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine the cucumbers, buttermilk, garlic, scallions, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar, and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.
2) Distribute the soup among four bowls, and serve it garnished with the raw corn kernels, the extra mixed herbs, and drizzle of olive oil.  Serve the avocado toasts alongside.

Avocado Toasts
Ingredients:
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced
4 slices bread, toasted
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1/2 lemon
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Smash the avocado slices on the toasted bread.  Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the avocado.  Squeeze the juice of the lemon half over the top, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper.