Athena Calderone’s Spring SaladFebruary 17, 2016
Athena Calderone knows a thing or two about hosting—in fact, she may know all the things. An interior designer and proprietress of the aptly-named lifestyle site EyeSwoon, she’s also, as we found out at her gorgeous Amagansett digs during a shoot for our newest House & Home catalog, quite the accomplished cook. With spring on the horizon and dinner parties on the calendar, we couldn’t help but ask our most gracious of hostesses if she’d be willing to let us in on some of her secrets. Fortunately for us, Athena not only obliged, but she shared one of our new favorite recipes, as well.
When it comes to party decor, what inspires you ?
I always turn to my surroundings and to elements in nature to dictate the palette for a particular gathering. To impart a little of the outdoors, forage some fragrant herbs and place them in a tiny pot, or gather wispy blooms from your garden and set them atop a place setting. Beautiful does not need to be fussy—it’s all about a mix of high and low. Invest in a few key statement pieces for your tabletop and mix them in with simple dinnerware. Linen napkins are a wonderful place to splurge. Simple ideas, thoughtfully executed, is my mantra.
Tell us a little about the best party you’ve ever hosted.
My favorite would have to be the summer Moroccan dinner party. It incorporated long, low tables with Moroccan rugs and cushions strewn about on the lawn, plus the perfect Mediterranean food to feast on. All of this was illuminated by string lights as the sun was setting.
The Swoony Spring Salad you made during the shoot was as beautiful as it was delicious. What other spring flavors are you craving after a long winter?
Certainly ramps, as they have such a short season and are just oozing with spring flavor. And sugar snap peas are the best in spring. Toss them over whipped ricotta with mint, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt and it’s the perfect snack!
What’s the best hostess gift you’ve ever received?
I love practical gifts like a beautiful bottle opener, or from my DJ friends, a playlist, please. At my Amagansett home, whenever guests ask what they can bring, I always say good olive oil and coffee—you burn through both when you cook and have a revolving door of weekend visitors.
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Dinner with Diana Vreeland would be so great—I mean, how fun and extravagant would that conversation be? And it would have been a dream to cook with Audrey Hepburn. Her grace and elegance has always inspired me. In real life, I love having my husband around at dinner parties—he’s the best at cleaning up, and I can be a bit of a Tasmanian devil in the kitchen!
Swoony Spring Salad
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
For the salad
1 cup thinly sliced fennel
1 cup watercress
2–3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh shelled peas
½ cup fresh mint
A few sprigs of dill
½ cup pea shoots
4 tablespoons crushed pistachios
Sprinkle of sumac
For the herbed yogurt
1 ½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fine Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper
For the dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons honey
½ clove garlic, pressed or minced
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
HOW TO MAKE IT…
In a large serving bowl, combine the fennel, watercress, radish and shelled peas. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified, then drizzle the dressing over the salad mixture and toss to combine. In another bowl, mix together all ingredients for the herbed yogurt. To serve, place a smear of the herbed yogurt onto a plate, then top with a handful of the salad. Add fresh mint, dill and pea shoots to the salad, then finish with a handful of crushed pistachios and a sprinkle of sumac.