Athena Calderone Makes Cooking both Easy and Beautiful

Nourish yourself with this delicious EyeSwoon recipe.

By: Karyn Trepanier
Athena Calderone Makes Cooking both Easy and Beautiful

Athena Calderone is more than just one thing. She’s a multi-hyphenate who’s pulling back the curtain on the idea that having a flourishing creative career means walking a very straight path toward success. Athena is an author, interior designer, entertaining expert, and culinary storyteller. Her wildly popular lifestyle blog, EyeSwoon, was launched in the summer of 2011 and followed up with the release of her first book, Cook Beautiful, in the fall of 2017. 

Her cookbook explores the beauty of cooking with the seasons and connecting with nature in its true form. It also seamlessly intermixes design with food. “I was struck by the idea of seasonality in a holistic way,” Athena explains. “I wanted to visually express how the time of year affects not only the produce we eat, but each season also yields a particular mood and palette.” 

For Athena, cooking has always been a way to cultivate connectivity with nature by honoring the produce of each season but also by deepening her relationships while cooking with her family and friends. “To develop flavor is no different than nurturing a relationship,” she says. “It takes constant attention and demands time to strengthen.”

With spring right around the corner, we asked Athena to share a spring recipe from Cook Beautiful. One of her favorite little bites to serve when entertaining is toast! While toast might sound simple, and it is, dressed up it’s also one of the prettiest, easiest, tastiest things you can serve as an appetizer, light meal, or brunch. 

athena calderone cooking

“My cooking style tends to gravitate towards bright, clean Mediterranean flavors,” Athena recently told rē•spin. “I like that brightness that comes from citrus and that fresh quality that herbs offer a meal, so there’s often a lot of acidity in what I cook. I think a lot about color when I’m developing a recipe because you want something visually alluring.” 

Give yourself (and a few friends or family) the gift of a home-cooked meal by making Athena’s Smoked Salmon Toast with Red Onions and Herbs. Flavors are sharp, tangy, and refreshing. The colors are bright, soft, and reminiscent of springtime. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. 

Smoked Salmon Toast with Red Onions and Herbs

For the pickled toast:

  • One tablespoon of honey
  • A teaspoon of coriander seed
  • .5 cups of cider vinegar 
  • A teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced

For the lemon creme fraiche:

  • ½ cup of creme fraiche
  • One lemon, grated zest, and one tablespoon of juice
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper

For the toast:

  • Four slices of good quality, crusty bread such as whole wheat, sourdough, or pumpernickel
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1 4 ounces package of smoked salmon
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced into ¼ rounds
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of capers
  • A small handful of dill, torn
  • One small handful of mint, torn
  • Chive blossom flowers
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Method of preparation (according to Athena):    

  1. Make the pickled onion: In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, honey, coriander seeds, and salt to a boil. Place the onions in a nonreactive bowl. Slowly pour the hot liquid over the onions and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use. Stored in a well-sealed container, onions will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.           
  2. Prepare the lemon crème fraîche: Whisk together the crème fraîche and lemon zest and juice—season with salt and pepper.           
  3. Make the toast: Preheat the grill over medium-high heat to about 400oF (250oC). Lightly drizzle both sides of the bread with oil. Grill until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Top with the lemon crème fraîche, smoked salmon, cucumbers, capers, and a few pickled red onions. Scatter with fresh herbs, chive blossom flowers, and a few grinds of pepper. Serve with lemon wedges on the side, if desired. 





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