EyeSwoon’s Athena Calderone says, referring to her stunning farm-to-table tome published in 2017. “The kitchen has always represented a safe place for me.”
Calderone began seriously baking around age 26. “There was a precision and science that the novice perfectionist in me knew I could count on,” says the Long Island native of her initial attraction to the culinary arts. “Little did I know that the creative side of myself was being fostered, which evolved into the kitchen becoming my sanctuary. It became a place that was as surprising as it was comforting,” she says. Calderone began to playfully layer and develop flavors, and become more educated on eating locally, food sourcing and seasonality. “It offered me the ability to discover new flavors and techniques, to take risks, to challenge myself, to trust myself, to play, to riff, to explore. Suddenly, cooking was not only my creative outlet; it [also] became my social outlet as I began to host dinner parties—and then it turned into a career!”
After she moved out East to Amagansett, Calderone’s dedication to farm-to-table fare really took root. “Supporting the local harvest with the start of my CSA at Amber Waves Farm offers me the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with my food and to meet the farmers. I always leave the farm inspired by the energy that’s been invested in this beautiful food—and I am grateful that I have access to so many seasonal, local goodies.”
These days, Calderone keeps a close eye on the food cycle and eating seasonally from the wealth of East End farms. “I adore the intimate, small-town approach to buying provisions here,” she says, noting the sharp contrast to large-scale markets in the city. “I love driving from place to place to gather nearby treasures.
Within a few miles’ radius, I’d travel to Stuart’s, our local fishmonger, for the catch of the day; cruise by Balsam Farms to scoop up corn and tomatoes; pick up my weekly CSA from Amber Waves Farm; and stop by Vicki’s Veggies (daily!) to snag a loaf of their cult-classic zucchini bread. The best discovery of all was my neighbor Todd’s just-laid eggs with their eye-popping orange yolks! Purchasing on the honor system, I’d just grab a dozen and leave a $5 bill in the cooler,” she says. Calderone attributes her slim figure to a diet of only locally sourced foods, saying she eats “a ton” of local produce. When not cooking up one of her swoonworthy meals at home, she can be spotted at local eateries like The Crow’s Nest, EMP Summer House and Moby’s.
Calderone and her husband (DJ Victor Calderone) have settled nicely into life out East with their son, in the home that also serves as a laboratory for Calderone to experiment and be creative with interior design. Next fall, she will debut her second book—this time focusing on interiors with a behind-the-scenes look at “the arresting homes of highly visual creatives,” she shares. The book “guides us through the process of how carefully crafted interiors come together. I have an exceptional caliber of creatives who have opened up their homes and processes with me.”
As for her own home, design lovers can follow Calderone’s process both on EyeSwoon and through her Instagram. “We purchased our Amagansett home eight years ago, and it is our retreat, our haven,” she says. “It single-handedly transformed the quality of my family’s [life]: bringing us closer to nature, my son’s discovery of surfing... we began to slow down and take long bike rides and walks at sunset; ultimately, it brought us closer as a family. The house also became the catalyst that defined both my interiors career and EyeSwoon through entertaining and cooking more. It is a very special place for so many reasons!”
Although much of her time out East is spent experimenting with cuisine and interiors, Calderone also relishes the true spirit of the season. “What I love most about summer is that it gives me an open invitation to be a bit more spontaneous with myself—connect with my family, friends and nature more,” she says. “The season is all about loosening the reins and embracing what’s in front of you. My cooking and entertaining also drastically changes in the Hamptons. These months are not about efficiency or formality. They’re dedicated to sandy feet, a revolving door of guests, children on the zip line or splashing in the pool, and all hands on deck in the kitchen, preparing an impromptu, carefree, family-style feast,” she muses. “Summer in Amagansett just seems to allow me the luxuries other months do not. It gives me permission to play!”
Makeup by Niko Lopez for NARS; hair by Jennifer Santiago with Blushington; food styling by Jenna Saraco
Athena’s Charred and Raw Corn Salad with Tomatillo Relish
“Prepping corn is one of my favorite ways to get everyone involved with cooking: My yard is often filled with kids shucking poolside as reggae blasts from speakers on the deck. In Amagansett, we buy ours by the bushel from Balsam Farms. It never needs butter or salt, and we often eat it raw or charred on the grill. This salad lets you have it both ways.
“The recipe came about almost by accident. I was making tomatillo salsa and had no idea that tomatillos are supposed to be roasted first. I chopped them up raw and let them macerate in vinegar with some scallions—and I was blown away by the delicious result. I tossed the salsa with some corn as a little taste test, and just like that, a salad was born!”
SERVES 6 TO 8
FOR THE RELISH
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
½ cup (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely diced
½ teaspoon minced habanero chili
12 ounces (340 g) tomatillos, husks removed, finely diced
FOR THE SALAD
6 ears corn, husks and silks removed
4 radishes, cut into thin matchsticks
1 jalapeno, sliced into thin rounds
2 to 3 ounces (55 to 85 g) crumbled feta cheese
Small handful of torn fresh herbs, like cilantro and dill
1 lime, zested and juiced
Make the relish: In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, honey and salt until well-combined. Add the onions, habanero and tomatillos to the mixture and toss to coat.
Set aside to macerate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Make the salad: Preheat a grill over medium-high to 400°F (205˚C) or set a grill pan on the stove over high heat. Rub four ears of corn with oil until they are evenly coated. Put the ears of corn on the grill and cook until char marks appear on the kernels, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the corn from the grill and set it aside until it’s cool enough to be handled comfortably. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels of both the charred and remaining two raw cobs directly into a large bowl. Add the radishes and jalapeno and toss to mix until combined.
After macerating for 1 to 2 hours, the tomatillo relish will have accumulated about ¼ to ½ cup (60 to 120 ml) of liquid. Pour out half of this liquid (you can either discard or reserve it to dress another salad—it’s delicious!). Pour the tomatillo relish over the corn and mix to combine. You can let the salad sit, covered, at room temperature for up to overnight; before serving, top it with the cheese, torn herbs, and lime zest and juice.