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My imagination has always served me well. As a child I could lose myself for hours on end playing the most fantastical games of make-believe. To an onlooker my games might be perceived as playing house or “can’t touch the floor” as they entailed a pile of pillows strewn across my living room, making a trail to every corner of my home.

But to me I was on a magical island protecting the castle as alligators snapped in the murky waters around the mote. My vision of my imaginary surroundings was so rich, I swear I could see each and every crevice of the castle, smell the scent of a fresh-baked pie cascading down the grand swirling center staircase, and hear the whoosh of the trees as they swayed just outside the tower window. I stayed in character for as long as I could. My real-life smock was in fact a beautifully tailored gown in my mind’s eye.

Maybe this reverie was simply the gift of childhood—of dreaming, of imagining, of innocence. Or maybe this was an inkling of the curated world of beauty I now long to create as an adult. To this day, when I have the opportunity to conceive a shoot, to dive into the DNA of a brand, I imagine a full-blown tale. Through sight, smell, and taste, I bring this vision to life. Working with Le Creuset recently whisked me to the lavender-laced fields of Provence, France in my imagination but to Hudson, New York in reality.

This is what we do as creatives, right? We allow our minds to dream a dream and to hopefully inspire and allow others to do the same. Well, Le Creuset designed a new color collection for Spring 2018 aptly titled “Provence” and asked me to help celebrate its release.

Inspired by the fragrant, sun-drenched lavender fields of southern France, I allowed my mind to wander just as I did when I was a child. I was transported to those fields—taking in the intoxicating scent of the abundant blooms–and dreamed up this serene and rustic tablescape. In this whimsical world, I clipped the delicate flowers, including fresh lavender, of course, just as the sun was streaming in, and Edith Piaf serenaded me all the while.

All was cooked and cradled within the new, modern lavender colorway Le Creuset conceived. With its vivid-to-pale purple gradient, the shade is subtly reminiscent of a lavender field on the horizon line. The brand’s history of craftsmanship is also apropos for the charming Provence scene—the company was founded nearly a hundred years back and its original foundry is still in operation.

On the table, gauzy linens were loosely draped and tied in raw and tattered silk with just a few sprigs of our lavender tucked inside. Copious amounts of rosé were served in dainty mismatched glasses. The salt block name cards, doubling as trivets, perfectly picked up the pink hue of the wine. French cheeses and cornichons served on a time-worn wooden board helped set the provincial scene as I prepared a spring-abundant meal of salmon dotted with spring peas and grilled endive swirling with a warmed salty caper sauce. To close out our pastoral meal was a lavender-infused panna cotta served within mini pots and studded with the crunch of shortbread.

Go on. Dream, create, imagine, transport—find your adult version of make-believe. A menu and a tablescape, our sight, scent, and palette, can carry us across the world and right back to our sense of childhood wonder.

All recipes are from the spring chapter of Cook Beautiful.

Shop this collection on LeCreuset.com and use promo code: EYESWOON for free shipping through 12/31/2018

Pan-Seared Salmon with Peas, Chanterelles, and Dill-Chive Sauce

Athena Calderone, Cook Beautiful

  • Ingredients

    • Serves 4

      For the Dill-Chive Sauce

      ½ cup (25 g) chopped fresh dill

      ½ cup (25 g) chopped fresh chives

      ⅓ cup (70 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

      1 clove garlic, finely chopped

      Generous pinch salt

      1 lemon, grated zest and 1 to 2 tablespoons juice

       

      For the Salmon

      4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided

      1 leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into ¼-inch (6-mm) halfmoons

      10 ounces (280 g) chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and torn, if large

      1 cup (145 g) fresh peas, blanched

      Salt and freshly cracked pepper

      4 (6-ounce/170-g) center-cut, skin-on salmon fillets

      1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

      1 handful fresh pea shoots, for garnish

  • Method

    • Make the sauce: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the dill, chives, oil, garlic, and

      salt until finely chopped. (You can also do this by hand.) Transfer the mixture to a bowl and

      set aside.

       

      Make the salmon: In a medium skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the

      leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, being careful not to brown. Add the chanterelles and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a few minutes, or just long enough to heat them through. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

       

      Generously season the salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet,

      heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the fillets, skin-side down,

      and sear without disturbing until the skin is golden and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook

      until medium-rare, about 3 minutes.

       

      Stir the lemon zest and juice into the sauce, and the tablespoon of lemon juice into the pea

      mixture. Place the salmon fillets on a bed of the pea mixture and drizzle with dill sauce.

      Garnish with the pea shoots.

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