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Food Eyeswoon Kitchen:

My Summer, My Spirit, My Joy

Photography by Alpha Smoot

Jewelry by John Hardy

Ingredients provided by Whole Foods Market Bklyn. Shared on

By nature I’m a people pleaser, a caretaker at heart just like my mama and nonna, but it’s not recognition that brings me joy; it’s crafting. That space in-between, when you find yourself lost in an action of doing for others. It can be pure Zen to be on autopilot –chopping, mixing, seasoning and plating – working with your hands to make something unique. It’s blissful and that bliss only deepens once I sit down, surrounded the people who matter most in my swoony world.

As you may know I’m in the midst of a move, which means leaving behind my Dumbo terrace just as summer starts! I love moving (as unsettling and uprooting as it can be) because it means recreating a new space, but I wanted to do something to celebrate the last days with my terrace. As fate would have it, the handcrafted jewelry line John Hardy asked me to host a dinner on my terrace as part of their “My Summer, My John Hardy” series. It was time to go out with a bang!

Inspired by their jewelry I started to dream of beauty. The food, the décor, the flowers, the outfit, the jewels…. no stone goes unturned in my beauty obsessed mind. I think of it all, which is why I find so much escape in the crafting of the actual meal. Don’t get me wrong I love to fixate on details, even if I think of myself as a Bohemian spirit at heart, everything in my swoony existence is well-curated. It’s all been carefully chosen to evoke a particular feeling because I’m always after the perfect composition of elements – not too fussy but not too rustic, a touch of elegance combined with a laissez faire spirit. Which is exactly why I chose the delicate John Hardy bamboo collection for this dinner, not only because it symbolizes nature and harmony with the environment, but because it’s so effortlessly modern and pure – the perfect summer vibe. Plus there is nothing better than the timeless beauty of gold as it shimmers on tanned summer hands!

My generous friends at Whole Foods Market Brooklyn offered me seasonal local ingredients for the dinner so off I went to Gowanus to let their market dictate the menu. I left with fresh branzino for the grill, a variety of heirloom tomatoes, a plethora of bright herbs and vibrant radishes and snap peas. These springtime stars would guide me! Back in the kitchen I wrapped a whole branzino for each guest, surrounding it with thyme, chives and lavender and stuffing it with fennel seeds and bright limes. Then I created the swooniest heirloom tomato and quinoa salad punctuated with a hearty dose of basil and parsley bursting with freshness. With the meal underway, I turned my attention to the décor, tablescape… Stay tuned for the décor details and part two of the actual soirée, which is truly one of a kind and the last of its kind!

Props by Kalen Kaminski and linens by Upstate | Flowers by James Daughter Flowers | Kitchen & creative assistant Sarah Elliott

Herb Bouquet Branzino

Adapted from Jewels of New York


Herb Bouquet Branzino:

Serves 4

  • 4 whole Branzino, gutted and cleaned
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted and ground
  • 4 limes thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • 1 small bunch chive blossoms
  • 1 small bunch lavender
  • twine, for tying
  • lime relish

Chive Parsley Sauce:

  • ½ cup packed Italian parsley
  • 2 bunches of chives
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch habanero pepper (finely diced)
  • juice from 1-2 limes (added just before serving)

The Prep

Herb Bouquet Branzino:

  • Rinse and pat dry the fish. Score the fish diagonally on both sides of the skin, this will allow it to cook evenly. Rub inside and out with the oil, season with salt, pepper, and fennel seeds. Stuff the cavity with the limes slices and herbs. Wrap the exterior of the fish with more herbs and tie with twine. Refrigerate until you are ready to grill.
  • Heat the grill to medium high heat and oil it liberally. Add the fish and cook with the lid down for 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5.
  • Check to see that it is cooked through and opaque.

Chive Parsley Sauce:

  • Combine above ingredient in a food processor pulse to a rough consistency.
  • Set aside in a bowl.
  • Add the lime just prior to serving
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