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Food Eyeswoon Kitchen:

Renaissance + Rediscovery in the Kitchen

Photography by Athena Calderone

I can distinctly recall the first summer I began experimenting with flavors in my kitchen: it was July 2007. We had just finished renovating one of many apartments in Dumbo, and for the first time in my urban existence I had a grill, a terrace and an outdoor space to gather overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge and NYC skyline. Everything had come together with symbiotic timing: just as I was welcoming a new network of friends to my home and hosting more and more terrace dinner parties, I was also beginning to play with new flavor combinations, inspired by the booming foodie movement in Brooklyn. Pickling was having a celebrated moment at the time, and I was excited to explore this tangy sour realm as its properties playfully compliment the summer heat. I was discovering new tricks, absorbing shocking flavors and textures within the palette—that and the sheer joy of entertaining in my new kitchen had me on quite the foodie high. Sweet, salty, sour, textured, crunchy and every element in the food took center stage—it was as though something came alive within me—it was a very precious and creative time of discovery.

Since then I have come a long way in the cooking space. Those early days are doubtless what lead me to eyeswoon, but that experimentation has now been replaced with a whole slew of exciting endeavors. Creating swoony collaborations, hosting incredible events, cooking with some of the most amazing chefs and swooning with like-minded tastemakers: the journey has been unbelievable and super-swoony over the past few years.

BUT, something recently reminded me of those early days and I yearned to get back to those bubbling, creative, quieter moments in my kitchen. Just me and my camera—riffing and concocting juxtaposing flavors—not knowing what the final outcome would be. As I sat with a markets-worth of summer produce, pickling came to mind… So I sliced up some ripe ruby red plums, added a dash of this and a sprinkle of that, whipped out the mandolin to sliver some shallots, and boom: I was pickling once again – something quite beautiful, magical, and new was happening. The rest unfolded with swoony splendor as I sliced the remaining veggies I’d scooped up from the farm. Unknowingly, I created the perfect summer salad: sweet, spicy, sour and crunchy, and finished with Good Water Farms swiss chard microgreens to tie in all the beautiful colors and vibrant flavors. I couldn’t have been more excited to get back to those moments of discovery, only now I had the added joy of capturing each step and finding just the right angle, where the light captures the fruit just-so, highlighting its naturally abundant beauty…

Those moments I am propping through the lens, adjusting the napkin, adding a delicate touch of an herb or the zest of lemon to elevate a dish—those are the most spectacular, swoony moments where I am fully absorbed in creating, and loving what I do. And then I get to enjoy the crunchy swoony fruits of my labor!

Pickled Plum Salad

Eyeswoon Kitchen


Pickled Plums:

  • ½ cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 ripe red plums cut into wedges
  • 2 shallots sliced very thin

Veggie Salad:

  • 1 bunch radish sliced into disks then cut into matchsticks
  • 2 mini hothouse english cucumber sliced thin on a mandolin
  • 1 Jicama peeled, then cut into matchsticks (easiest to work with if you cut the jicama in half first)
  • 1 jalapeno sliced thin (optional)
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of cayenne
  • bunch micro greens
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Evoo
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Flaky sea salt

The Prep

Pickled Plums:

  • Whisk first 3 ingredients and water in a small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve.
  • Place plums and shallot in a shallow bowl; pour vinegar mixture over.
  • Toss and let sit at room temperature for 1+ hour.

Veggie Salad:

  • Toss together the jicama, cucumber and radish. Drain the plum and shallot mixture and add to the veggies.
  • Whisk the lime juice, vinegar, oil with the cayenne & paprika; season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour lime juice mixture over veggies. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne. Season generously with salt.
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