Athena Calderone cooks with internationally acclaimed chefs, hosts stunning dinner parties for luxury publications, and showcases it all on EyeSwoon, an online destination for food, fashion, and design. And in Cook Beautiful, she’s revealing the secrets to preparing and presenting gorgeous meals. Included are 100 seasonal recipes with step-by-step advice on everything from prep to presentation—from artfully layering a peach and burrata salad, to searing a perfect steak. Organised by season, each section ends with a menu for entertaining and ideas for table decor. Following in the tradition of EyeSwoon, this book is where design meets food, where culinary tradition marries food styling, where home chefs become experts. These are beautiful, tasteful dishes to make for friends and family, with advice that will inspire you to create visually stunning, and still wholly delicious, culinary masterpieces.
The following is an extract from Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone (ABRAMS Books)
THE WINTER TABLE
Rather than mourn winter’s waning light, embrace the darkness with lush, moody décor and a warm, cosy vibe. Here, saturated grey linen, rumpled for added texture, serves as the backdrop for simple black ceramics, mismatched brass candlesticks, and a rambling arrangement of delicate flowers and ferns. A handmade touch—no matter how small—is the best way to add warmth to a table. For this meal at home with friends, I made ink-stained paper menu cards, adorning them with fragrant eucalyptus leaves. The overall feel is intimate, refined, and just a little decadent—like the perfect winter meal.
N o . 1
O N T H E M E N U
There are few things more festive than handwritten menus—even when they’re not actually written by hand. Rather than hiring a calligrapher, select a scrolling script font and pop some pretty paper into your printer. Here, I used watercolour paper, tearing the edges and dabbing on watered-down ink, which bleeds to form a subtle, organic pattern.
N o . 2
W E L L S E A S O N E D
During citrus season, I love to flavour sea salt with a blend of zest and herbs. My recipe not only livens up roast fish or poultry, it also serves as a mouth-watering memento of the meal for guests to take home.
N o . 3
D A R K M AT T E R
We change our wardrobes with the seasons, so why not our dishes? These days, investing in darker, moodier place settings for winter isn’t particularly pricey. Chic—and cheap!—pieces can be found at stores like West Elm, CB2, and even IKEA.
N o . 4
L E T T H E R E B E L I G H T S
A matched pair of candlesticks in the middle of your table can feel a little predictable. Instead, add visual interest—and set a casual, modern mood—with an odd-numbered grouping of vintage finds in a variety of heights and styles. Dark-colored tapers are an especially cosy touch on cold nights.
N o . 5
S P I C E T H I N G S U P
Whole spices like nutmeg, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon are too beautiful to keep hidden away in a drawer. And, especially during the holiday season, their sweet, warm scents feel festive without being overpowering. Here, I used the sculptural little gems to decorate a side table, alongside spicy sachets that guests can use at home to simmer mulled wine.
N o . 6
P R I Z E R I B B O N S
Words to live by: Never pass up a spool of pretty ribbon. If you keep some on hand, you’ll find many lovely ways to use it, from holding together cutlery to binding bouquets—and, of course, tying up presents. Velvet varieties add elegant texture and subtle sheen to winter décor.
N o . 7
W R A P S TA R
Gauzy linen, available at most fabric stores, can serve as a beautiful and unexpected alternative to wrapping paper. Simply cut or tear a large square—leaving the edges unfinished—place a gift in the centre, and form a loose knot on top, tucking in a few green sprigs for a decorative touch.
N o . 8
C I R C L E O F L I F E
Get the look of a handmade wreath without the hassle of starting from scratch by purchasing the simplest evergreen option from your local market or nursery and embellishing it with seed pods, ornamental berries, feathers, sprigs, and other foraged finds.
N o . 9
S AY C H E E S E
When artfully composed, a cheese plate can double as table décor. The most inviting platters feel abundant, so fill in vacant areas with fresh or dried fruit. The cheeses themselves should look natural and gooey. Break up any pristine wedges by hacking off a few messy chunks and let soft cheese sit at room temperature until properly runny.
Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone is out now, find out more here.