Athena Calderone is an interior designer, chef, entertaining expert, and creator of award-winning lifestyle site EyeSwoon. Deemed "The modern girl’s Martha Stewart" by New York Times T Magazine, she is recognized and respected by culinary, fashion, and design worlds alike. Her first cookbook, Cook Beautiful, is to be released October 10 by Abrams Books.
Karen Mordechai, the creator and visionary behind Sunday Suppers, had been someone I admired greatly from afar for many years. As I began my cookbook-creating process she became a sounding board—Karen was forthcoming and supportive with boundless advice.
More recently, over the past few months, (counter-intuitive since Karen moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles this year!), we have become fast friends. While we initially bonded over our shared love of aesthetics and feeding our loved ones wholesome, simple food, we soon discovered another commonality – an obvious neurosis in having everything just so. Oh yes, the two of us like things in a particular way. Wanna call us control freaks? Go right on ahead. We admit it. We see it all, hear it all, and we have our hands all over it all, at all times.
Thankfully the particular way Karen likes just about everything she touches is with a grace and a beauty all her own. It is simple yet nuanced and never overly manipulated.
“My eye tends to like negative space and clean lines, I enjoy the play between color and space—and I love finding that balance,” she says. This balanced beauty Karen creates grasps hold of you and draws you in. It is experienced each time you step inside Sunday Suppers or peruse her Instagram account. She is steadfastly consistent and it has allowed her to build an unbelievable brand and following.
Now Karen has poured her swoony point of view into a two-part anthology and resource for cooking seasonally and simply. The first volume, Simple Fare: Spring and Summer, was released just last week. To celebrate, I was fortunate to step inside her breathtaking kitchen to create the most fantastic mushroom toast. Stocked with simple, high-quality ingredients, we got cooking.
Sliced and diced with a little laughter in between, sautéed and brightened with some white wine, citrus, and thyme, in less that 30 minutes we savored some remarkably flavorful little nuggets. Nuanced indeed, they were packed with bold yet subtle flavor, creamy with that surprise bit of crème fraîche and bright thanks to just the right hint of acid. The morsels were reminders to not overthink and over-manipulate our food. And to let beauty be beauty. Let what's natural and at its peak shine.
In Simple Fare, Karen shares something she has experienced firsthand: Food has the power to connect people and cultures. I could not agree more. In fact, I express this very sentiment in my own book.
Karen also shares the importance of cooking every meal for her family (no an easy feat, to be sure), the value of knowing where her food comes from (she supports farmers and local purveyors), and the belief that cooking simply can help us eat well amidst the challenges of everyday life. In sharing her story with recipes that are accessible yet aspirational, she is inspiring us to create our own.
She writes, “Cook with your season, and in your way. Be malleable with what the market offers you. Have freedom and lightness in your kitchen; it’s a wonderful place to be.” I thank you, Karen, for offering us the tools to get cooking in earnest, simply, seasonally, and beautifully, with Simple Fare.
By Karen Mordechai
• 2 Thick slices sourdough bread
• 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
• 2 garlic cloves, halved
• 1 tablespoon salted butter
• 2 bunches beech mushrooms, separated
• 2 or 3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
• 1/2 cup (120 ml) Sancerre wine
• 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons creme fraiche, good-quality store-bought or homemade
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon truffle oil
• Cyprus flake salt
1. Heat a grill to high or a grill pan over high heat. Brush the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. (Alternatively, toast the bread in a preheated 400°F/205°C oven for 5 minutes, until crisp) Rub the toast with 1/2 of a garlic clove for flavor.
2. In a medium skillet, heat the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the remaining garlic, the mushrooms, and most of the thyme and sauce for about 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in the creme fraiche right before serving and season with salt and pepper.
3. Top each piece of toast with some of the mushrooms and a bit of sauce. Garnish with lemon zest, the truffle oil, the remaining thyme, and flaky salt.
Photography by Sarah Elliot
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Published on April 25, 2017