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Athena Calderone Shares Her Easter Tips And Mustard Spiced Rubbed Lamb Chops With Mint Salsa Over Couscous Recipe

Nicole Barylski

Athena Calderone, lifestyle inspiration, cookbook author, recipe developer, and interior design expert, has a home in Amagansett. (Photo: Alison Wedewer)

"Of all the sweet celebrations surrounding Easter — getting gussied up, dyeing eggs, consuming tons of candy and more — brunch has to be one of our favorites. It's a fun, delicious start to the morning and a lovely way to ring in spring," Athena Calderone, Eyeswoon founder, Cook Beautiful author, recipe developer, and interior design expert, shared. "Besides, gotta fuel up before embarking on that Easter egg hunt, right?"

Calderone's celebration will bring her and her loved ones to the East End. "Our family spends Easter weekend in Amagansett, in a small community called Barnes Landing. Our traditional has become a pot luck brunch with a group of friends," she noted. "I often tend to make a frittata using the seasons abundant greens and veggies. Since I grew up in Long Island, mid-day I head on over to my extended families house for a huge Italian-American gathering replete with 20+ cousins and aunts + kiddos. We cook a feast including all those vibrant veggies and of course the season's obligatory lamb chops practically beg to be flame-kissed."

When hosting, Calderone embraces simplicity. "I believe in simple ideas, thoughtfully executed. This certainly holds true for the food I create where the core value is fewer high-quality ingredients. You don't need much to create something truly delicious or beautiful," she explained. "And it also rings true for the tablescapes I swoon over creating. I actually have a formula: keep your ideas to a minimum. With both food and décor, I seem to stick to the same five essentials re-interpreted, recreated and reimagined for each new event and meal."

Calderone's essentials include:

 • Let the season inspire you.
 • Pick a palette inspired by your surroundings.
 • Aim to create a true 'wow' - a really unexpected or unique moment.
 • Stay simple in your execution.
 • And always create layers and textures.

"Those guiding principles apply to everything I approach. Inside and out. Over and over," she encouraged. "With this philosophy in mind, I set out to concept Easter ideas for entertaining. I always want something pastel and soft for the palette to represent spring's subtle hues."

As for decor, Calderone often utilizes the beauty of the East End. "In any manner of design, from room to table, I often incorporate a nod to my surroundings. A great way to do this is with nature — especially in spring, when the earth comes alive. I love looking to the natural world to inspire my menu and tablescape. Using spring vegetables in my cooking but also in my décor," Calderone said. "Clipping branches from outdoors or using herbs on the table, I even love to use spring abundant artichokes scattered onto my table - they are a flower after all! I set out blooming quince branches in my home and use some of the season's vegetables as décor on my tablescape. This is spring. With its plentiful and perky everything, the season just begs me to stop, breathe, and take a moment to pause and appreciate all that surrounds me."

And, as the earth comes alive, the beautiful seasonal bounty does too. "For Easter and spring -- I always THINK PINK -- in my menu from rhubarb and radishes to the décor like rose-gold flatware and pale blush glasses. Even cherry blossom and quince branches follow suit with their blush dainty blooms - in a simple glass vessel, branches offer sculptural verticality and drama to a room or tables cape. When using pink in your décor avoid an overly precious vibe by sticking to subtle shades and using them sparingly," she relayed. "For the freshest look on the table, choose a background of crisp white and add verdant pops of green."

"Spring is all about clean, fresh flavors. To mirror that in the décor I often ditch the idea of a vase altogether and laid leafy green vines or seeded eucalyptus directly on the white linen tablecloth, accentuating their wild, twisty nature by weaving them among the candlesticks and glassware," she added.

Herbs can also make a unique table addition. "This time of year, when herbs and microgreens are so abundant, it seems only natural to include them on the table, as well as in the food," she said. "I love to create fragrant bundles of herbs tied with twine or even small potted herbs planted in dainty ceramic pots delicately sprouting - both option serve as chic place card holders and thoughtful parting gifts that speak to the season."

For those than plan on incorporating a DIY Easter egg project, she offers a fun alternative that boasts ingredients you might already have at home. "There is something subtly swoony about the soft hue that naturally dyed Easter eggs achieve," Calderone noted. "Both eco- conscious and inexpensive. Try a homespun DIY approach by dying eggs using natural ingredients like cabbage, beets and turmeric."

Athena's Mustard Spiced Rubbed Lamb Chops with Mint Salsa Over Couscous. (Photo: Johnny Miller)

Athena's Mustard Spiced Rubbed Lamb Chops with Mint Salsa Over Couscous:

"This is a dish that is worthy of a celebratory occasion like Easter. Each of the components is silly yummy on its own—the mustard spice-rubbed lamb chops, the minty salsa with the tang of Maille's Dijon, the currant-spiked couscous—but something magical happens when they all come together. It's all about that perfect bite!" Calderone said.

Serves 4

For the mint salsa verde:

 • 1 ½ cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
 • ¾ cup lightly packed Italian parsley
 • 2 garlic cloves, minced
 • 1 ½ tablespoons shallot, finely diced
 • ¼ teaspoon minced habanero chili
 • ¾ cp extra-virgin olive oil
 • 1 tablespoon Maille dijon originale
 • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
 • Salt and freshly ground pepper

For currant couscous:

 • 3 tablespoons dried currants
 • ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
 • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
 • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
 • 1 garlic clove, chopped
 • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed
 • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
 • 1 cup couscsous
 • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
 • Salt and freshly ground pepper

For lamb chops:

 • 8 bone-in lamb rib chos
 • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
 • 2 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds
 • 2 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
 • 2 teaspoons Maille Old Style Mustard whole grain mustard
 • Salt and freshly ground pepper

First, make the salse verde: Finely chop the parsley and mint. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Make the couscous: Place the currants in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion in translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and toast for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boi. Add the couscous, over the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and remove from heat. Let stand, undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.

While the couscous stands, make the mustard-spice rub for the lamb chops: Crush the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a heavy knife. Add Maille whole grain mustard, cumin and coriander seeds and set aside.

Drain the currants. Add them to the couscous with the pine nuts and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Now, make the lamb: Rub the chops on all sides with the spice mixture and season generously with salt. Preheat the grill over medium-high heat, about 400 degree Fahrenheit. Grill the chops until they are lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Rest, tented with foil, for five minutes, allowing the juices to reabsorb.

Serve the chops with the couscous. Drizzle with the salsa verde. Serve with the remaining salsa verde on the side.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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