Fit and Fresh

What started as a simple friendship between two former chefs and foodies has burgeoned into big business for Marian Titlestad and Sarah Clark, the dynamic duo behind Bay Gourmet Catering. Both had essentially left the restaurant business when they met years ago through a mutual friend. “We would hang out and make dinner and whatnot together, ” Titlestad says. “I was helping my husband, Tuan, remodel houses and working in The Bakery Market. Sarah was at law firms and not enjoying it, so she brought up the idea of starting a catering business. We made up our own little flyers and menus and mailed them out to everyone in the Junior League directory and on my wedding list. And, here we are today — 10 years later, going strong!

The business has flourished during the past decade because Bay Gourmet dishes up what Mobilians like to eat — great Southern food, yet often with an unexpected twist. Clark says when they started they would set up a shrimp and grits station (always a local favorite), but they would also serve something slightly exotic such as beef satay. “We wanted to experiment with  something more modern, more fusion. We do Thai, Indian, Creole and Italian as well as the perennially popular tomato toast points and cheese straws. “People are much more into food, ” Titlestad says. “They watch the Food Network and are more aware of options.”

In the past year or so they’ve had more requests, “especially from the younger generation and our brides, ” for lighter, healthier fare. Titlestad, a vegetarian for the past 23 years, encourages adding a few meatless dishes. Bay Gourmet also does brisk business with their takeout foods including soups, sides, appetizers and casseroles. Clark says it is home cooking made convenient. “It’s all made fresh here.”

Apricot Ginger Chicken Salad

Ginger adds unexpected, exotic flavor to this sensational take on a Southern staple, opposite.

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2 – 4 cups cooked chopped chicken (white meat only)
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup julienned carrots
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
Apricot Ginger Dressing, see below
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced into ribbons
wonton chips or Chinese noodles, for garnish (optional)

1. Mix chicken, apricots, green onions, carrots and cilantro in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Toss the chicken mixture with Apricot Ginger Dressing and serve on top of romaine ribbons.
3. Garnish with wonton chips or crunchy Chinese noodles, if desired. Serves 4.

Apricot Ginger Dressing

1 (10-ounce) jar apricot preserves
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons grated
fresh ginger

Combine preserves, vinegar and ginger in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until melted. Let mixture cool. Makes approximately 1 cup. Salad and dressing approximately 319 calories a serving.

Shrimp, Avocado, Roma Tomato Salad

Perfect for cooks who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, this convenient dish doubles as a salad or as an appetizer served with chips.

1 pound of fresh Gulf shrimp, peeled, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 medium ripe avocados, peeled and diced
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 2 limes
sea salt

1. Mix the shrimp, avocados, Roma tomatoes, red onion and cilantro in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Combine with fresh lime juice and season with the salt to taste.
3. Serve on a bed of greens or as an appetizer with baked wonton or tortilla chips. Serves 4. Approximately 304 calories a serving.

Crab, Mango, Cucumber Salad With White Balsamic Dressing and Toasted Almonds

This bright and sassy salad offers a delightful array of textures and tastes. It is ideal for spring or summer entertaining.

1 pound of lump crabmeat, carefully picked over to remove any shell
2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and cubed
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
4 cups washed fresh mixed greens
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds

1. Carefully combine crabmeat, mangos, cucumber and green onions in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Arrange mixed greens on a salad plate and top with the crabmeat mixture and the toasted almonds.
3. Drizzle the desired amount of White Balsamic Dressing over the top of the salad and serve. Serves 4.

White Balsamic Dressing

1 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil (first cold press, if available)
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
salt and white pepper, to taste
juice of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until dressing emulsifies or has a creamy appearance. Makes approximately 2 cups. Salad and dressing approximately 810 calories a serving.

Roasted Vegetable Napoleon

Prepare this impressive side dish with flavorful, local produce. It also makes a splendid meatless meal.

2 eggplants, skin on, sliced to 1/3 – 1/2-inch thickness
4 large tomatoes, sliced to 1/3 – 1/2-inch thickness
8 medium portobello mushroom caps, stems and gills removed
2 large zucchini squash, sliced to 1/3 – 1/2-inch thickness
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced to 1/3 – 1/2-inch thickness
fresh rosemary sprigs or fresh chopped basil, for garnish (optional but festive)
balsamic vinegar reduction*

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spread sliced eggplants, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini out on baking sheet.
3. Brush lightly with olive oil (may mist with olive oil spray), then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Place in oven and roast vegetables until tender, at least 15 – 20 minutes. (May be grilled, if you prefer.) Allow vegetables to cool. (The vegetables may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for use the next day.)
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Stack a slice of each, adding a slice of mozzarella to create napoleon. Use a skewer to secure stack.
7. Place napoleons on a baking sheet lined with foil, or on a lightly greased glass baking dish. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. 
8. Remove from oven and top with fresh rosemary sprig or fresh chopped basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction.* Serves 4. Approximately 450 calories a serving.

* To make the balsamic reduction bring about 3 cups of balsamic vinegar to a boil in a heavy saucepan, then turn heat down and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally until it is reduced to about 3/4 cup and syrupy.

Sallye Irvine

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