Green Thumb Gourmet

Katherine Taylor inherited her green thumb from her mother, Kitty Chew. A flair for floral artistry got passed down as well. Both ladies, who hail from Birmingham, have practiced the whole gamut of gardening over the years. Kitty, opposite right, arranged wedding flowers before she and her husband moved to Fairhope in 1995. Katherine had a large, glorious garden in the mountains of Asheville, N.C., before joining her mother in Fairhope six years ago at their shop Jubilee Flowers. They work together to create English garden-style arrangements and bouquets for weddings and special events around the area. Fitting, since Kitty, a master gardener, studied at the Constance Spry Flower School in England.

“We want it to look like we’ve gone out in the yard and picked the flowers and made an arrangement. It’s loose, light and airy. We go all around and cut it ourselves, or we grow it. I use everything on my property, ” Kitty says.

To add a special touch, they’ll often tuck fresh herbs, such as oregano or rosemary, into an arrangement. Those garden-grown herbs, along with an array of others in containers just outside Katherine’s backdoor, work similar magic in her healthy, fresh cooking.

Savory Stuffed Mushrooms

These tasty stuffed mushrooms may be served as hors d’oeuvres or a side. Katherine says a little cheese inside makes a delicious, unexpected surprise.

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1 pound mushrooms (Large ones work the best)
1 cup finely chopped onions
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
feta or goat cheese, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rinse mushrooms well and pat dry. Remove the stems by scooping them out with a small spoon.
3. Chop stems and set aside.
4. In a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for about 8 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. 
5. Stir in the chopped mushroom stems and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes or so.
6. Add the basil, parsley, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly, and set aside.
7. In a mixing bowl, combine the sherry and soy sauce.
8. Toss mushroom caps in the sauce to thoroughly coat.
9. Place a pinch of cheese in each mushroom cap. Then fill each with the sautéed breadcrumb mixture.
10. Arrange stuffed mushrooms on a nonstick or very lightly oiled or sprayed baking pan and bake, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes, until mushrooms begin to release their juices and filling is browned and crunchy. Serve hot. Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish or appetizer.

Festive Pesto

Katherine likes to serve the tangy sauce in dollops atop beans, quesadillas and grilled fish. It can also be served as a dandy dip by adding avocados and lemon juice. Or try it as a condiment on a Prosciutto Caprese Panino.

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup whole almonds or walnuts 
1 small fresh jalapeño pepper,  coarsely chopped
garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Place all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor.
2. Mix until everything is well chopped. Then slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream to form a fairly smooth paste. Pesto will keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks. Keep in an airtight container and cover with a thin layer of oil, if desired, to prevent discoloring. Makes 1 cup.

Prosciutto Caprese Panino

2 thin slices prosciutto (May substitute bacon)
2 slices sourdough bread or 1 ciabatta roll, halved
olive oil
Festive Pesto, to taste (Recipe below)
2 – 3 fresh basil leaves
1 heirloom tomato (or other tomato of your choice), sliced into 1/4” slices
salt and pepper, to taste
2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat electric panini press to medium-high heat (375 degrees).
2. If desired, for added crunch, place the prosciutto on the preheated panini press, close the lid and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain.*
3. Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. On the other side of each slice, spread Festive Pesto, above.
3. With the olive oil side down, layer basil leaves and tomatoes. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.
4. Layer fried prosciutto and mozza-
rella and top with other slice of bread.
5. Grill sandwich for 3 – 4 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve immediately and enjoy! Makes 1 sandwich.
* For less crunchiness, prosciutto may be layered on sandwich without cooking first.

Orzo with Fresh Herbs

This quickly prepared dish releases a lovely fragrance when hot pasta warms the fresh herbs and extra-virgin olive oil. The recipe can easily be doubled.

6 – 8 cups water 
1 cup orzo
1 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (thyme, chives, garlic chives,  basil, sage, oregano, parsley,  marjoram, chervil, tarragon)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring water to a boil in a large covered pot.
2. Stir in orzo and cook for about 7 minutes, until al dente.
3. Place the herbs, oil, salt and pepper in a serving bowl.
4. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the bowl. Toss well and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Mung Bean Soup

1 tablespoon virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-3 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3 serrano peppers, seeded and minced (reserve seeds if you want to make the soup extra spicy or discard)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup dried mung beans, washed and rinsed
5 cups of water or vegetable stock
1/2 can lite coconut milk
1 cup minced fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste

1. In a large pot, over medium heat, add oil and saute the onions, garlic, and ginger. Then add the serrano peppers, turmeric, cumin, curry powder and garam masala.
2. Stir until fragrant, about one minute. Then add the dried mung beans, water or vegetable stock and coconut milk.
3. Bring to a boil and simmer 30-45 minutes, until the beans are very tender. They will seem to fall apart. (Partway through the cooking time, you will want to check the spiciness of the soup. If you'd like more spice, add some or all of the reserved seeds from the serrano peppers.)
4. Right before serving, stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Taste the soup again and season with salt to bring out the flavors. Serves 6-8.


Raw Chocolate Pudding

Top with fresh blueberries, strawberries or raspberries for a fun breakfast. For added protein, sprinkle with a few chopped nuts or raw hulled hemp seeds. Edible flowers are perfect for toppings as well.

1 ripe banana
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder
berries, to garnish

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides with a spatula so that it is pureed throughout. Serve immediately with berries. Serves 1 – 2.

8 Tips for Maximizing Garden Growth

Here, find Kitty and Katherine’s tried and true words of wisdom.

  • Know your growing zones. Choose plants that grow well in this climate. We are Coastal South but can also get away with some Tropical South plants.
  • Amend your soil. It’s the most important thing a gardener can do, no matter where you live. In our local sandy soil, it increases the capacity for holding water and nutrients. (Katherine and Kitty suggest using organic compost; they make their own.)
  • Mulch with composted leaf materials. (Use bagged leaves; they’re free.) This will keep soil from drying out and add extra nutrients as mulch decomposes.
  • Look for worms. They are a telltale sign of good soil.
  • Take time every day to inspect your plants. Then you’ll notice if they have bugs, need watering, or need more shade or sun.
  • Don’t work in the garden after a rain or watering. Touching and pruning plants when they are wet will spread disease and fungus.
  • Notice which plants do best in your garden, and where they are the happiest. If tomatoes flourish, then grow more.
  • You may have to kill a plant to grow a plant. If one dies, try again in a different place or a different pot. It’s a learning process.

text by Sallye Irvine • photos by Ashley Rowe

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