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Books: Excerpt from Kathy G’s ‘Food, Fun and Fabulous’


Kathy G. Mezrano - Food, Fun and Fabulous

The following is an excerpt from Birmingham caterer Kathy G. Mezrano’s “Food, Fun and Fabulous.” Kathy G. and Company has been a city fixture for more than 20 years. Mezrano draws on her Lebanese heritage and Southern roots for her first cookbook, which features recipes and ideas for many party themes. 

In this excerpt, she shares her dishes based on fresh produce from farmers’ markets.

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Chapter 6: Farmer’s Table

The farm-to-table movement basically refers to food that is ultra-fresh. Produce is harvested at the perfect moment — as opposed to picked early and then left to ripen in a box while it gets shipped from who knows where — and other products are sourced just as fresh as can be. This concept is near and dear to my heart. I have a special appreciation for local fresh produce, because my dad had a wholesale produce business for 50 years.

When I was growing up, we always had the freshest produce in season. We were doing farm-to-table long before it was chic. But I’m glad it’s popular now, because what better way to get excited about creating and sharing wonderful meals than going straight to the source. When you start with fresh and delicious ingredients, the rest is a breeze.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

Golden tomatoes are a new twist on a refreshing summertime favorite. You can also use red or green tomatoes. Or try layering all three in a mini-pilsner for a unique presentation. The soup is thick enough that the layers will stay intact beautifully.

Yield: Six to eight 1/2-cup servings

  • 12 ounces fresh ripe yellow tomatoes, cored
  • 2 cups mango puree
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, small diced
  • 1⁄2 medium red onion, small diced
  • 1⁄2 medium white onion, small diced
  • 1⁄2 jalapeño, minced
  • 1⁄2 small zucchini, small diced
  • 1⁄2 small yellow squash, small diced
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lime

In large pot, boil enough water to cover tomatoes. Add tomatoes to boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes to blanch them. Pull them out of the pot, and immediately transfer to ice water. Once cool, peel tomatoes, and cut in half. Gently squeeze over a fine-mesh strainer sitting inside a bowl to remove the seeds. Reserve the juice.

Puree tomatoes and combine with reserved tomato juice and all other ingredients. Season to taste with lime juice and cilantro. Chill and serve.

Okra Casserole with Tomatoes

This is one of my dad’s specialties. He and my mother both loved to cook but, of course, when he cooked, she was the prep chef! Okra is one of my favorite Southern vegetables. It’s so versatile — you can fry it, pickle it, stew it or bake it. People usually love it or hate it, there’s no meeting in the middle, and that’s just fine. If you’re a fan, this is one delicious way to enjoy it.

Yield: 8-10 servings

  • 2 pounds baby okra
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3-4 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon organic chicken base

Wash and trim okra. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent and set aside. Sauté whole baby okra in same pan, add salt and pepper. Remove okra and line it up in rows in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Spread onion and garlic mixture on top of okra. Slice tomatoes in 1⁄2-inch rounds. Arrange on top of the okra mixture. Mix teaspoon of organic chicken base (I like Better Than Bouillon brand) with 1 cup warm water. Pour over mixture, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

corn pudding

Corn Pudding

Corn pudding goes with everything. It’s wonderful with grilled meats, chicken or fish. I like to use a sweet corn such as Silver Queen, but bicolor corn works as well. It may be baked in a buttered casserole dish or in individual ramekins. Be sure to use a water bath when baking.

Yield: 8 servings

  • 8 ears sweet corn
  • 1 Vidalia onion, minced
  • 1 quart half and half
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg, dash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shave corn off the cob and use the back of the knife to scrape all the corn milk. Sauté onions in butter until translucent, add corn and half-and-half, and simmer until tender. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Blend in food processor or blender until smooth and kernels are no longer whole.

Whisk in eggs and pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch buttered casserole dish or ramekins and cover. Place the baking dish into a larger baking dish and add about 1 inch of water to the larger pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until set. Remove cover and bake until crust is golden.

farmer's market pizza

Farmer’s Market Pizza

Everyone loves pizza, and what a great meal for the whole family. Any combination of summer vegetables may be used. I like to add some fresh pesto and garnish with fresh basil just before serving.

Yield: 1 pie

  • Pizza crust (prebaked or dough)
  • Fl
  • 3 tomatoes, variety of heirloom, Roma and globe
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup basil pesto (see below)
  • 2-3 heads of sweet corn, roasted
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • Handful of arugula
  • Handful torn kale
  • 1⁄2 cup Parmesan
  • 1⁄2 Vidallia onion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sprinkle flour onto baking sheet, then lay prebaked pizza crust on top, or roll out pizza dough with a rolling pin before placing on the sheet. Spread pesto over pizza crust.

Cut roasted sweet corn off the cob and spread it over pesto. Cut tomatoes into slices, laying them on top of the pesto and corn. Sprinkle salt and pepper over tomatoes. Add sliced mozzarella and kale leaves to pizza top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish with arugula and Parmesan.

Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 4 cups basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh Parmesan, grated

In food processor, process spinach, basil and garlic, and with processor running, slowly add oil. Pulse in Parmesan, and set aside. Mixture should be thick.

Hit the Produce Stands

Wherever you are, whatever the local produce and products, you can just feel the excitement in the air when the farmers’ markets open in late spring and run through the summer. Here in Birmingham, markets pop up everywhere — in hospital lobbies, corporate parking decks, downtown parks, community developments and Pepper Place Market, which is a personal favorite.

Our farmers grow everything from heirloom tomatoes, Silver Queen corn and okra to rattlesnake beans, lady peas and Chilton County peaches. In addition to the produce, there are farm-fresh, free-range eggs, pork and beef products, Alabama’s McEwen and Sons’ organic grits and cornmeal and other great offerings.

Our local chefs strive to preserve our Southern heritage and work with farmers to support locally grown food. So, if you want farm-to-table inspiration, you have to go to the farm — or at least the fabulous markets. Make a day of it!

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“Food, Fun and Fabulous” (December 2015, Inspired Intermedia)

Kathy G. Mezrano

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