Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren

Southern Chef Series



March 2017



Raising the Char: Kevin Gillespie Reimagines His Least Favorite Childhood Foods

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When chef Kevin Gillespie talks about food, he does so passionately. And with a striking combination of respect and knowledge. That red-bearded neighbor of mine can make the most humble head of broccoli seem like an adventure.

So it’s hard to imagine that he was ever a little kid who sat at a dinner table, scowling at broccoli and beets.

View More: he was. To be fair, that broccoli was usually frozen, then microwaved, then covered in processed cheese food. And the beets were both canned and bland. But like so many of us, he grew up, experienced those same foods in new presentations and thought, so this is what it’s supposed to taste like.

At his most recent visit to the Serenbe Chefs Series, Kevin prepared a winter-centric menu including milk-braised pork shoulder, saffron risotto, roasted pears with honey mousse and this pickled beet and charred broccoli salad.

I adore Kevin. He is Southern to his core and as good a person as he is a chef. So in many respects, I’m biased. But this salad is genius in its combination of pickled and charred. It makes sense in the same way we put pickles on a grilled burger, but in a much lighter, brighter way.

Pickled Beet and Charred Broccoli Salad

  • Serves 4
  • 4 beets, baseball-sized, about 2 pounds
  • 1 ½ cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup pickling spice
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 4 inches long
  • 1 pod star anise
  •  1 fist-size crown of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • ¼ cup (two ounces) fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup frisée, trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 fresh grinds black pepper
  • ¼ cup (two ounces) feta cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin seed oil

Peel the beets, slice off the tops and roots, and cut the beets into 1-inch wedges.

In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, combine the red wine vinegar, sugar, pickling spice, cinnamon and star anise. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves, about two minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and let the spices steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid, discarding the spices. Return the liquid to the pot, add the beets and bring to a boil over high heat. Cut the heat down so that the liquid simmers, and cook for 10 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and let the beets cool in the liquid; they will finish cooking as they cool.

Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over high heat until smoking hot. Drop half of the broccoli florets into the dry skillet, being careful not to crowd the pan. After about 30 seconds, toss the florets and continue tossing as they char and cook, about 2 ½ minutes total. The tender florets will char easily, which is good; you want that smoky flavor. Transfer the first batch to a plate and repeat with the remaining broccoli. Refrigerate the charred broccoli until read to serve.

In a small bowl, whisk the goat cheese, lemon juice, water and a large pinch of salt until smooth. In a separate bowl, toss the frisée with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Drain the beets and discard the pickling liquid. Place the beets in a third bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and 3 grinds of black pepper. In a fourth bowl, toss the chilled charred broccoli with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 2 grinds of black pepper. Yes, I realize you’ve got four separate bowls; it’s imperative that the components stay separate until they are plated. You don’t want the ingredients to mingle because each item brings a specific flavor, texture and color to the final dish.

Divide the beets evenly among four plates. Top with the broccoli, the frisée and the crumbled feta. Drizzle on the goat cheese mixture and finish with a few drops of pumpkin seed oil around the outside of the plate.



February 2015



Linton Hopkins: A Man with A Can and a Plan

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous, Southern Chef Series, Southern Chefs Series

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As the founding partner of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, past president of the Southern Foodways Alliance and board member of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, Linton Hopkins believes deeply in preservation—of culture, tradition and food.

That’s why the man who practices and preaches the gospel of seasonality in his home and many Atlanta restaurants—including Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and The Café at Linton’s in the Atlanta Botanical Garden—stood in my kitchen during his visit to the Chefs Series a few week ago and made a soup with canned tomatoes.

Like me, Linton believes tomatoes are only for summer. But in soup season, when fresh tomatoes are little more than a memory, he reaches for a can opener and 28 ounces of San Marzanos.

But of course it was much more than that. Linton is high energy, incredibly passionate about food and a charming teacher. So the participants and I got a fascinating lesson in DOP, or a special certification that guarantees that the tomatoes are the San Marzano variety.

He wanted everyone to learn how to break down a duck, so he brought a duck for everyone and we had duck breast with persimmon bacon chutney and rutabaga gratin. We made cashew cheese, a shaved root vegetable salad and tarte tatin. But my favorite was that tomato soup—so simple, so delicious—topped with basil pesto and olive bread croutons. So many ways to have a great meal when fresh produce is in its slowest season.

Linton Hopkins’ Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sliced yellow onion
  • 4 cups San Marzano canned tomatoes
  • ½ bay leaf
  • 1 each thyme sprig
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  1. Sweat the onions and garlic slowly in oil and butter over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato, bay leaf, thyme and salt.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until tomatoes soften.
  4. Add water and cook another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove thyme and bay leaf and puree in batches.
  6. To plate: pour tomato soup into bowl and top with basil pesto and olive bread croutons.



August 2012



Serenbe Southern Chefs Series Brings Back Anne Quatrano

Written by , Posted in Abattoir, Anne Quatrano, Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chef Series, Star Provisions

The Serenbe Southern Chefs Series welcomed back Anne Quatrano, the powerhouse behind such Atlanta institutions as Bacchanalia, Abattoir, Floataway Café, and StarProvisions.  
Chef Christopher Schmidt of Floataway Cafe
preparing homemade ravioli.
Anne brought her expertise to my kitchen on July 8 and 9 and delighted her students with a menu of tantalizing dishes for Sunday evening’s class: roasted, marinated beets with goat cheese (see recipe below); egg yolk and ricotta ravioli with summer squash and zucchini (see photo left); pan-roasted north Georgia trout with Carolina Gold rice risotto and caponata; and peach brown butter tart.  
Christopher Schmidt, executive chef of one of Anne’s restaurant’s, Floataway Café, made the preparation of that evening’s meal seem oh-so-simple.

Chef Anne with cheese monger Tim Gaddis
preparing one of several cheese courses.
Monday brought a new day and a twist on the series, with Anne and Tim Gaddis, the cheese monger at Star Provisions, hosting a cheese tasting in place of a cooking demonstration.  The cheese selections were many, varied, and all from artisanal cheese makers in the South.  The accompaniments, which included fresh figs, cured meats, toasted hazelnuts, sautéed fingerling potatoes, caramelized onions, and Serenbe honey, perfectly complimented the cheese selections and, with a salad tossed with Anne’s homemade Green Goddess dressing, made for a satisfying meal. 

It was a privilege to open my kitchen once again to Chef Anne; she is an inspiring and inspired chef.

I think you will enjoy her roasted beets.  The flavors and colors of the ingredients were brilliant together.  Enjoy!

Roasted, Marinated Beets with Caly Road Little Stone Mountain Goat Cheese

½ pound Caly Road Little Stone Mountain Goat Cheese (or similar)

3 pounds medium sized ruby queen or Chioggia beets

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup honey

2 cups water

salt and black pepper

2 avocados, peeled and sliced

1 cup fresh blackberries

¼ cup toasted pistachios

½ cup baby arugula

Place washed beets in a deep roasting pan.  Fill pan ½ way up the beets with water.  Add vinegar, butter, honey, salt and pepper.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 ½-2 hours or until a knife goes easily into a beet’s center.  Remove from oven and remove from cooking liquid; reserve cooking liquid.  Wearing gloves, peel off the exterior skin and quarter beets while still warm.  Strain the cooking liquid through a chinois, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss beets with reserved cooking liquid.  Serve with fresh goat cheese, avocado, pistachio, blackberries and baby arugula.

Roasted, marinated beets with goat cheese



July 2010



Southern Chef Series with Ford Fry

Written by , Posted in cooking demo, Ford Fry, JCT kitchen, Serenbe Farms, Southern Chef Series

A wonderful day in my kitchen with Ford Fry and a lovely group of guests! I love the Chef series not only for the great food but a get together with a small intimate group is one of my favorite things.

Not only was Ford down to earth and charming but he brought along some truly amazing recipes- Paella, Smoked goat cheese, Pimento cheese, Soft Shelled Crab salad and the best Banana Pudding with homemade Vanilla wafers!

 This time our group was made up of several couples which has been different than previous times. The energy in the room and the instant camaraderie between everyone made for a very special weekend!

Please click Southern Chef Series with Ford Fry to share our wonderful day in pictures.

For a perfect summer salad, here is Ford’s recipe for a Farm Salad of the Moment with “Wooden bowl” dressing.

This salad is whatever looks good at the farmer’s market. It could be anything from: greens, radish, sungold tomatoes, thinly sliced fennel, definitely whole fresh herbs (delicate herbs), beets, raw corn, interesting carrots, shaved celery, boiled farm egg, etc.

“Wooden bowl” dressing

  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 each Meyer lemon (zests and juice)
  • 2 Tbs. GOOD red wine vinegar
  • 5 Tbs. EVOO
  • Kosher or Grey salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
As in a Ceasar salad, begin by forking the garlic clove until finely smashed. Add the mustard and make a paste. Add the Meyer lemon juice, zests, and vinegar and mix well. Slowly, while mixing, drizzle in the olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Toss salad in the dressing an serve.



July 2010



Ford Fry is coming soon!

Written by , Posted in Ford Fry, JCT kitchen, Southern Chef Series

Ford Fry from JCT will be the next chef in the Serenbe Southern Chef Series this weekend, July 11 and 12.

After reading his menu, my mouth is already watering in anticipation of the delicious dishes he has in store for us.

There are a few spaces left for his class, so please join us this weekend. Call the Inn at 770-463-2610 to reserve a place and join us in my kitchen with another of Atlanta’s best Southern food chefs.

Sunday Dinner
Hors d’oeuvre:
The Nygren House-smoked Sweet Grass Dairy goat cheese, roasted mushrooms, Country Toast
Farm salad of the moment, “wooden-bowl” dressing
Black Iron Skillet “Pealla
Sapelo Island clams, Georgia white shrimp, local smoked sausage, poulet rouge, Maine lobster, short grain rice
JCT Rum “sopped” coconut cake
Monday Lunch
Pimento cheese, warm toast, quick pickles
Corn-fried soft shell crab salad, heirloom tomatoes,Serenbe farm whole herbs, bacon-buttermilk dressing
JCT banana pudding, just-made “Nilla” wafers



July 2010



Weekend with Ford Fry

Written by , Posted in Atlanta Dish, inn at serenbe, marie nygren, Southern Chef Series

Well, it has been an AMAZINGLY busy and hectic time at Serenbe for the last two months. I kept meaning to write about it but then the busyness just continued and I’d walk into the house in a daze to get set for the next “adventure.”

So the rumors of my disappearance are not true- except for perhaps our quick getaway to England last week (another whole posting I promise!)- and I am back to the tales of the wonder that is Serenbe. SO much has gone on and I will hope to get it all written down.

I did want to let everyone know that the next chef for the Serenbe Southern Chef series will be at here July 11 and 12. Ford Fry of JCT kitchen is bringing his deliciously simple and fresh Southern cuisine to my kitchen next week. For those of you who have dined at JCT, you know what a treat this will be. Plus, Serenbe Farms is at the height of vegetable season so I know Ford will be working wonders with all of Paige’s delicious produce.

There are a few spaces left. Call the Inn today, 770.463.2610 to reserve a great last minute culinary getaway with one of Atlanta’s best chefs. Read more on Atlanta Dish!

Hope to see you next week in my kitchen.  



March 2010



Our wonderful weekend with Kevin Gillespie

Written by , Posted in Kevin Gillespie, marie nygren, serenbe, Southern Chef Series

The 3rd class in the Serenbe Southern Chef Series just ended a few hours ago and was a huge success! Everyone that participated had a great time with Kevin Gillespie from Woodfire Grill. Kevin’s rock chef status was evident in all the delicious recipes he shared with the class.

One aspect of Kevin’s class that I loved was he gave no written instructions with his recipes. He wanted to talk and walk his students through the recipe so that they could understand the process and then make it their own. It was a great way to experience a class because everyone has their own way to cook and he wanted to empower them to do so.

His love of Southern food, inspired by his Granny, is infectious.

He cooked items he would make at home for himself- curry creamed winter squash with dill, braised pork shoulder with mustard,tomato braised collards to name a few. The biggest hit in the 2 day session was the warm banana pudding. It was the best pudding I have ever had and will share the recipe with you in a few days.

Kevin was such a delight in the kitchen. He still is amazed by all the attention he has garnered from the Top Chef show but it hasn’t gone to his head. He just loves Southern  food and all its richness. He is a wonderful ambassador for all that is southern.

He enticed his students with his much anticipated BBQ restaurant set to open next fall. The man loves pork and works magic with it. As with Woodfire, I am sure it will be packed with pork lovers.

I look forward to having him back next year for another class. More pictures and a special recipe will be posted in another day or two when I have a moment to write out the instructions for you since Kevin’s recipes are only ingredients.



February 2010



Kevin in Serenbe!

Written by , Posted in Kevin Gillespie, serenbe, Southern Chef Series

Well, you know you have a hot commodity when friends call and ask: 

“Mind if I stop by next Sunday?”  

Especially friends you didn’t know you have.

It isn’t me they want to see  they just want to meet Kevin. That would be Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef fame and local Celebrity Chef at Woodfire Grill. He starts cooking at Serenbe on Feb.28 and I am very excited about having this amazing young man in my kitchen. Next week, stay tuned for one of Kevin’s special recipes from the weekend.



February 2010



Slow Food

Written by , Posted in "slow food atlanta", serenbe, Southern Chef Series, Watershed

Slow Food is an organization that started in Italy to promote the idea of celebrating the experience of a shared meal with lovingly prepared food- not just a quick fast food bite.

The group received such attention that chapters have been formed all over the world. Atlanta Slow Food is hosting an event that I am excited to tell you about. And it features two of my favorite chefs from our Southern Chef Series, Linton and Kevin.

Slow Food Atlanta is pleased to invite you to 

Sunday, February 21 
7 p.m. 
Watershed Restaurant 
406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. 
Decatur, GA 30030

Join seven of Atlanta’s favorite chefs for an intimate, family-style dinner that pays homage to food memories of the South and raises funds for Slow Food’s Terra Madre Foundation.  In addition to sharing five courses of reinterpreted southern family recipes — each course inspired by a food memory from the preparing chef — guests will enjoy a word from Slow Food International Founder Carlo Petrini on the importance of Terra Madre and the future of Slow Food and a rare performance by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.

Chefs for the dinner include Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene, Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, Kevin Ouzts of The Spotted Trotter, Billy Allin of Cakes & Ale, Scott Peacock of Watershed, and Cathy Conway of Avalon Catering.

Tickets are $150 per person if purchased before Monday, February 15;
Tickets are $175 if purchased after February 15.  
VIP Tickets are $250 per person and include a seat at Carlo Petrini’s table (limited availability).

Purchase your tickets at Proceeds from the dinner will be donated directly to Slow Food’s Terra Madre Foundation.

Sponsored by:



January 2010



Two Days With Linton

Written by , Posted in Linton Hopkins, marie nygren, serenbe, Southern Chef Series

What could be more fun for a Southern foodie than spending 2 days with one of it’s most passionate champions? It was such a pleasure to have Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch) in my kitchen this past Sunday and Monday. He shared not only some of his delicious recipes with us but his extraordinary knowledge about Southern food and it’s history. Stories about sorghum syrup and broken rice, tracing back the origins of some Southern foods.

And then the passion split over into the dishes he came to teach the participants. Braised Beef Short Ribs with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Sautéed Serenbe Farms Spicy Collards, Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Pecan Butter. For lunch Monday, sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi with a country ham broth and wild mushrooms. Linton taught the fine art of how to build a salad and stuff deviled eggs (no boundaries- let your imagination go). We finished with Panna Cotta with Coca Cola Cranberry Chutney.
     Then time with Linton- no pretense, no “rock star” attitude. Just sitting around the table in the good old Southern tradition talking about things you love- good food and friends.

                                It was a delicious time in so many ways.

See my next posting for Linton’s gnudi recipe.