Art in the Landscape
Art In the Landscape: Series Part IV
By Mary & Hugh Williamson
The Kitchen Garden? It’s an old, functional idea with incredible contemporary applications. Once the hobby of affluent royals, the results of your reinvention of this stunning landscape art will be the pleasure of your guests as they discover that the spectacular dinner prepared for them was wrapped, infused and inspired by the herbs, fruits and vegetables cultivated in your kitchen garden. Every course, soup to dessert, will present new excitement and interest that will add to your personal entertaining brand.
Typical vertical vegetable gardens? Decidedly not. Are these spectacular pungent and extravagantly beautiful versions of the ‘potager’ viable on South Florida terraces and decks? Definitely yes. And, of course, when incorporated into large and meaningful estates, they are stunning.
What are kitchen gardens and what is their historical and current importance? In France it is called a potager; in Scotland, a kailyyaird; in Italy, an orto; and in England, a kitchen garden. Originally these were walled and separated from the residential gardens. They provided all the vegetables, herbs, flowers and garnishes needed for the table of the extended family and their guests. Kitchen gardens and the magic they produce can inspire menus, or your favorite recipes and entrées can inspire the plantings! Lemon grass chicken? Rosemary lamb? Maybe with some mint sauce?
A Royal Precedent
Queen Victoria’s Consort Prince Albert conceived and designed the circa 1850 kitchen garden at Windsor Palace, the royal couple’s favorite residence. The garden was over 22 acres, and the art of kitchen gardening was reinforced as ‘gentleman’s recreation.’ The plans for elaborate state dinners were often months in the making.
The Royal kitchen, which produced the succulent dishes afforded by the garden’s produce, was expansive. Kitchen gardens have historically included undulating, heated ‘peach walls,’ pineries to host pineapples, and covered orangeries. While picturesque, they are rarely needed in our nearly yearlong South Florida growing season. However, kitchen garden walls and trellises can be beautiful, and in our Zone 9 climate, they do not require the flues and heaters!
Consider a rosemary hedge; easy to grow and beautiful to look at. It will be an incredibly fragrant addition to your estate, garden or patio. It also makes a splendid maze or can be incorporated into an intricate knot garden.
A delectable repast that features this amazing herb can include the swordfish and rosemary main course conceived by celebrated restaurateur, Venice-born Nino Pernetti of Caffe Abbracci in Coral Gables. Another delectable choice would be Chef Pernetti’s beef tenderloin with aromatic herbs, including fresh rosemary and oregano.
Since 1988, Chef Pernetti has been catering to his elite, expectant clientele at his Aragon Avenue location while defining the updated art of coupling herbs and local fare. His recipes include shrimp, swordfish, mussels and oysters combined with selections of fennel, basil, peppers, mushrooms, oregano and mint –- all herbs and vegetables very conducive to a beautiful kitchen garden of any size. The results are great success and surprise, and can be as important to your residential dining as they are to this Coral Gables institution.
Nino Pernetti’s fabulous “Crostini with Pear and Prosciutto” appetizer can be the inspiration for a pear espalier, or a series of dwarf pear trees, happily thriving in containers on your balcony or patio. Dwarf trees became popular in the 18th century, and Keiffer, Orient and Pineapple pears can be very successful in South Florida. Bartlett pears can be substituted with any local soft pear. Your landscape gardener will know how to prune and nurture these bearers of wonderful resources for your table. The recipe is easy and will be greeted with the enthusiastic reviews of your guests.
Crostini with Pear and Prosciutto
Crostini di Pera e Prosciutto
By Nino Pernetti
2 ripe but firm Bartlett or Comice pears, unpeeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges each
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 tablespoon soft mild goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
2 tablespoons whole milk
16 1/4-inch-thick slices French baguette, lightly toasted
16 thin slices Italian prosciutto
4 julienned cups radicchio
Bring enough water to boil in a saucepan to cover the pear wedges and boil the pears for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from water. Let them cool to room temperature.
In a blender, combine the cheeses and millk to form a spreadable mixture. Spread the mixture evenly over each baguette slice.
Place 1 pear wedge on each baguette slice and cover with a prosciutto slice. Serve on a plate with the julienned radicchio. Serves 4.