This Asheville chef uses local produce to blend New Orleans and North Africa in the kitchen

In his six years at Rhubarb in Asheville, North Carolina, chef de cuisine Davis Taylor has worked with a range of Appalachian ingredients, sourced from local farmers and foragers. His roots on the Gulf Coast, though, have influenced what he does with those ingredients. “I grew up in south Alabama, and that’s kind of the food that is close to me personally, that I love,” he says.

Chef Davis Taylor

In the spring, Rhubarb receives a seasonal bounty of both wild and cultivated local greens—herbs, ramps, cresses—which put Taylor in mind of a creole Cajun dish he’s been making for a long time: gumbo z’herbes, or green gumbo, made famous by chef Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine. “It goes back to Holy Week Soup and potage aux herbes—these green herb soups that people would eat during Lent after Fat Tuesday,” Taylor says. “A lot of that made it over to the New Orleans area by [way of] French and German settlers, where it was adopted by Creole and Cajun cooks. It was basically gumbo-fied, if you will.”

To honor those traditions each spring, Taylor adapts Rhubarb’s classic tomato-based shakshuka to a green gumbo base. In the gumbo, he combines lighter greens like wild sochan, which has floral, celerylike flavors, with heartier greens such as cabbage and collards, along with aromatics like ramps and garlic.

When sourcing ingredients for this dish, Taylor recommends visiting your farmers market and picking up whatever fresh, local greens you can find—or foraging for them yourself with the aid of a book. (Southeast Foraging by Chris Bennett, Timber Press, 2015, is a favorite.) He says not to worry if you can’t find everything; the flavors are overlapping and can stand up to a few substitutions or omissions. “Coming out of the winter, when you’re eating root vegetables and country ham, preserved things and heavy things, it’s really nice to find a way to put 20 different herbs in your body at once.”

Get the Recipe: Green Gumbo Shakshuka

FPC Rhubarb

Green Gumbo Shakshuka

Key Ingredient

Eatymology: Gumbo z’Herbes

A greens-laden gumbo traditional in Louisiana’s Catholic communities during Lent

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