Akin to a baker's dozen, my Farmer's Dozen is a quantity of a dozen or so questions - a series of questions with fellow designers, authors, tastemakers, friends and Southerners alike.

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce my friend, a brilliant author and cook, Gena Knox!  A native of a small town in South Georgia, Gena Knox’s foray into the kitchen came at a young age.  Her daily chores included helping her mom with the family’s meals, and as she got older she began to experiment and learn how to put her stamp on traditional meals.  Influenced by her mom’s love of cooking, the abundance of fresh produce from the garden and the fact that all good meals in her area were home-cooked, Gena embraced all things food and was set on her culinary path.  

     Today, that culinary path has led Gena to author her two cookbooks, Southern My Way: Simple Recipes, Fresh Flavors released in November 2010 and Gourmet Made Simple published in 2008. Southern My Way is a compilation of recipes for traditional Southern dishes that have been updated with a lighter, healthier approach and focus on the use of local ingredients.  With more than 250 pages of full-color photographs and seasonal recipes that have been streamlined for busy lives, this cookbook takes home cooks on a journey through both the South that Gena grew up in and the South she knows today.  Winner of the Southern Independent Book Award as best Southern cookbook and the Eric Hoffer Award, Southern My Way shows Gena’s true passion for food. 


Where do you hail from?   
A very small farming town - Reynolds, Ga  Population is only about 1,000.

If you were a color, what would you be and why?  
I think lavender.  I used it in my daughter's nursery and I am in love with it.  It is so calming and peaceful (which I often need) and looks beautiful indoors or in the garden.

What are some of your favorite heirlooms? What do you love about them? How have you incorporated them into your decor? 
I am obsessed with old linens.  I have several sets of napkins of my husband's grandmothers and I use them at every dinner party.  The monograms are amazing. I have baby girl and my mother-in-law has passed down some beautiful dresses and bonnets that you could not buy today if you tried.

What's your favorite room in your home?  
My kitchen, of course.  It is the center of activity in our home.  Around 6:30 you will find me and my husband pouring a glass of wine, kids are playing on the floor and I am cooking dinner.  My favorite time of the day!

Favorite scent?  
Fresh basil - you can't beat it.  I grow about 6 varieties every summer.

What's growing in your garden?  
Right now we have collards, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, and carrots. I majored in Landscape architecture so gardening, like cooking, is a passion of mine.  I just wish there were more hours in the day to do it.

Where is your favorite get-away?  
I know this is crazy, but with work/travel - I love spending a weekend at home with my family.  Life is so busy so when I can wake up and spend time with my kids instead of rushing off to work - that is a get away to me.

What inspired your book, Southern My Way?  

Of course I love to cook and often times I want something healthy that I can get on the table without spending hours in the kitchen.  I grew up on fried chicken and creamed corn and I really enjoy finding ways to make southern food a little lighter, fresher, and streamlined for our busy lifestyles. Growing up in a small, farming town, I love supporting our local farmers.  My book highlights some amazing farmers and Southern food artisans in between each chapter.  Southern My Way, is my way of bragging about the South and showing non Southerners that we can do more than mac and cheese and fried chicken (even though I love my mama's fried chicken!)

What's your favorite garden flower or plant?
Hydrangeas of all kinds! I have dozens in my yard - all kinds of unique varieties.  Last spring I planted several really big Amethyst Oakleaf Hydrangeas and they are glowing with the most beautiful fall foliage right now. When the mopheads are blooming or beginning to dry towards the end of the summer - I put vases of them all through the house.

What do you call your grandmother? Share a story about her... Maybe tell us about something you've inherited from her. 
Mama Chess - she is still alive, but not doing too well.  She was amazing in the kitchen and her caramel cake will "make you slap your grandmama down" as my daddy always says.  She loved giving lessons on how to make her cake - my mom perfected it and then taught me.

What's the last meal you made at home? Who did you share it with?
Last night I made the shaved brussel sprouts with lemon and pecorino from my cookbook, Southern My Way (see recipe below).  We just returned from Italy for our 10 year anniversary so I make fresh pasta with truffles and roasted mushrooms.  I was just craving truffles and a good glass of Chianti (the region of Italy we stayed in).  I had a dinner party on Friday night and did coffee rubbed flank steak and roasted acorn squash, green bean, and arugula salad with goat cheese.


I am always telling my clients that coffee tables are like mini representations of our lives. So what's on your coffee table?
A beautiful crystal bowl an architect from Atlanta gave us as a wedding gift - it is filled with small pears at the moment. Several books from cooking to gardening to decorating (A Time to Plant, Inspired Interiors by Suzanne Kasler, The Home Within Us by Bobby McAlpine and The Very Hungry Caterpillar children's book) There is also a couple of Thomas the Train toys (my 3 year olds) and a pacifier that is my 10 month old.

Gena's Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pecorino (from Southern My Way)

Brussels sprouts, one of my favorite vegetables, often get overlooked at the market. These are shredded, which gives them a different look and texture and may even fool those non-brussels sprout fans. 

PREP TIME  15 minutes
15 minutes
6 servings
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 pounds brussels sprouts
½ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup finely shredded, good-quality Pecorino cheese
½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts

FIRST  Remove outer leaves of brussels sprouts and cut each sprout in half down center of stem. Lay sprouts on cut sides and slice crosswise into thin strips to create small ribbons.  
NEXT  In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Sauté shallots for 6 to 7 minutes or until caramelized. Add brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes until sprouts are tender.  
LAST  Stir in lemon juice, cheese, and nuts; season with salt and pepper to taste.