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Turkey Pot Pie with Buttermilk Sage Drop Biscuits

Every holiday has a unique set of traditions, of course, but Thanksgiving is special because it comes with an extra set of conventions for the flip side of the holiday.  Naturally, there’s football, football and football, but there’s more: many families use the day after Thanksgiving to put up a Christmas Tree; there’s the annual depleting or deploring of stores that open on Black Friday; and there’s also the ritual complaining or rejoicing about the abundance of leftovers.

For many folks, eating the remains of the day is a simple thing; turkey sandwiches are legion and come layered with dressing, perhaps a generous spread of mashed potatoes and a side of gravy for au jus style dipping.  And it can be a fun way to close the holiday and play top chef as you present your creation with chefly jargon like “a clever riff on the holiday” or “a deconstruction of the feast.”

And as much fun as all that can be, leftover turkey presents yet another opportunity to gather together at table, touch the souls of your family and friends, and maintain the comfortable mood of the holiday regardless of bad punt returns, strands of lights that expire only after they’re on the tree and even the stress of maddening crowds at the mall.

A steaming pot pie, fresh from the oven is a nearly iconic symbol of the special kind of comfort that comes with a Sunday at Grandma’s house. But it’s easy to create that feeling at your own home with Mahasti’s simple recipe – especially since the bird is cooked, and you’ll probably have many of the other ingredients on hand, too.

There are two things that make Mahasti’s Pot Pie stand out. One is the inclusion of pumpkin.  It will be easy to think about leaving that out, but, if you do, you’ll miss a rich and almost mysterious flavor element that really amps up this recipe.  When cooked like this, adds a subtle sweetness and earthy flavor that matches perfectly with potato and cream sauces.  And it enhances the velvety, even luxurious texture of the sauce.

The other element that makes this recipe stand out is that instead of a pie crust or puff pastry, Mahasti tops the pie with biscuits.  I don’t have to tell you what a biscuit can to do a meal, but when it sits on top of a pot pie it gets a beautiful brown top, a fluffy middle, and a bottom that’s happily situated in the pie’s gravy-like sauce.  These particular biscuits get a seasonal surge from the inclusion of fresh sage that fills every bite with flavor – and if you haven’t tried sage and pumpkin together, you’re missing a very fine savor sensation.

Pot Pie is a simple way not only to put those leftovers to a delicious use but also to extend the warmth and fond memories of family time around the table.
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For the Filling: 

¼ cup oil

1 cup celery. diced

1 cup carrot, sliced into half moons

¾ cup onion, diced

1 medium sized potato -1 cup diced

1 cup cooked turkey, shredded or diced

Peel the potato, cut into ¼ inch thick slices.  Cut the slices into strips and dice the potato.  Place the potato in a pot of cold water.   Place the pot on the stove and cook the potato until it the chunks are just firm, 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of your chunks.  When the potatoes are cooked through, drain them and place them in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, dice celery, carrots and onion, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for about 1 minutes, then add celery and carrots and sauté for 2-3 minutes until vegetables are just beginning to soften.   Add the vegetables to the bowl with the potatoes.  Add the cooked turkey.

Place skillet back on the burner, over medium heat and make the sauce.

For the cream sauce:

2 ½ Tbl unsalted butter

2 Tbl all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

1 cup water

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup pumpkin puree, optional

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 Tbl fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Add the butter to the skillet.  When the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk until all the flour is absorbed into the butter and no lumps remain.  Mix together the milk, water, and heavy cream, pour the mixture into the butter mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens slightly.  Add the pumpkin puree, if using, then add salt, pepper and parsley.  Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables and turkey mixture and stir until the everything is mixed well.

Pour the pot pie filling into an 8×11 baking dish.  Top with Sage Buttermilk Drop Biscuits and bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until biscuits are slightly golden brown on top, and the mixture is bubbling.

Remove the pot pie from the oven, and serve.

Serves 6-8.

Prep time: 30 – 45 minutes

Cook time: 20 – 25 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Cutting Board

Chef’s Knife

Vegetable Peeler

8″ x 11″ Rectangular Baking Dish

Autumn Quince, Kale and Grain Salad

 

It seems like only yesterday when we were all gaga for cheese plates – especially ones heaped with glistening mounds of Marcona almonds alongside thin, tender wedges of a Spanish cheese called Manchego.  If you can remember those days of not-too-long ago, you may also remember that Manchego and Marcona almost always came accompanied by a curious little wedge of fruit paste.  That paste, aka Membrillo, represents one of the few modern 15 minutes of fame enjoyed by a fruit almost forgotten and certainly neglected by modern American cookery – the quince.

Of course, you might have met the quince via Edward Lear.  He mentions the fruit in the “Owl and the Pussycat,” though he uses it just before the word runcible – a word he seems to have created – that fact, as far as I was concerned, threw suspicion on all the other unfamiliar words in the verse:

 

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

 

It’s really a little sad that more of us don’t know the quince.  It is a fruit of noble pedigree; almost certainly present in the Fertile Crescent (which we called the “cradle of civilization” when I was a lad), it was well known to the Ancient Greeks.  The fruit was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite and may have been the prize that Paris awarded her in the fateful beauty contest that started the Trojan War.  Nice legacy, eh?

Quince is available at most grocery stores during the fall.

But in colonial America and up until the 1920’s the quince tree was a regular resident of gardens and orchards of all degrees.   Unlike its cousins apple and pear, it’s not a fruit well suited to casual munching – though rumor has it that there are a few varieties that can be eaten straight from the tree, most quinces are chalky and tart – not a pleasant combination.

But after some quick Google research, the quince’s reputation isn’t all Greek to me –  it looms large in Persian cuisine and was mentioned by the Roman chef, Apicius.  When cooked, this hard and tart orb transforms into a tender, magical and luxurious bite laced with flavor associations like honey, pear, vanilla, and guava. Because of its extraordinary pectin content, it produces a rich, nearly unctuous syrup when cooked in liquid.

But in both Iranian and Roman cooking the quince is used as a part of savory dishes.  Apicius’ has a recipe for Quince Stew with Leeks that features a good plug of Garum – the Roman incarnation of fish sauce.

Mahasti’s not using fish sauce for this recipe, though, of course, you’re welcome to do what you want.  This dish calls for sautéing the quince with onion and kale before tossing it with shredded beets and whole grain.  The result is a nutty, toothsome and deliciously unique riff on Autumn flavors that’s right at home on the Thanksgiving table.  It has the added advantage of being something that no one else will bring but that everyone will love.
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Tomato Head’s Quince, Kale and Whole Grain Salad

1/2 cup spelt or other whole grain such as Farro, Wheat, or Kamut

3 cups kale, cut the stems into ¼ inch pieces and the leaves into ½ inch strips, keeping the stems and leaves separate

2 medium quince, quartered, cored & sliced about 3 cups

2 small beets, shredded, about 2 cups

1/8 cup vegetable oil

½ cup onion, diced

3 Tbl Balsamic

2.5 tbl olive oil

1/2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Soak grain berries overnight.  Bring 1.5 cups water to boil in a small pot.  When the water comes to boil, drain the grains and put them in boiling water and cook on a gentle boil for 10 minutes.  Drain the grains and set aside

Meanwhile, peel and shred the beets then toss them with 1 TbL Olive oil, 1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar and ½ tsp salt

In a large skillet sauté the onion in vegetable oil for 1 minute until just starting to get soft

Add the quince and kale stems and sauté 7-8 minutes min on medium low heat until the quince are soft.  Transfer the quince to a large bowl and set aside.

Return the same skillet to the stove.  On low heat add the balsamic vinegar and allow to vinegar reduce for about 1 minute.  Add the olive oil, honey and the grains.  Stir briefly, then add the kale leaves, turn the heat off, and sauté the kale, just until it starts to change color.

Pour the kale mixture in with the quince.  Then add the shredded beets, season with salt and toss.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Prep time 30 – 45 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Chef’s Knife

Stainless Mixing Bowl

Cutting Board

Glass Measuring Cup

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Box Grater

Vegetable Peeler

12″ Iron Skillet

12″ Stainless Skillet

Flour Head Bakery’s Pumpkin Pie


Yum

Ingredients

2 cups Fresh or Canned Pumpkin Puree

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 cup Milk

2 Eggs

1 Egg Yolk

1/2 cup Sugar

2 TBL Butter, melted

1/2 tsp Salt

3/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Ginger

1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg

1/8 tsp Ground Clove

1 tsp Vanilla

One 9-inch-deep dish prepared pie crust, partially baked

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until all the ingredients are mixed well.

Pour the mixture into a partially baked pie crust, being careful not to overfill. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then tent with foil and bake another 45-50 minutes until the pie sets.  The filling should shake as a whole when you tap the side of the pie pan and not jiggle in the center.

If you have a little more filling that will fit into your crust, pour the excess into a buttered ramekin, bake for 15-20 minutes until set. You can cool and refrigerate ramekins and serve as a gluten free option.

Purchase Mahastie’s Suggested Utensils

Ceramic Deep Pie Dish, 9-1/2-Inch

Mixing Bowl 5-Quart

Whisk 9-Inch

Glass Measuring Cup Set

Measuring Spoons

Sheet Pan

Porcelain Ramekins

Evelyn Forester – Featured Artist

In his poem, “Extra Innings” Arthur Smith describes the memory of a baseball game from his distant past.  It’s the ninth inning, there are two outs, and the opposing pitcher is Tom Seaver.  The game is a no-hitter as the poem’s narrator takes the bat and makes a mighty swing that connects and soars.  I asked Smith once if he really played that game, and, with a sly grin, he said, “read it again.”

Like many of the poems in Smith’s collection, Elegy on Independence Day, this beautiful bit of verse is not about baseball – it’s about memory.  Smith writes, “He’ll remember his no hitter as precisely/And firmly as I remember spoiling it, and neither of us is wrong.”

Memory is an unreliable witness.

Memory is a powerful tool that shapes our experience and often reshapes it. Sometimes these reformations merely suit our ego, sometimes they are born of fantasy and imagination to let us live life as we wish we had, and sometimes they are protective adaptations that shield us from the reliving of terrible recollections.

The work of our featured artist in Market Square this month, Evelyn Forester is deeply rooted in these exigencies of memory.  Hers is a moody world of experience and impression rooted in a strange interlude spent in Katy Texas where she spent time with an Aunt who read her palm and read with her from the Book of Enoch.

I don’t know that Forester’s memories contain any of the little fictions that memory often creates as it reshapes time – Evelyn is a reticent character who is reluctant to share too much information about her past.  And even when she does share one is left to wonder, as one often is when speaking to anybody, and artists in particular, which parts of the story are untouched by creativity.

Born to a comfortable, even an affluent life, Forester dropped out of school at 16 and abandoned material comfort to move to Valley Forge, Tennessee where she took up residence with a Great Aunt, whom she declines to name.  During this time Forester learned the hard lessons taught by subsistence farming and life lived in close quarters – in this instance a small cabin.

Still, despite the poverty, the house was filled with books, including a veritable library of art history, criticism and the like.  Even with so much reading material at hand, Evelyn says she was much more affected by the time she spent with dirt under her fingernails: “I got a great appreciation of the masters, but I think I was more influenced by the hands-on experiences on the homestead.  It certainly gave me a love of a self-taught method of learning and creating work.”

Forester’s life experience is reflected in a formal flexibility, she says, as her “pieces are sometimes abstract – reflecting emotion or experiences with others I may have had, and sometimes illustrative – reflecting memories and experiences with others I may have had. “

But in all cases, the subjects that demand her attention are her memories: “The illustrative works are quite autonomous.  I’m not too worried about scale or proportion.  In fact, I’m not very good with either.  That allows me to pursue the idea of memory.  The paint is, of course, the vehicle – so, that’s what really drives it.  It is the act of painting that tends to reveal a memory for me.”

The paintings in this exhibit are mostly oil on wood panels of varied sizes that are drawn from a very particular part of Forester’s life: “they come from a period I spent there [Katy, Texas] with father in 1987 on one of his many trips planned for the expansion of his finances.  While he courted refineries, I was left with his sister (a palm reading Christian) from March to November.”   These experiences (along with the absence of school) were what she remembers as the pivotal and spiritual enlightenment of her 9-year-old self.

The images are painted through the very powerful filter of time – the scenes are dated in 1987, but the act of painting seems to have occurred this year, 2017.  Though the images are mostly recognizable, they live in a nearly ethereal haze of quiet colors.  Though in the instance of an impending twister, the painting is set in an almost sepia tinted landscape that, for me at least, evoked memories of Dorothy and Toto.  The subjects are varied and include, among others, a missing child, an attentive jack rabbit, and a tilting flying saucer.

When asked which comes first, form or content, Forester says, “Content rules in abstraction.  Those pieces are very illustrative to me as well, and probably only me.  They are very internal and are never ‘happy’ works of art.  Abstractions have stemmed from traumatic events in my life.  There is trauma connected to the illustrative work as well, but it is a foggy mix of a happy and fearful memory.”

The opening verse in Elegy on Independence Day is a poem called “Tarantulas,” and, perhaps ironically, I learned its opening lines in 1987 – the same year that Forester was living the memories depicted in this exhibit:

If you fear them, you can find them

Everywhere in the early autumn evening

“Katy, Texas”, new paintings by Evelyn Forester will be on view at the downtown Tomato Head on Market Square from November 6th thru December 3rd.  The exhibit will move to the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head on December 5th, 2017 thru January 7th, 2018.

Pumpkin Poblano Soup

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ a medium onion,

3-inch piece of ginger, chopped, about 3 TBL

1 small poblano pepper, roasted, seeded, peeled, diced

2 cups packed roasted Pumpkin

½ habanero roasted (optional if you like it really spicy)

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 cup water

½ cup heavy cream

Rinse poblano pepper and habanero, if using, and place them in a cast iron skillet or cookie sheet.  Place the peppers in a 400- degree oven and roast until the skin of the poblano has charred; remove the peppers from the oven.  Cover the roasted peppers and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes, to cool and for the skin to loosen.  With gloved hands slip the skin off the poblano pepper, remove the stem, and scrape out the seeds, then dice the pepper.

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium pot.  Add onion and sauté briefly until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients, except heavy cream.  Give the soup a stir, then bring the mixture to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender*, puree soup until smooth, then pour in heavy cream and blend just until cream is incorporated.  Serve immediately, topped with roasted pumpkin seeds, or cool and refrigerate up to 3 days.  Reheat to serve.

Serve with bread.

Serves 4-8 people as a full meal or appetizer.

*if you don’t have an immersion blender, allow soup to cool completely, then place it in your blender in batches, until all blended.  Reheat when ready to serve.

Purchase The Needed Utensils

Chef’s Knife, 8-Inch Chef’s Victorinox Fibrox Pro

Measuring Cups, Pyrex 3-Piece Glass Measuring Cup Set

Meauring Spoons, 13 Piece Measuring Cups And Spoons Set

Pyrex Baking Dish (for roasting pumpkin)

Small Skillet or Cookie Sheet, Bellemain Heavy Duty Sheet Pan

Wooden Spoon, Comllen Premium Organic Kitchen Cooking Utensils

Med. Sauce Pan, Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 6-Quart Stockpot

Immersion Blender, KitchenAid 2-Speed Hand Blender

 

 

Pumpkin Pancakes

Let’s face it:  The Great Pumpkin has arrived and left a trail of spice dust from latte to Little Debbie.

The First Ingredients

And I’m mostly okay with that.  I like the way it tastes, and I love riding the wave of nostalgia that each sip or bite brings.  It’s a warm current of memory that I look forward to feeling.  My only complaint is the same one that I’ve aired in years past to all who would pretend to listen – too often the pumpkin spice comes without the pumpkin.  And that makes me feel sad and incomplete; it’s like eating a handful of sprinkles without cake.

It’s the nostalgia, you see; because without the flesh of the big orange squash, pumpkin spice leaves my sense memories incomplete.  Certainly, aroma can cast an alluring spell, but there’s a voluptuousness about pumpkin flesh that adds a decadently plump and toothsome pleasure to every morsel it imbues, and it’s that combination that takes me back to the warm and happy days of bonfires, caramel apples, ill-fitting masks, and the promise of holidays yet come.

In fact, I can’t even think about pumpkin without recalling my first experience of it in the wonderous form of pie.  Perhaps you, too,

The Real Pumpkin Arrives

remember: imagine the feel of pumpkin pie as you close your lips about it – it’s firm but yielding and expresses a soft, nearly corpulent luxury when it meets the tongue.

Gosh, I’m feeling nostalgic already.

But aside from theses daydreams and romantic recollections, there are also some mighty fine practical reasons to keep the pumpkin with the spice.

While adding pumpkin to a recipe doesn’t automatically impart the indulgent texture of a good pie, adding it to some recipes is a no brainer if you’re looking for rich texture and additional appeal without negative consequence.  Pumpkin, like applesauce, adds considerable moisture without adding additional fat.  It also contributes fiber and good dose of beta carotene, thiamin, and Vitamin A.

Stiff Batter

There’s almost no downside – especially if you’re making pancakes.    A good recipe will help you balance the density and moisture of the squash with sufficient leavening to create a plump, rich, but light bite that will soak up syrup and butter like a champ.  In this recipe it’s the combination of buttermilk with baking soda, as well as a dash of baking powder that makes these beauties happily fluffy and light.

And if you haven’t had pumpkin pancakes yet, well, you’re in for a treat.  Of course, there are all the appropriate spices and a little vanilla to make the flavor really nice, but Pumpkin seems particularly well suited for maple syrup.   It, too, is wonderfully redolent reminder of the season.  Put them together and you have a pumpkin spice moment that will satisfy the appetite of several senses all at once.

 

Flour Head Bakery’s Pumpkin Pancakes

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

On the Stove

2 TB sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground clove

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 eggs

1 ½ cups Buttermilk

¾ cup pumpkin puree

3 TBL melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

In another bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin, melted butter, and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture is mostly mixed together into a thick batter. (a few lumps of dry ingredients are fine)

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, and lightly butter the skillet. Scoop the batter by the spoonful into the skillet, allowing room to flip the pancakes. Flip the pancakes when they have a few holes on the edges, and cook on the other side. Flip pancakes over a few times to make sure they cook through and are a deep golden brown on both sides.

Serve the pancakes with butter and maple syrup as you cook them, or keep warm in a 200 -degree oven.

 

Spinach Artichoke Dip

The artichoke is good bud.

Like capers and Brussels sprouts, the part of the artichoke that we eat is the yet-to-flower bud of the plant – that will make perfect sense if you’ll pick up an artichoke and take a look.  In this case the plant in question is a member of the thistle family which has other edible branches including the cardoon whose stalk has a very artichoke-like flavor.  I’m told that the thistles that pop up in my yard from time to time are edible, too, and though I’m not averse to back yard foraging (I love dandelion), I can’t shake the image of the common garden thistle as a pain in the yard.

But artichokes are a favorite in our house in any form from the feast nights of whole globe artichokes and lots of melted butter to decadent holiday casseroles of artichoke, cheese, and cream, and little more cream.  There’s a lot of fun to be had in the ritual of the whole bud, the fun of being around a table with a bunch of folks all scraping fat drenched leaves for a small bite of veggie flesh feels communal somehow – a feeling that always seems more intense at home when we eat with our hands.  Of course when the butter starts to run down the chin the atmosphere turns decadent or erotic or downright silly depending on the company.

Artichokes bring a lot of pleasure.

And that’s especially true when we indulge ourselves in the lusty heart of the globe where all the sensuality of the artichoke lives in dense satisfaction.  Just beneath the choke, a prickly concentration of decidedly unpleasant thistle bits, the heart is a meaty bite of everything good including a great concentration of cynarin, a polyphenolic compound that creates a unique sensation in the mouth, one that, like love, makes everything tasted after it seem a little sweeter.

Cynarin can be a challenge if you’re having a snit about wine-pairing, but mostly it’s a positive addition to the table.  Generally speaking, we like sweet things.  And that little bit of food magic, combined with the immense satisfaction of biting into the fleshy artichoke heart, is what endows spinach artichoke dip with its ever potent popularity.

The artichoke arouses the sense of sweetness in rich dairy and helps diminish any residual bitterness in the spinach all while adding substance to each nibble.  That’s all certainly true in our recipe, but we always like to put a little spark in our relationships – and here that spark is one of our favorite stimulants – jalapeno.  In addition to adding little grins from endorphin rush, the pepper tickles the taste buds and accentuates all of the flavor sensations, making them livelier, even lighter on the tongue.  And, as the kids might say, that makes for a dish that’s lit.

Tomato Head’s Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1.5 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded

Yummy!

1.5 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded

¾ cup Mayonnaise

¾ cup Sour Cream

2 cups Canned Artichoke Hearts, drained and chopped

3 packed cups Fresh Spinach, chopped

1-2 TBL Jalapeno, chopped (optional)

½ tsp Garlic Powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch pie plate, and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the dip is bubbling slightly.

Serve immediately with pita bread or pita crisps.

Kathryn Gunn – Featured Artist

Once again, the walls of our Market Square restaurant are alive with color.

The work of Asheville artist, Kathryn Gunn is a vibrant collection of color, light and reflection that comes from an intuitive place where music and mindfulness mingle with canvas, acrylic, and curiosity.

Gunn only recently started painting – in fact, until last year, she thought that she couldn’t: “I have always been a lover of art and when I was younger I pursued a career in Art history, but never believed that I could be an artist.”

But when she salvaged the remains of a children’s tempura paint set, Gunn’s artistic interest  started her on a path that would lead to art shows and juried events across the southeast even though the beginning of the journey was a very, very private affair that included only one set of eyes: her own.

Kathryn Gunn

“I took [the children’s’ paints] home with me. I just loved mixing colors. I would hide in my basement and paint on cardboard so I could throw them away as soon as I was finished and no one would ever look at anything I did.”  And even when a friend lured her to a live model drawing event with a promise that the event had “really chill music and you get to drink wine,” Gunn only agreed to attend when she was assured that no one would actually see what she had drawn.

The event proved to be much more than a pleasant afternoon of wine and song because when her drawing turned out to actually look like the model Gunn was moved to continue to explore her artistic side.  Her subsequent experiments with drawing led to more painting and more work with color and form.

Gunn’s approach remains intuitive – she adds color based on a sense of what’s missing and remains open in terms of style and subject style.  “I’m not sure that I’ve found my niche, and maybe never will as I find the next style and go ‘I want to try that out!’”

But her work is certainly informed by nature – in landscapes and even in her abstract and “Flow” works, the colors might leap from the flowers and vistas of the Appalachian Mountains.  But more than that, Gunn’s work reflects a peaceful beauty, one that’s attune to her creative process.  When she works, Gunn is absorbed by the present, because, she says, “When I’m painting, I lose myself in the work, lose track of time, forget to eat, completely absorbed, I don’t even know that I am sore from standing for hours and hours until I am finished. There is really no separation between me and the painting.”

You can get lost in Gunn’s paintings, too at the downtown Market Square Tomato Head through October 1st.  She will then hang at the West Knoxville Tomato Head from October 3rd through November 6th.

Flour Head Bakery’s Orange You a Vol Cake

A bite is not enough

It strikes many people as strange that I can not only sing the UT Alma Mater to its actual tune, but that I can also sing it to the tunes of Gilligan’s Island, Ghost Riders in the Sky, and Amazing Grace.  It is a rare and formidable talent, I admit, but it is one that I worked to master under the unlikely but skillful tutelage of Professor Bill Black of UT Theatres’ costume department.  Strangely, the words themselves were sometimes the answer to a bonus question on the good professor’s final exams.

I do not share this particular skill with just anyone, nor do I share it often; as a rule, I’m not much of an enthusiastic alumnus.  And even as a student I was more likely to be found humming a tune from “Hello Dolly” than singing the solemn, old school song or even the much livelier Rocky Top.  At the time, I was, in my own mind, a great artist to be; school spirit wasn’t my thing.

Knoxville Loves Orange

But now, when the first thoughts of football season approach, my mind, in a paroxysm of nostalgia, returns to the joys of college days and sometimes, just sometimes mind you, the Alma Mater erupts without warning from my mouth.  And whether I’m singing it to the original tune or not, I feel like donning some orange, proclaiming my Volunteer heritage, and learning the Quarterback’s name.

It’s the season, you see!  At times, it’s stronger than the Christmas urge to shop and wear holly prints.  It’s the sheer force of Football Time in Tennessee that, like some chirpy tune, gets under the skin and into the mind, into the vocal chords, and on occasion, into our kitchen as well.

And it’s particularly bad this season.  Perhaps it’s the Eclipse year confluence of Labor Day and the opening game, but this special, perhaps divine madness, has infected our fearless leader, Mahasti, too.  And that’s an extraordinary thing.  Although at first we planned on celebrating the holiday weekend with a special family treat, Red Velvet Cake, the all Vol party vibe took over.  And Mahasti, in an uncharacteristic fit of orange-tinged enthusiasm turned her thoughts away from the crimson, nearly treasonous hue of that cake.  Instead, Mahasti turned it orange.

Ever since Steel Magnolias burst onto the silver screen with its funny Armadillo shaped groom’s cake, Red Velvet Cake has experienced a resurgence and a mighty propagation across all kinds of food formats – from industrially produced cookies, to ice cream and shakes and even some savory applications, the name Red Velvet has been splashed across all sorts of things masquerading as tasty food.  And all the while, the essence of the cake and its flavor profile has gotten lost in pointless permutations and bastardized attempts at creativity often based less on taste than color.

Touchdown!

But it is not the redness of the cake that makes it special; it is instead the fine crumb, a good rise, and the gentle tug of tang against cake’s essential sweetness. Certainly red is fun, but without the velvet texture of the cake, the hue is meaningless and the name despoiled as a marketing flag.

In our recipe, we use buttermilk, sour cream and vinegar which bring a lively flavor to the cake, but also react with the baking powder to give it plenty of lift.  And the acids help break down some of the protein in flour to create a more tender, even, ahem, velvety bite.

In fact, we think this cake is so good, it doesn’t need to be slathered in creamy icing – a straightforward sprinkle of powder sugar will do.  But there’s an added advantage to using this simple garnish – with just a teeny moment of craftiness, you can turn your cake into an orange checkered end zone.  And, as you know, a triumphant visit to that area is the real icing on the cake.  So, here’s to you, Old Tennessee…

Flour Head Bakery’s Orange You a Vol Cake

3 cups All Purpose Flour

1 TBL Baking Powder

1 tsp. Salt

2 Eggs

1 3/4 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Sour Cream

1 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil

1 ¼ cup Buttermilk

1 TBL Yellow Food Coloring

¼ tsp Red Food Coloring

2 TBL Cider Vinegar

2 tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 9X 13 pan with parchment paper, grease the sides, and set aside.

Into a medium bowl sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Place eggs in another medium bowl, with sugar and sour cream and beat lightly with a whisk. Add oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Whisk to incorporate the ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk well until all the flour is incorporated. Pour the batter into prepared your pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool in pan. Flip the cake out of pan onto a cooling rack. Peel parchment paper off the bottom. Re-flip cake back onto a cutting board. Cover the cake with a checkerboard stencil and dust the top generously with powdered sugar. Cut into desired size squares. Serve with a side of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

To make the checkerboard stencil – on a piece of parchment paper, outline your pan. Using a ruler, outline a grid, then color in the squares on a diagonal to make a checker board pattern. With an Xacto knife cut out the colored in squares, being careful to leave the borders of each square intact.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design