Lemon Cake

For many juvenile Southerners, like young and tender me, lemon lives in the libation section of the memory because it of its inextricable association with tall and frosty vessels of our beloved iced tea.  And though a bright yellow wedge of citrus perched happily on the edge of a glass signals sweet refreshment for some, it is a vision that makes my tongue curl in abject terror.

You see, while my child hood was, largely, a sweet time that was filled with culinary delights provided by my Mamaws,

Getting Ready to Mix

Getting Ready to Mix

including one, Mamaw Ethel, who was not only a fine cook but also a master baker, it was also a time of certain frugalities.  Though Mamaw Ethel would splurge on any number of cake ingredients, for her nearly constant companion, a giant jar of iced tea, she was content to spike her beverage with a healthy dollop of commercially concentrated lemon juice from a pale green bottle that lived in the door of her fridge.

Perhaps you can see the appeal?  When compared to the cost of real lemons, this was a bargain of nearly incomparable magnitude.

But to poor, lil’ ole me who was accustomed to liking so many of the things at Mamaw’s table, the accidental and inevitable and always shocking swallow of her overly faux-lemoned tea was ruinous to my normally sweet complexion.

And thus it has ever been.  To this day, good southern folk smile indulgently at the village idiot who orders “Iced tea, no fruit.”

And after all those years of suffering through the vile torture of sweet natured folks who just couldn’t  believe that anybody would want tea without lemon,  it has taken a long time for me to see the lemon as a friend.

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat

But I am not alone.  Little did I know that I was experiencing literally some of the most potent figurative aspects of this particular citrus.  For in painting and in other matters artistic, the lemon may represent bitterness or wealth.  The lemon’s pith, as I imagine you know, is a tongue bending taste – all on its own it’s fiercely bitter to my mouth – which, according to various voices on the inter-webs, is what you’re supposed to understand should you see a peeled lemon in a painting.  It’s certainly what I see when I recall Mamaw’s free-flowing lemon in a jar.

Likewise, like black pepper and other spices, lemon once was a hard to get and expensive provision.  If there was a lemon on your table, your neighbors might shake their head and cluck, “You can’t hide money…”

I don’t think Mamaw worried what the neighbors thought – I suspect she was just keeping her pennies for better uses: she did make a luxurious Coconut Cream Cake at a time with when coconut was much dearer in rural East Tennessee than it is now.

At any rate, I avoided lemon bars, slandered lemon ice-box pie, and nearly gagged at the thought of lemon cake for years.  But it was, in fact, a well glazed lemon pound cake that changed my mind and my sweet life forever.

Of course, I didn’t know there was lemon lurking in every bite of that beautiful cake – it was the first pound cake that ever I saw crowned with a layer of nearly sculpted white glaze.  It was perfect, and it was love at first sight; and even after the first bite, infused though it was with lemon, lemon, lemon, I was enthralled like Romeo (but without similar consequences).

The bright and happy sweetness of fresh lemon well blended with sugar and flour was so delightful, I even wanted to kiss the little bit of zest I found lying in wait in each mouthful.  I did not eat this cake delicately, nor did I eat slowly or modestly with good sense.  I ate my second slice with the same ravenous mouth that bolted down the first.  I am not ashamed.  I had years of eating to make up for.

Thus, with all due respect to Mamaw, it pleases me more than I want to admit that Mahasti has opted to share this particular Flour Head recipe.  It is, methinks, the lemon loaf that greets the soul at paradise.  It’s moist enough as it is with a generous cloud of sour cream, but once you add the lemon syrup and seal it with a kiss, er, that is, a smooth layer of lemon glaze, you may feel compelled to sing and, perhaps, quote Shakespeare.

Flour Head Bakery’s Lemon Loaf with Fresh Berries

For the Cake:

Even Better with Berries

Even Better with Berries

4 large eggs

1 1/3 cup Sour Cream

1 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar

2/3 cup oil

3 TBL Lemon Zest

2 TBL Lemon Juice

2 c All Purpose Flour

2 2/3 tsp Baking Powder

2/3 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9x 5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sour cream, sugar and oil. Add lemon Zest and Lemon Juice. In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk just until combined. Some lumps will be left; don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Drop the oven temperature to 325 and bake another 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking prepare the lemon syrup and lemon glaze.

Lemon Syrup:

2 TBL Lemon Juice

3 TBL Confectioner’s sugar

After you remove the cake from the oven, and while it is still hot and in the pan, spoon the lemon syrup over the top of the cake. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the cake from the pan, onto a cooling rack or plate.

Lemon Glaze:

1 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

3 TBL Lemon Juice

1 TBL Lemon Zest

Carefully pour the glaze over the entire length of the cake, and smooth it out with the back of a spoon, covering the top.

Slice and serve with fresh berries.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Day

Open faced and ready to eat

Open faced and ready to eat

As a younger person, I never grasped the concept of comfort food. For me, food fell into only two categories – things I liked and things I didn’t.  And the categorization was complicated – one might assume that peanut butter was in one category or another, but it wasn’t.  A piece of bread, spread thick with the smooth and creamy nut butter was something likeable unless it was it was folded in half (or topped with more bread), in which case I didn’t like it. No, not one bit.

I can still remember my poor father’s baffled expression when I wouldn’t eat the snack that only moments before I had noisily craved.  What he didn’t understand was that there was a vast difference between a peanut butter sandwich and what I called a peanut butter top. And so, when he enacted the dreadful fold, the craving died and the luster was off the nut – as I’m certain he thought I was off my nut, too.

I couldn’t explain it.  It just was – might as well ask me why I have a big toe.  I just do.

As a grown person, I don’t have that particular obsession anymore, well, not in the same degree.  Nowadays, peanut butter sandwiches have zero appeal without jelly, but I retain an admittedly strange obsession with canapes and other foods served open-faced.  And there is nothing that catches my heart, appetite, and eye quite like an open faced cookie.  For it was the thumbprint cookie that revealed not only why I turned my countenance from Daddy’s sandwich but also transformed my inexplicable obsession into explicable reason.

At least to my mind.

My mother was fond of sandwich cookies – Vienna fingers or vanilla creams were a constant and welcome presence in the pantry.  But there was one day, a glorious and epiphanous day, when some kind and generous soul gifted mother with a bag of Pepperidge Farm Strawberry thumbprint cookies.

Almost Finished

Almost Finished

Oh joyous day – every obsessive nerve in my little body quivered – here was the peanut butter top of cookies, and it had jam.  JAM!  But most importantly it was then that I knew! I knew why the peanut butter top was essential, and the peanut butter sandwich was vile.  It was at the first moment of biting that cookie when I understood that the open face always smelled better and! And! AND! the impression of the first bite was not dominated by the bread or the cookie but was shared equally with the always magnificent, always delightful filling!

First impressions DO matter.

More important than my own epiphany, now my poor father would feel the sting of my refusal less keenly!  He would understand, as I understood, that my rejection of the sandwich was a textural and olfactive thing and not some oedipal grudge.  And he would no longer think that I was off my nut.

Alas, fathers, like children, I suppose, don’t always act like we want them to do– even 45 years later my dad remains uncertain about my sanity.  But I know – and that’s enough.

And while my affection for peanut butter has changed significantly, there are two things that have become essential truth in my eating life: One is that peanut butter is always better with jelly; the other, good food with good open faced presentation is the road to Nirvana. And thumbprint cookies are the fast lane.

Sunday, April 2nd is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.  You may celebrate with a sandwich if you must, or you can really put the hammer down by making Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Cookies.  Mahasti has provided a recipe below – and will show you how easy it is to celebrate in open-faced style on WBIR’s Weekend Today.

And while baking these cookies and celebrating food holidays may only affirm your family’s worry that you’re off your nut, they’ll be grateful that you’re tasteful about it.

Flour Head Bakery’s Peanut Butter and Jelly thumbprint cookies

Ground Peanuts:

The batter ready for scooping

The batter ready for scooping

½ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts ground fine

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Place peanuts in the bowl of a food processor and grind until fine.  Place peanuts in a bowl, add sugar and set aside.

For the cookie:

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

¾ cup creamy peanut butter

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

2 Tablespoons whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

Rolling along.

Rolling along.

Place butter in bowl of stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add egg and mix until well combined.  Add vanilla and milk and mix well.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until all the flour is mixed in.  Place the cookie dough in the refrigerator for an hour.  Remove the dough and scoop into balls.  Roll the dough balls in the ground peanut mixture and place 1.5 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow the cookies to cool for 1 minute, then gently press your thumb in the middle.  Spoon a small amount of your favorite jam in the imprint and serve.

Makes 20 – 24 1 inch cookies.

 

National Dessert Day

Words, as anyone who has said bumfuzzle aloud can tell you, are funny.  How they came to be and where they came from can be amusing when not just strange.

Chocolate Cupcakes

For many of us dessert means chocolate

Consider dessert – as, of course, we hope you often do- that word comes from a French word, dessevir, meaning to remove what has been served or, easier on the tongue, to clear away the table.  In fact in the third person desservir takes on a familiar form: il dessert (or he clears away). Which isn’t particularly funny if you haven’t finished your dessert before he clears it away. Sacre bleu!  What a tragedy that would be.

Other folks say that the meaning of desservir is more akin to “un-serve”.  Which, in dessert parlance, is the worst thought ever.  Who would have a heart black enough to un-serve dessert?

Of course, no one we know, especially not the French, would un-serve dessert or take post prandial candy from babies of any age, but as we celebrate National Dessert Day it seems worthwhile to linger over our coffee and consider the vagaries surrounding the sweet spot of the meal.

I grew up in a home with lots of sweets, but not many desserts.  That is to say that we rarely had a final course to the meal; cookies and milk might come later, but they were never served at the table.  It was a rare and special occasion when Mom would have something sweet that we would eat together after dinner. Usually it arrived in a footed, faceted dessert cup which I have forever since associated with chocolate pudding (my favorite treat from back in the day).  It was an indulgence that never got old because it never came too often – so you couldn’t get used to it or take it for granted.  It was mother’s whim and a delight.

TH_winter014_54

….or chocolate chip, of course

That’s why, perhaps, to this day dessert remains a completely separate experience from grabbing a quick bite of cookie.  The very idea is a comfort – just think of clearing the table for a last sweet moment of communion over a bit of food that you can enjoy in small bites thus facilitating the especially fine conversation that comes from the good mood of the well fed.

Because it is more than nourishment, and follows essential eating, dessert contributes to the feeling that life is good.  Whenever I feel discontent or worried about the budget or the Jones’ new car, I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things I’m a rich man.  I have food daily and dessert often.

clk_7391_2

….but fruity is nice too

Dessert’s pretty special at The Tomato Head – it’s made with the same care and careful selection of ingredients as everything we serve.  And, thanks to the delectable work of Flour Head Bakery, our dessert case is almost an embarrassment of riches, and one that’s accessible, too.  What good is a wealth of sweet stuff unless you can share it?  We take pains to make sure that our vegan and gluten free options are as appetizing to the eye and as scrumptious to the tongue as every other treat we serve.  And, as a general rule, we’d never un-serve dessert – we’re just good like that.

Happy National Dessert Day!  Be sweet to someone you love – or even someone you don’t: a little sugar goes a long way…

Pumpkin Spice Day

Perhaps it’s best if you’re sitting.

The shock may be too much for you – but fear not, there is a warm and fuzzy place that we can help you find, one that will make it all better, so stay with us…

Perhaps it will come as no surprise to you that there is an actual Pumpkin Spice Day.  The autumnal flavor seems to have taken over our world in a way that Frank Herbert fans will understand.  (Nerd alert!) Like the mélange spice/drug of the planet Arrakis, also known as DUNE, Pumpkin Spice is everywhere now.  It has even reached Little Debbie, and I suspect that Collegedale (the home of the snack cake giant) is covered in a fine dust of suspicious, orange tint.

But what may strike you as odd, perhaps even somehow wrong and wickedly disturbing is that where there is Pumpkin Spice, there may not be actual Pumpkin.  I know, I know – it’s a terrible thought, and it’s one that leaves me reeling and wondering what will be left of the real and the natural order of things.  When the very air is full of spice, when it infuses our lattes, fills our cereal bowls, and even clings to our almonds without a trace of the Big Orange Squash that single-handedly created the spice’s fame, well, the Great Chain of Being has broken into more pieces than Humpty Dumpty.  And the world seems less right than before.

“But, but…” you sputter in shock, “Pumpkin Spice delights are often orange!  Surely, surely that’s from real pumpkin!”  Alas, that most delightful of all the colors, orange, is often simulated by the addition of annatto and paprika.

dsc00524

Will the Real Pumpkin Please Stand?

It’s easy to understand, even if it hurts the head to ponder; in much of processed food, it’s flavor or the simulation thereof that matters most.  Actual ingredients be damned, as long as it tastes right, looks right or is at least close enough, then all is well.  You may know people who actually prefer the fakers – like that strange group of folks who prefer the taste of banana Popsicle to the taste of an actual banana.

Okay, so that’s unfair – pumpkin spice is a real enough mélange of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice, but on its own it’s really just spice.  It could be spice cake spice, molasses cookie spice – heck, it’s only a couple of ingredients away from being garam masala spice.  We need pumpkin to make it right.

We’re not trying to rain on anyone’s parade or throw shade on your seasonally affected flavor favor.  Far from it – we have a safe place for you at the restaurant, a place where Pumpkin Spice lives in harmony as it should with the Great Pumpkin who is real and present in every bite.  For this national day of observance, this Pumpkin Spice Day, we have Pumpkin Spice Morning Rolls that will warm up your nose and your heart for a full day of spiced remembrance.  We’ll also have Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes to sweeten all the memories that come with the smell and flavor of this sweet squash and spice blend – memories of home baked treats and family gatherings where paprika stays safely on the deviled eggs.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Day – come and see us.

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

The oddity of food holidays, who decides what food gets a special designation and the odd times that those days appear in the calendar of celebrated comestibles is a common and whimsical lament in our blog. But this particular day, Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, is no mystery to us – among these fanciful food fetes, this particular festivity makes perfect sense.

Unlike most popular foods, the Chocolate Chip Cookie has an identifiable lineage – its creator and its rise to popularity are known quantities.  Arguably it is the Great American Cookie and, during World War II, for many soldiers, it was America in one semi-sweet bite.

Restaurateur Ruth Wakefield created the cookie as an accompaniment to ice cream to serve in the Toll House restaurant that she ran with her husband in Whitman, Massachusetts.  There are any number of myths about how the semi-sweet chocolate landed in the cookie dough, but it was most likely the result of planned recipe development.  (You can read more on the subject in Carolyn Wyman’s, “Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book.”)

The cookie famously caught the attention of Marjorie Husted (Betty Crocker) and then Nestle, and then the nation.  All of this was happening in the 1930’s in the midst of the Great Depression, when a single bite of richness was an indulgence extraordinaire.  I’m no scholar or psychologist of history, but I suspect that the cookie came to represent everything that Americans held dear about their country as a land of plenty, of hope, of shared opportunity and prosperity.  Whatever it was, this cookie became an essential morale booster and taste of home as it found its way into mess kits and gift packages for soldiers who crossed the oceans blue to fight fascism and oppression and, thus, earned a special place in the pantheon of American icons.

TH_winter014_54Today, we take the cookie for granted, and toss its name around without regard to quality.  Just walk down the grocery cookie aisle and you’ll find hundreds of hard little discs called chocolate chip cookie.  Some are better than others, and a few might achieve greatness – I don’t know about all those cookies.  What I do know is that nothing touches the special longing of my inner cookie monster like a rich, made-with-love-by-real-bakers kind of Chocolate Chip Cookie.

At the Tomato Head we’re committed to cookie equality for all, so when we do chocolate chip we do it in all sorts of ways for all sorts of people.

Of course we serve a good old-fashioned cookie made from a traditional recipe that comes loaded with chocolate chips in a rich brown sugar batter that will transport you to the long-gone days of sneaking bits of dough from wooden mixing spoons in Grandma’s kitchen.  That goodness also pervades our Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie and our Vegan recipe, too; both of which give the same kind of memory thrill and homey flavor that comes from our original recipe.

But if you’re really celebrating the day, then you may want to engage in the great American pastime of making the good even better by trying a bite of our Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie.  The first bite and delicate crunch of this chocolate bomb gives way to a gooey, brownie-like center that bursts with a perfect medley of milk chocolate, white chocolate, and semi-sweet chips.  And if you’re feeling really excitable, go ahead and grab a “Rock Your World” cookie which combines chocolate chips with walnuts for a big mouthful of happiness.

Today, throw caution to the wind and grab a friend for a cookie date.  It’s a tasty way to show some love and treat yourself to a little bite of American history – and there’s enough diversity in our Chocolate Chip Cookie selection to make everyone feel great!

National Sugar Cookie Day

If the sugar cookie could talk, I suspect it would express some bashful surprise at the fact that we honor, even celebrate, it.  The often pale and unadorned sweet might even blush to know that we toast its very existence today on National Sugar Cookie Day.

The Sugar Cookie, at least as we most often like it, appears as a simple treat made of ordinary ingredients that’s sometimes finished with an ordinary glaze, perhaps with a bit of color or, in a fit of holiday madness, there might be a jazzy sprinkle of brightly hued sugar that, like a festive hat, bedecks the cookie for a fete.

But even when the cookie takes on a less than modest appearance, as a star shape or perhaps in the form of a snowman, a tree, or a Santa cap, the fact of its transformation remains rooted in the simplicity of its making.  The simple dough is easy to cut and shape, and so bakers who lived long before the first cookie cutter could easily customize their baking.  Sometimes simplicity promotes longevity.

One of the earliest American examples of this sugary disk, the Nazareth Cookie (now installed as the official cookie of Pennsylvania) was created by Moravians in Nazareth, PA.  It’s not much more than sugar, flour, eggs, butter, leavening, and, maybem salt and was a part of a tradition of simple recipes for jumbal, jamble, jemelloe, or gemmel cookies that date beyond the 17th century – perhaps as long ago as 7th century Persia.  The popularity of the style cookie grew from its longevity – they could be cooked until they were dry and, admittedly, tough enough to handle a long journey.  It may be that, like some of your ancestors, the sugar cookie’s sires came over on the Mayflower.

Variations on the cookie became matters of pride – that’s certainly true in the South where the simple cookie morphed into the stately tea cake.  But even with an elevated name the cookie remained a relatively simple recipe – so much so that even the poorest larders might stock the ingredients to create tea cake for special occasions.  There are some culinary historians who opine that the sugar cookie or tea cake was one of the few holiday solaces that might grace a slave’s table in America.

It’s surprising, perhaps, to the modern palate with its cravings for flavor fireworks assuaged only by a multiplicity of radical tastes that the sugar cookie can have lasted so long.  And yet in its earliest incarnation, the cookie would have cajoled even the most jaded hipster palate.  Often English jumbals were touched by exotic spices like caraway, cardamom, anise or perhaps rosewater.  Sometimes they weren’t even what we might call sweet.

For such a simple recipe, the sugar cookie bears a complex array of culinary and social history:  the cultivation of sugar and the establishment of a spice trade mingle with joy, sadness, the travails of forced labor and slavery, religious oppression, the founding of a nation along with some stabs at utopia along the way.

This food celebration comes with much to contemplate – there’s a lot of history in this cookie.   So it’s best to start eating right now.  Happy Sugar Cookie Day – we hope it’s a sweet one.

Trifecta of Food Holidays

3 is a magical number.  In Roman and Chinese systems, it’s one of the few numbers that’s written with as many strokes as the number represents.  It’s a significant number to Christians, Hindus, Pagans, and Pythagoras, too. In less consecrated  ways, those who fancy a flutter on the gee-gees on Derby Day or anytime Keeneland is open have the option of betting Trifectas – a challenging but profitable prediction of the order of first, second and THIRD place winners.

Even cultural superstitions are pervaded by the number – third on a match dies, celebrities die in trios, and the third time is a charm.

Although we’re not especially superstitious, nor particularly wont to wager, as we consider the number 3 alongside our immediate future, it becomes clear that the prognosis is good, bright, and perhaps even wondrous.  We might even play the numbers.

May 13, 14 and 15 constitute a Trifecta of taste, practically a Tomato Head triduum, which celebrates three of the foods that are dear to our heart and hunger.  First comes National Hummus Day, followed by Buttermilk Biscuit Day, and finally Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  Can you imagine a better way to celebrate the middle of the lusty month of May?

Hummus remains one of our most popular offerings in and out of our restaurants – you can find it on the shelves of 14 area grocery stores (you can see where here).  Our blend of pureed chick peas, tahini and (sort of) secret seasonings is a wholesome and tasty snack that makes a lot of sense for today’s diet – it tastes great, it’s packed with protein, and, best of all, it’s made by your neighbors.  If you have yet to spread hummus on a sandwich or tortilla come on down to see us on May 13th, and we’ll happily show you how it’s done.  Heck, come any day – Roger Roger and Lucy are just hanging out on the sandwich menu waiting to meet you, while Jose Jose Burrito practically pines for your attention on this special day.

Lucky for us all, May 14, better known as National Buttermilk Biscuit Day, falls on a Saturday this year, so you don’t have to postpone your party.  You can celebrate on schedule at brunch when we have a little bit of biscuit heaven available right here on earth.  We talked about the noble biscuit and shared the best biscuit recipe, too, in this blog entry from September.  Still it’s worth remembering that biscuits are not just an important part of a good southern diet, they make for a party day extraordinaire in Knoxville.  We serve our biscuits in classic fashion with gravy galore, but you can also really throw down with our option to top the biscuit with scrambled eggs, Sweetwater valley smoked cheddar, our housemade breakfast gravy & your choice of either ham, Benton’s bacon, chorizo, housemade soysage, or baked tofu.

Finally, you can wrap up this exceptional trio of tasty days with national Chocolate Chip Cookie Day which, as you may have gathered, falls on Sunday Fun Day.  For Tomato Head, this day holds a lot of significance – not just because of our inner cookie monster but because we can share the day with so many people.  It’s a good day for us to reflect on the value of having Flour Head Bakery in our lives because they give us three kinds of chocolate chip cookies including the traditional recipe along with options for both the Vegan and the Gluten Sensitive folks that we love.

The great thing about this trifecta is that the bets always pay off. And if you’re superstitious, the only thing bad that ever happened to the third person on a cookie is that they had to ask for another cookie.

So, party on.  And if you aren’t inclined to party like a rock star, you can certainly eat like a king. Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Pie

Our fresh strawberry pie was featured in the Knoxville News Sentinel! To celebrate the official kick-off of strawberry season in East Tennessee, our very own Mahasti Vafaie shares the full recipe and explains what farmer’s markets mean to her.

INGREDIENTS

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup frozen cranberry juice, thawed

¾ cup water

6 cups fresh strawberries, quartered

 

DIRECTIONS

1 Mix sugar, cornstarch, juice and water in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat whisk mixture until thickened and boiling. The mixture will be cloudy when you start and take on a deep rich color when done. Pour mixture into a medium bowl and allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.

2 Prick bottom and sides of pie crust with a fork. Line with parchment paper or a few coffee filters. Fill with pie weights or beans and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool a little and then remove the pie weights and parchment or coffee filters and bake an additional 5 minutes until the crust looks dry. Cool crust completely.

3 Remove the sugar and cranberry juice mixture from the refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Stir in the strawberries and pour all ingredients into pie crust. Refrigerate pie for 2-3 hours before serving. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Just Dew It with a side of Pecans

The approach of Big Ears, in addition to a fantastic slate of music, gives us pause to appreciate things homegrown.  It also reminds us of how nice it is to be in Knoxville, and how lucky we are to have witnessed and participated in all the work that has gone into making our city a place where something as cool as Big Ears can find a home.  We’re looking forward to the festival and all the good things that come with it.  So we’re celebrating in Tomato Head fashion with lots of southern themed specials and, of course, desserts.

In the spirit of East Tennessee and its sense of humor, we’re commemorating one of our most famous soft drinks, Mountain Dew.  As with any notable product, the actual origins of the recipe for this soda are subject to some disputation, but it is undisputed that the product was first trade marked by Barney and Ally Hartman who ran a bottling plant in Knoxville.  And that’s good enough for our purposes, especially seeing as we’re not here to pick a fight- we’re just baking a cake.

Mountain Dew cake is a recipe that comes from any number of possible sources, but we’ll be using Paula Deen’s recipe which combines a lemon cake base, supplemented by lemon pudding and a can of good ole Mountain Dew.  It’s a very limited offering that we’re baking up just for the festival, so if you want to “do the Dew” by living out a few of Mountain Dew’s slogans  and “tickle your innards” or “get that barefoot feelin’” you’ll want to stop in early this weekend before the Dew evaporates.

We’re also putting up our Pecan Pie – it’s the kind of dessert that gives us the warm fuzzies and makes us feel at home whenever we see it, let alone eat a piece.  Part of that comes from the fact that we like to claim the pecan as a particularly Southern nut- and we’re mighty fond of Southern nuts, particularly if they’re our relations.  But if the truth be told, pecans belong to a large swath of the United States – the name itself is an Algonquin word that, according to the vast wisdom of the web, means something like, “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”

Certainly Pecan Pie remains a decidedly Southern dessert whose nutty, rich, buttery and gooey excellence occupies a place of honor in the pantheon of our regional cuisine and the images upon which fond recollections of an unspoiled youth in the country are founded.  It’s also a young-ish recipe, but nobody’s really certain when the pie came to be; it didn’t show up in cookbooks until the 20th century.

Still, it’s a potent symbol of Southern hospitality and tradition and the value we place on gathering together to break bread.  Of course, a real Tennessee table knows no strangers – so whether you’re visiting to hear a little music with Big Ears, or if you’re one of the neighbors that we see all the time, we’ll be tickled pink to see you!  Come one in and sit a spell.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design