Matzo Balls for Matzo Ball Soup

Recipe

4 large eggs

1 tsp Salt

½ tsp Black Pepper, ground

2 TBL Parsley, chopped

¼ cup Schmaltz (chicken fat), or melted shortening

¼ cup Chicken Stock

1 ¼ cup Matzo crackers, ground

In a medium bowl whisk eggs.  Add salt, pepper, parsley, schmaltz and chicken stock and mix until incorporated.  Add Matzo meal and mix until everything is mixed well.  Refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours or overnight.

To shape the balls: 

Scoop the mixture using an ice scream scoop, or a large spoon.  Roll the scoops into balls and place in a pot of salted boiling water.  Drop the matzo balls into the pot, making sure you leave enough room for them to double in size, and reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer the matzo balls, covered, for 45 minutes until they are very fluffy and floating.

To Serve Matzo Ball Soup:

Heat and season your homemade chicken stock with salt to taste.  Place some thinly sliced carrots in each bowl.  Place a matzo ball in each bowl and ladle hot chicken broth into each bowl.  Garnish with fresh dill.

Makes 7 large or 10 medium Matzo balls.

Collard Green Salad

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Collard Green Salad Recipe

3 large Collard leaves

2 TBL Oil

¼ cup chopped onion

1 medium tomato – about 1 cup, chopped

1 TBL Parsley, chopped

1 TBL cider vinegar

½ tsp salt

Wash Collards in several rinses of cold water.  Shake off the excess water and cut the leaves into 4-5 long strips.  Cut the strips, including the stems into ½ inch strips crosswise.  Keep the stems separated from the leaves.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add oil then add the collard stems and sauté for 1-2 minutes.  Add the collard leaves and sauté just until all the leaves have turned bright green.

Lucky Foods – New Year’s Day

I am not superstitious. Not very much anyway.

Though it is true, as a rule, that I don’t break mirrors, walk under ladders or open umbrellas indoors, and I certainly never, ever utter the name MacBeth aloud in a theatre.  But despite what you may think, it’s not superstition – it’s practical magic.  After all, shards of glass are decidedly unlucky, as is a hammer, or any object, when dropped from an elevated position; and while I don’t mind raindrops fallin’ on my head, a wet entryway has only ever brought me unhappiness and a sore backside.

As for saying the name of Shakespeare’s bewitched tragedy – I don’t worry about bringing a curse upon my head by saying the name aloud.  I do however, worry about other people who worry.  Believe you me, you meet one neurotic actor who believes in that superstition, and you’ll honor it all your days.

Nonetheless, I eat lucky food on New Year’s Day because I believe.

Almost every culture has a set of good fortune foods. In the South, many of us make a habit of eating collard greens and black-eyed peas, often with fried hog jowl or any bit of pork in order to guarantee good luck for the coming year.

Prep is Done

Where Collards are concerned, my mama says it’s all about the color of money.  And that sounds reasonable enough to me, though one wonders if this hearty green is thought lucky because of its preference for cool weather.  Green vegetables that taste better after a frost seem like a providential find for folks who grow their own.

Black eyed peas come with a whole host of luck associations – some tracing the tradition to a reference in the Babylonian Talmud about foods to eat at Rosh Hashanah, and others crediting the humble but plentiful pea with saving countless starving Southerners after the Civil War.  But, as with collards, both of these associations may have their roots in more pragmatic thought than a concern for fortune.  A good bowl of peas can last you for a couple of days so you don’t have to cook daily, and it’s an abundant crop that keeps well.

In many parts of the South black-eyed peas are mixed with rice and, thus, create Hoppin’ John.  Rice itself is an ancient symbol of prosperity and fertility, and, I reckon, putting the two to together makes some powerful juju that can carry you through 365 days of life’s varied twists and turns with a favorable edge.

But, of course, it’s only good juju if you actually eat it.  And honestly, a plain old can of peas and instant rice isn’t gonna be very

Ready to Eat…. Lucky You!

tempting.  But if you’ll take a look at Mahasti’s recipe below, at the very least you’ll have pretty good luck at getting folks to eat your New Year’s creation.  It’s a simple recipe with an unexpected and delicious ingredient that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Plus, Mahasti tops her Hoppin’ John with a vibrant collard green salad that adds a very healthy crunch and a welcome splash of the color of money.  I can’t swear that it’s good luck, but I can assure you that it all tastes good.

At the end of the day, though, I believe less in good luck than I believe in good habits.  This simple dish is nutritious, frugal, and easy to make at home in family-sized batches that keep well.  And while I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, I do believe that making a start with good food habits is a sensible response to the sheer indulgence of the previous weeks; I can weigh the sugar I’ve consumed in pounds.  And getting into the habit of eating well and eating things you’ve cooked with or for people you love is the kind of good sense that may not make good luck but will make you feel pretty darn lucky.

Find our recipe for black-eyed peas here and one for the collard green salad here.

Gingerbread


Cookies are magic.

Gingerbread People

We know it instinctively.  It might be that some of us grew up believing that little elves who live in hollow trees make magic in the form of fudge stripes on shortbread and the like.  For me, the magic is in the memory of family kitchens filled, especially at this time of year, with palpable enchantments; the lust of the forbidden cookie dough followed by that bewitching but tortuous aroma of cookies in the oven.  Just writing those words makes my head spin like no love potion could ever hope to do.  To this day, even the memory of that smell can cast a craving on me that won’t quit until answered.

And of all that aromatic cookie magic, the most potent is gingerbread.  The secret, methinks, is in the formidable combination of ginger and molasses which creates a darkly sweet but lively dough that produces a rich baking aroma that gets inside of me and makes me feel warm and, of course, very, very hungry.

It’s not a new magic by any means, gingerbread in various incarnations populates the histories of many cultures.  Likewise, the magic of shaping food into shapes for a little magical mischief is an ancient bit of sorcery.  Of course, it probably all started with clay and idols, but those aren’t particularly tasty.

In Medieval England, ladies would sometimes eat gingerbread husbands in hopes of acquiring the real thing.  I can’t imagine that was particularly efficacious magic – gingerbread is sweet and adorable and, from what I can tell, men in medieval England were not overly sweet as a rule.

But how gingerbread men came to be a part of the Christmas tradition is unclear – perhaps it evolved from the German tradition of creating gingerbread houses which were associated with the yuletide.  Or maybe it’s just one of those things that happens – somebody put a cookie on a tree for decoration and, abra cadabra, a tradition was born.

But the real magic of gingerbread isn’t in the shape, per se – it’s in the creation, the fact of the making, the act of the shaping and most importantly, the cooking of it.  The rich aroma of gingerbread in the oven is the aroma of home. And isn’t the magic of home a big part of what we observe this time of year?  No matter what holiday we celebrate, it’s always better at home – whether that’s a family moment or time shared with close friends, perhaps even pets, spending time with those we love is the real enchantment.

Homemade gingerbread is the by-product of love, which, of course, is the greatest magic of all.  And it’s never too late to find your inner wizard.
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Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies

3 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour

1 cup, packed Light Brown Sugar

½ tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Soda

4 tsp Ground Ginger

½ tsp Ground Clove

4 tsp Ground Cinnamon

2 sticks plus 1 TBL Unsalted Butter at room temperature

3 TBL Whole Milk

1 cup Blackstrap Molasses

Mix together the Flour, Brown Sugar, Salt, Baking Soda and spices in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment until all the ingredients are mixed together well.  On low speed gradually add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse sand.  Mix together the milk and molasses.  With the mixer running gradually add the molasses mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and a soft dough is formed.

Divide the dough up into 2-4 balls.  Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.  Dough can also easily be frozen for up to 30 days.  Simply remove from the freezer 24 hours prior to baking.

Cooling Off

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.   Line your cutting board with a sheet of parchment paper big enough to cover the board and also fit your cookie sheet.  Remove your gingerbread dough from the refrigerator.  Dust the surface of your parchment paper heavily with flour and roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut your desired shapes into the cookie dough, leaving ¾ of an inch, enough room for cookies to expand in the oven, between each shape.  Remove the excess dough from in between the cookies shapes and reform the excess dough into a disk, which you can either re-roll out or refrigerate or freeze for future use.  Lift your cutting board off of your work surface and gently tilt it towards your cookie sheet, sliding the parchment paper with the cookies onto the cookie sheet.  Gently re-arrange the cookies if necessary, giving them enough room to expand in the oven.

Bake the cookies for 10 – 12 minutes for a soft cookie and 12-14 minutes for a crispy one.  Allow cookies to cool.  Ice with Royal Icing and decorate with sprinkles.  Allow icing to harden and enjoy.

Check out our recipe for royal icing to decorate your cookies.

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Stand Mixer

Cutting Board

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Glass Measuring Cup

Rolling Pin

Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter

Gingerbread Girl Cookie Cutter

Royal Icing

This is a great icing for icing sugar cookies and gingerbread cut out cookies

Piping Royal Icing

 1/3 cup Pasteurized Egg Whites

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3-4 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with your hand-held mixer until the mixture looks frothy.  Add the vanilla and with the mixer running on low speed gradually add the powdered sugar.  If you want an icing that is easily spreadable add enough sugar to get the icing to slowly ribbon off the beater or whisk.  For an icing that can be piped, add enough powdered sugar to get the icing to form stiff peaks and cling to the beaters or whisk without leaving the beater or whisk when held away from the bowl.    Divide the icing up into smaller portions for coloring or use white.  Place the icing in pastry bags fitted with the tip of your choice and pipe onto cookies.

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Flour Sifter

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

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.

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….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.

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….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…

National Food Service Worker’s Day

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Market Square Staff

Today is a good day to reflect on one of the finest parts of Tomato Head – past and present; from the very beginning of our journey all the way through today we’ve attracted a lot of interesting people – not just the folks eating at our tables but also the many fine people who work to put the goods on those tables.

Today is National Food Service Worker’s Day, which strikes us as both a day of celebration and gratitude.

It doesn’t matter what aspect of life, whether you’re putting together a sports team, casting a play, or assembling a band, finding the right group of humans who share your passion, your values, and your own brand of common sense can be a Herculean labor – and finding all of those qualities in a group of people that you actually like to be around is a stroke of luck. And yet for going on 26 years, Tomato Head has been inordinately fortunate in terms of having a team from the kitchen all the way to the front door that’s caring, considerate, hard-working and pretty groovy, too.

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Gallery Staff

So we want to say thanks!

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know that the job comes with more challenges than meet the eye, and that it takes a lot more effort than just slinging hash on a grill or dropping it off at table 15. From the kitchen and dish room to the bar and the patio, too, the work requires a keen set of eyes, mad skills in multi-tasking, diplomacy out the wazoo, and a really good pair of shoes.

Thanks in part to the great proliferation of cooking shows, there’s a little more appreciation for the demands of life in food service than perhaps once there was.  Still, it’s a tough job that comes with its fair share of difficult experiences. So today, perhaps you’ll consider joining us as we make a point of saying thanks a little more clearly and a little more often.

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Across the bar at Market Square

Of course, we’re not encouraging our guests to get up and hug the kitchen manager after every meal – I suspect we’d be looking for a new kitchen manager if that were the case. But, if you think of it, an extra thanks goes long way to helping anybody feel better about the day and what they do with it.

National Bacon Lover’s Day

August 20th is a subtle food holiday.  Whereas most of the time we’re celebrating a particular thing we love to eat, this day honors those who do the eating.  And while we’re certainly all about lifting people up, it just doesn’t seem right to give bacon lovers, of all people, their own holiday.  After all, they revel in the joy of eating every time they sit down to their favorite treat – an official recognition smacks of indulgence or perhaps a little insider trading.  Bacon enthusiasts are very well placed – even, we’re told, among the illuminati.

Perhaps it’s too much to assume that there’s a secret society at work – after all, there is no arcane knowledge about the food.  It announces its presence boldly with rampant assaults on the olfactory bulb that travel to the brain like wild fire to enflame craving and ignite desire.   As far as I can tell, babies with candy are safe, but little ones with bacon are sure to be without it soon.

Of course, this part of the world is particularly subject to bacon love owing to our proximity to the center of the known bacon universe.  Our charming neighbor to the south, Madisonville, may seem like a quiet place, but it’s a hotbed of bacon agitation and the home of many, very smoky revels.  Benton’s Bacon is one of the most odiferous examples of this already odiferous edible, and it acts on the average person’s nose in much the same way that the sirens’ call ensnared sailors of ancient seas.

If you consider the subject carefully, bacon love is really more cult-like than anything as it lures even the strongest of hearts into its web of longing; there’s a good chance that Meatless Monday has been thwarted more by bacon than anything else.  Still, some of our favorite people are ensnared by this compelling food obsession – even folks we call family – so we tolerate this obsession and do our darnedest to love them the best we can.

Given the nature of this love that not only dares to speak its name but proclaims it loudly, one wonders if the purpose of the holiday isn’t so to acclaim the bacon lover but, instead, to call attention to their plight.

Regardless, as far as we can tell there’s no cure for this food affliction until the afflicted themselves have had enough.  And until that day, we do our best to treat them well and make sure that the bacon they get is at least of good quality, acquired legally, and not taken out of the mouths of babes.

As for Tomato Head, admittedly we’re enablers.  Really big enablers.  We serve Benton’s Bacon as an a la carte brunch option, a topping for salad and pizza, and as an essential part of the “OH!” in our Oh Boy sandwich.  All bacon has excellent crunch potential, but Benton’s takes that texture an extra step and becomes both crunchy and softly yielding in the same bite.

Allan Benton in the Smokehouse (image by smokeymountaineer)

And then there’s the fact that Mr. Benton delivers a smoking that permeates not just the bacon but the entire dish – sometimes the whole room – suffusing it with flavor and memories, too.  Just the smell of this bacon ignites bonfires of glory days long past, fireplaces filled with crackling flames and romance, and campfires redolent with comfort, bonding and adventure.  Even its appearance recalls the memory-laden, failing autumn light, a dusk horizon streaked with shades of umber, ochre and Sienna.  But edible.  Really edible.

While naturally, WE do not suffer from bacon obsession, we understand and sympathize with those who do.  Thus we raise rashers to those who love the bacon on this their special day.  And though it’s easy to malign the bacon-addled, today we encourage you to show love and tolerance and to embrace them even if their hands are greasy and their breath, smoky.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design