Happy New Year


In the south, we have a superstition that eating Black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck. Some even believe that you need to eat 365 to bring luck to every day of the new year.

My black-eyed pea recipe isn’t quite southern – it is missing hog jowl – however, with the addition of soy sauce, I more than make up for the flavor, while keeping the beans vegetarian.

Make a big pot of rice and chop up some tomatoes, onions, and parsley. Top the rice with the beans and veggies to ward off evil for the upcoming year. Add some sautéed collards on the side for some extra wealth.

Happy 2021.


Tomato Head’s Hoppin John

1 lb black eyed peas

8 cups water

½ cup soy sauce

½ cup parsley, chopped

Look black-eyed peas for rocks and place in medium pot.  Add water and bring to boil over high heat – reduce heat to low and cook partially covered for 45 minutes, check the peas if they’re not soft, remove the lids and cook another 15 minutes or until peas are soft. 

When the peas are soft, add soy sauce and parsley.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve over steamed white or brown rice top with chopped tomatoes and onions  with  a  side of collards if desired.

Serves 4 – 6


Featured Artist David King

H. David King was born and raised in Knoxville.  David graduated from UT with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in art. He is a U.S. Army veteran and is now retired after 36 years with the Federal government. He has 4 children. He and his wife Jennifer live in Strawberry Plains.  His preferred mediums are oil on canvas or panel and pencil. 


To Our Customers

With the real threat of COVID-19 to our loved ones and its increased impact on all of our lives, we believe connection and communication are essential. The wellbeing of our customers, staff, and community is always of utmost importance to us. As a restaurant we have a strong practice of sanitation embedded in our daily work routines. This month we have stepped up our efforts to regularly sanitize more parts of our restaurants, including high-touch surfaces in both public spaces and in our kitchens. 

Our regular practices:

  • Train all new staff on proper sanitary procedures
  • Require staff to wash hands regularly
  • Use gloves for all food contact in both kitchen and prep areas
  • Wash and sanitize all dishes with a high-temperature dishwasher and/or sanitizer solution
  • Clean all surfaces between each use with sanitizer solution
  • Equip bathroom doors with hands free openers
  • Require staff with symptoms of any illness to remain at home

In addition, we will be:

  • Doing all of the above with a heightened attention to detail for the safety of both our customers and staff
  • Sanitizing door handles, to-go counters, condiment containers, and other high touch-areas more frequently
  • Requiring staff to wash hands more frequently

We will stay open to serve you in our restaurants for both dine-in and take-out orders, and our staff will continue to be equipped with the proper training, tools, and supplies to keep our communities safe. 

We appreciate your business and continued support. 






Cynthia Markert – Featured Artist

Cynthia Markert’s work may be among the most currently recognizable art created in Knoxville.  Her most identifiable paintings feature variations of women, all flapper-esque with distinctive page-boy coifs.  It’s a theme she pursues religiously and has for many years.  And although she was raised in Oak Ridge and traveled and lived elsewhere, notably in DC, at various points in her life, one might safely opine that this artist is almost pure Knoxville in the best possible way.

To talk with Markert is to take a take a stroll through some defining moments leading up to Knoxville as we know it today.  Her work found its way into the Fine Arts pavilion during the 1982 World’s Fair.  Later she took up residence in the 11th Street Artist’s Colony.  She sipped coffee at Java from the beginning, in its Old City pioneer days. And through it all she lived in Maplehurst, a nearly fabled community full of creative spirit and, some might say, spirits of the long gone but lingering.

“Knoxville and Maplehurst have a spiritual hold on me.“

It’s no wonder, and really no mistake that Markert found her way into all these moments.  She lives, much in the same way she paints, with openness and presence, and because of that, is drawn to the positive rhythm of life.   “When I had a studio above the 11th Street coffee house, I would walk all along the water by UT and just sort of empty my mind out.  And that would give me this space to create.”    It a space without cellphones and distraction where she is able to get lost, to be open, and let things happen.

That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t attract negative energy and criticism from time to time, she says, “Some say ‘she just paints the same thing over and over’ – it’s so untrue.“

While it may be true that her work is distinctive and thematic with recurring elements of form and content, the genesis of the work is unique and contributes to an almost ineffable and certainly individual mood in each piece.

Markert began our conversation with a complaint about the quality of wood she’s been getting.  It’s her defining medium, and lately she’s noticed more issues with warping and other flaws that “make it harder for me to hallucinate.”  Of course, she laughs, “I’m not hallucinating.  It’s almost like in Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ I’ve always associated my work with that, with trying to set the woman free.”  Markert smiles in a way that makes me wonder if she’s pulling my leg and adds, “I have to have motion in the grain of the wood – that’s where I see my women.”

Artists often speak of being in the zone, but for Markert that moment of utter concentration is akin to a trance-like state of complete presence and receptivity in which she waits for something, some potential and latent quality in the wood to reveal itself.  It’s not too far removed from seeing shapes in the clouds or finding religious imagery in everyday objects, but when Markert paints she is waiting to see if her women appear in the wood.  But in some ways, it’s less important for Markert – and perhaps for us, too – to see the women as it is for her to discover what they’re seeing.

It’s this quality that gives Markert women their magic – it’s the feeling that we’re being observed, that someone is asking, “Is that really what you’re going to do?”

Thumbing through her journal, Cynthia Markert, finds the passage she’s looking for.  It’s a quote she’s written on the left hand side of her journal (all her literary references are on that side):

“Scott Fitzgerald observed that the flapper had been created by a spirit of emancipation that had been fermenting since the beginning of the century.”

Reading this quote aloud lights a flame in the artist, her eyes flash because, she says, she’s “excited by any emancipation of women from extremely rigid roles – so I became obsessed by marriage in England in the 1890s, how the women were stuck and subject to outrageous things: if she was divorced the man got her money, well he already had all her money, her children.  And then the obsession grew to every little patch of the earth which still has so much of that [female subjugation].”

This obsession she describes began with seeing how male-dominated her college art text, “They didn’t mention any women except for Georgia O’Keefe.  All the paintings were by men with the male gaze.”  Markert’s paintings explore the female gaze, and that, she thinks, is what draws women in particular to her work, “that, and the attitude – they are not there for men’s desire, they are their own women.”

“Forty Years of Painting” by Cynthia Markert will be on view at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head on Market Square thru May 5th.  She will then exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from May 7th thru June 3rd.

Centro Hispano de East Tennessee – Student Art

For the second time this year, the walls of Tomato Head are covered with the art work of the young.

It’s easy to consign children’s art only to that frequent gallery called the fridge, where bright splashes of color and abstract figures are hung with magnets and soon overlooked in the daily quest for snacks.

And it’s true that the work may not be sophisticated in the way adults often understand that word. But all art, whether it’s created by smooth little fingers or creased larger ones, has some representational value.  Sometimes it’s symbolism, sometimes it’s a value like beauty or virtue, and sometimes, it’s nothing less than joy: the artwork created by students in Centro Hispano’s after-school program is chock full of just that.

Megan Barolet-Fogarty is the director of Youth and Family Engagement for Centro de

Hispano de East Tennessee, a non-profit organization “for education and social services to improve the quality of life and the successful integration of these families into the community.”  And one of Barolet-Fogarty’s particular missions is to help children of these families through after school tutoring – which is what led her and her charges to the walls of our restaurant.

“We run tutoring usually 2 days a week after school. I was looking for ways not just to extend the school day by two hours and have them sitting in their seats for that whole time,” and she says she was looking for a way, “to have an educationally enriching that was also fun.”

But when Barolet-Fogarty uses the word fun in this context, it carries a lot more meaning than that word might normally signify because, “A lot of them,” she says, “are newcomers to our area and to the United States and are struggling with the language.  So I wanted something other than to have them fill out worksheets or look at sight words when they’ve already been struggling to do that all day.”

The result is a program that not only fills the extra hours but offers students a hands-on introduction to the artistic heritage of Hispanic and native cultures.  She notes that “for each project they get a worksheet that tells them about the cultural history of where art came from, we show them some examples, look at pictures, and talk about vocabulary related to that.  And then they create their interpretation of what that art might look like.”

For the first project Barolet-Fogarty turned to  Amate Bark, a native Mexican art form using bright colors painted on natural paper produced from bark for which she used crinkled paper bags and tempura paint because, she explains, ”Our after school programs are funded by the United Way and a number of other smaller grants, but at this point  I  really didn’t have any funding. So it was me coming up with the cheapest materials possible – but that’s also exciting because it’s something the kids can replicate at home which is always something that you hope for.  They learn that you can create art not just from a fancy kit.”

Now through assistance from East Tennessee’s Chairman’s Club and a small foundation from New York, the Centro is able to engage an artist to help the children to learn and to develop their skills.  The projects are varied and have included “Alibreje, a form of art created by Pedro Linares, who had a dream he was sick – of wild animals that were combinations like a coyote with a peacock tail or a dragon with am elephants snout – all sorts of mystical creatures.  This is something that we did with papier-mache that was created in collaboration with Cattywampus Puppet Council.”

The value of the project is manifold.  Of course the students learn more, but they also come away with a better sense of themselves.  As Barolet-Fogarty puts it, “For us it’s really fun to see what they produce, so it’s not about the quality of the art.  It’s helping kids who are struggling in their classes because they don’t really understand the language to find joy in learning something and have confidence in something they produce.  That’s pretty great.”

We agree.

Centro Hispano de East Tennessee students will exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head thru May 6th.








Sweet Pie Pastry



10 TBL Butter, room temperature

½ cup Granulated Sugar

¼ tsp Salt

1 Large Egg

2 cups All Purpose Flour

Makes 2- 9 -inch crusts

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth with the paddle attachment.  While mixer is running on low, gradually add the sugar and salt.  Mix for 2-3 minutes, scraping down a few times, until the sugar and butter are well combined.  Add the egg and mix well.  Turn the mixer off and add the flour all at once.  Turn the mixer back on low and mix until all the flour is absorbed and a smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions.   Flatten the dough into discs and wrap well with plastic film.  If using the same day, refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, , and allow to rest for 5 minutes before rolling out.

Roll the dough to 9.5 – 10 inches in diameter.  Lift the dough onto your pie plate, press into place and crimp the edges.

Fill the prepared pie shell with filling and bake according to filling instructions.

Dough may be refrigerated overnight or frozen up to 30 days for future use.  Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator the day before you plan to use.  Rest dough at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before rolling.

Flour Head Bakery Strawberry Dumplings

My relationship to dumplings is complicated.  And it has been since I was forced to smile through some underdone, chicken flavored flour blob forced upon my plate at a church potluck.

I don’t know if you know the rules about these events, but you can rest assured that every potluck contributor is judging your plate both when you fill it and as you empty it too.  And in a small church, a plate that doesn’t give everybody equal love in terms of quantities taken and quantities eaten will create hurt feelings that linger for years.

I suppose that’s why I had to eat those dumplings.  Of course, nobody cared that my feelings were hurt by eating them.  Life, I’ve learned, isn’t fair.  If the truth be known, my eating life was nearly ruined by the experience.  After all, a fine dumpling is a wonder, and all across the world dumplings are the inspiration for comestible excellence and creativity.  But I can hold a big food grudge for a long time, and I’m afraid that Sister So-and-So’s unsuccessful dish nearly kept me from a lot of lip-smacking wonder.  Thank Disney it didn’t.

Though it pains me to admit it, I am eternally grateful to Disney for opening a door that saved my dumpling life.  It happened when I was about 8 years old, and I know this because the recollection starts with a film – one of only a handful that I can now remember seeing as a child.  In 1975 Disney released the Apple Dumpling Gang.  Though I had to consult the interwebs to clear my cobwebs about the cast and plot of the film, I needed no help remembering the apple dumpling.

In the film, three orphans come under the care of a wandering gambler, Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby).  When they first meet, Donovan tries to feed them salt pork, but the youngsters request (and eventually get) apple dumplings.  And that was fascinating because clearly, where dumplings were concerned, I’d been cheated.

And I remember nearly running my little legs off to ask my Mamaw Ethel if she had ever made these wonders.  She said, no, she hadn’t and didn’t even have a recipe.  When she said no more about it and promised nothing, I thought the conversation was closed.  But when my next turn for a sleepover came, I entered a house redolent of cinnamon and apples, and I knew without a doubt that that wasn’t a pie in the oven.  And it was an eating epiphany.  So thanks, Disney, for that.

After all, if I hadn’t met the apple dumpling, I’d probably never had gotten excited about Mahasti’s newest recipe: Flour Head Bakery’s Strawberry Dumplings

And that would be a darn shame.  Strawberries capture the feeling of spring sunshine with an exuberance that’s nearly unmatched in festive color and flavor.  And adding them to recipes is a jolt of happy that goes a very long way to making good food better.  And in this recipe, there is a lot of happy.

Fruit dumplings, and all dumplings really, are only as good as they are light.  Of course, keeping them seasonal is crucial, too – a strawberry dumpling won’t be truly fabulous without great strawberries – that much is a given, but after that it’s all about technique and having the right recipe.

Using cold butter will help keep the dumplings light, and it’s important not to over mix the batter.  My personal challenge with muffins and pancakes is try remember to mix just until moistened.  No matter how many times I read that instruction, I’m tempted to beat the daylights out of the batter until it’s silky smooth.  That’s too much work, and it doesn’t yield the best results.

In this recipe, Mahasti covers the dumplings with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking; don’t be tempted to omit that step, otherwise, you might have browned dumplings with underdone hearts.  And that, of course, could break some poor youngster’s heart if she has to eat them at your next potluck.


For Sliced Strawberries:

3 cups strawberries

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar or Vanilla

Slice 3 cups of strawberries and toss with ¼ cup Sugar and 1 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar, or Vanilla and set aside.

For Strawberry Puree:

1 cups Strawberries, chopped

1 cup Water

1 /2 cup Sugar

Place the chopped strawberries, water and sugar in the jar of your blender and blend until smooth

For Dumplings:

1 cup Flour

2 TBL Sugar

1 ½ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

4 TBL Butter, cut into small pieces

½ cup Milk

1 tsp Vanilla

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry cutter cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is in pea size pieces. If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can rub the butter between your fingers. Pour the vanilla into the milk, then pour the milk into the flour mixture and mix just until all the flour has been moistened. (the mixture will be quite wet like a thick pancake batter)

Whipped Cream for serving

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice one more cup of strawberries and place them in the bottom of a 9-inch deep dish pie pan. Drop the batter by the spoonful on top of the berries. Pour the berry puree over the dumplings.

Place the dish on the middle rack of your oven and loosely cover with foil. Bake for the first 20 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes until the dumplings are level with the top of your pie pan and starting to brown slightly. The mixture will be runny.

Rest the dumplings for 10 – 15 minutes. Serve warm with Strawberries in Syrup and top with whipped cream.

Serves 6-7 people

Jessica Payne – featured artist

Once again Tomato Head walls shimmer with the many-hued and luminous paintings of Jessica Payne.  One of our

Poppy Borealis

favorite local artists, Jessica’s work fills the space with vivid color and imagery that excites the eyes and provokes conversation.  One of her favorite memories is when, “I was eating at the downtown Tomato Head during one of my exhibits a few years ago, and I saw a family in the middle of the room looking around and discussing my paintings.  At one point a little girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, went up to look closer and immediately turned around and with a frown said, ‘Mommy it’s already sold.’”

Jessica grew up in Knoxville as the youngest of six in a long line of artists, and drawing and painting were hobbies that she came by naturally – both her father and grandmother spent their free time putting color on canvas.

But while she took art classes and thought at times that her career might veer toward the arts, it was only after she took a degree in Social Work and Women’s studies and started a path to law school that she felt a tug to a more creative vocation.

It was in the week of her 25th birthday while she sat outdoors when she committed to a different way of life: “I spent my birthday weekend sitting and observing so many beautiful things that had been around me for a long time.  I felt an intuitive pull to change my life in a drastic way.”

Swing Tree in Winter

Promptly thereafter, Jessica joined Americorps where her urge to create found expression in the earth as she worked to help establish Beardsley Farm; later the same urge would lead her to study cooking, until finally through a variety of online courses and her own drive, she found both an approach and technique for painting that helped unlock her artistic life.

She says: “A huge thing I learned from artist Flora Bowley, after taking her online course Brave Intuitive Painting, is to keep painting until something works.”  This approach helps keep Jesssica’s creative energy in flow, and it works in conjunction with her technique of layering.

“I find something that works and then focus on that. If it doesn’t work, I paint over it.  I often keep painting over my canvas until something clicks or sparks with me.  This opens the door to the philosophical idea of non-attachment. I’m not afraid to paint over something that I spent a while creating if it no longer works/looks pretty.”

Jessica’s technique results in vibrant and multi-faceted imagery that contains the genuine chaos of natural creativity that, she says, eventually evolves into order: “After I have a few layers of marks and colors, I like to take my painting outside and look at it far away.  I like to see if I can see any images in the painting…sort of like seeing images in clouds.  Sometimes I see birds, mountains, vases, trees.  Working and expanding upon what is already there after the spontaneous marks, is part of my process, too.  This process is so fun and mysterious.”

One of the most fun aspects of Jessica’s art is that her paintings often shine.  She says, “I love things that sparkle.  My

Water Prayer

inner five year old is always ready to play with glitter! Because of the use of glitter and mica, my paintings change when the light source changes.  There are many times when I walk by a painting and it sparkles so much that it looks like it is plugged into electricity.  When the sun hits a painting with glitter, it glows.”

The color, the variety of imagery, not to mention the playful use of glitter and mica, give our featured artist’s work a liveliness that almost leaps from the walls in a joyful celebration of the beauty that surrounds us and lives inside us, too.

Don’t let it pass you by.

Tomato Head’s Warm Kale and Root Vegetable Salad

Whenever I talk about kale, my vocabulary becomes very healthy as I launch into a diatribe about this nearly ever-green superfood.  But even as I do, I can see a weariness creep across the faces of the people I’m talking to; sometimes, that look is accompanied by a slight rolling of the eyes, or a little exhalation of breath, almost a deflation, as if to say, “Not again.”

I’m not a kale evangelist, perhaps an enthusiast, yes, but not an evangelist. I’m certainly not a bore (please, God, don’t let THAT be true). And I’m certain that I don’t wear the subject out, so I can hardly be blamed for the fact that this nutrient dense member of the Brassica species suffers from overexposure.

Kale fatigue is not my fault.

But that doesn’t change the fact that kale is awfully good for you and that it’s available and seasonal when green, leafy vegetables usually fly south for the season.  So we should talk about it even if our friends roll their eyes.  Kale fatigue be damned.

But I’m convinced that this weariness has less to do with conversation than with an urge to get too much, too fast.  No food will change your life after a single serving – well, that’s not entirely true: once, a cupcake made me believe in Paradise.  But in terms of health and well-being, it takes more than one big bowl of leafy greens to cure what ails ya.  Furthermore, kale’s a tough cookie – it’s at its most nutritious when it’s raw, and, believe you me, raw kale is no fun to eat.

It reminds me of my cousin Bruce.  Bruce loves pecan pie, and I’m pretty sure that he’d love spiced pecans and pecan cinnamon rolls, too.  But Bruce won’t touch any of those things – it’s torturous to watch him agonize over pecan pie at Thanksgiving – his mouth practically waters!  But once upon a time, Bruce got a bite of that pithy bit of fiber that separates the two halves of pecan meat.  I’m sure Mamaw didn’t mean to leave in the pie, but that brief moment of unwelcome bitterness, coming, as it did, in the midst of sugary heaven, put Cousin Bruce off pecans and all nuts for the last 35 years.

I feel certain that that’s what’s happened to many a potential kale lover.  We know that if you gently massage the kale leaf and remove the rib, then the little bite of Brassica becomes much nicer to nibble and exponentially more delectable for the digestion.  But like Bruce and his nuts, even a single bite of tense, unrubbed kale or a chew of wayward, fibrous kale rib can put you off the vegetable for a very long time.

That’s why it may be better to cook the kale a little.  Sure, you diminish some of the vitamin concentration in a single serving, but, over your lifetime (unlike the sad but safe exclusion of pecan pie in Bruce’s life) I’m betting that you’re better off having kale in your diet.

This recipe is a great example of how to use kale without risking kale fatigue.  Combining the gently cooked and seasoned leafy greens with earthy and sweet, roasted root vegetables makes an incredibly delicious – perhaps even sneaky- way to get good food on the plate and in the body.  Plus the crunch and light sweetness of fennel bulb adds and irresistible texture and perkiness that gives the whole salad a lift that is seasonal and guaranteed to fight off a whole list of kale fatigue symptoms – especially the dreaded rolling of the eyes.


Tomato Head’s Warm Kale and Root Vegetable Salad

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces

1.5 cups beets, diced into 1 inch pieces

2 cups potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss each vegetable separately with 1 Tbl Oil, ¼ tsp Salt and ¼ tsp Black Pepper. Place vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in separate clumps. Bake Carrots for 20 minutes until soft, Beets for 30 minutes until soft and Potatoes for 40 minutes until soft, removing each vegetable from the oven as they cook and setting them aside.

½ cup Fennel Bulb

6 cups Kale

Cut the green stems off the Fennel, rinse the bulb, and cut in half. Remove the core then thinly slice the fennel with a knife or a mandoline slicer and set aside.

Wash Kale and cut into 1 inch strips.

To assemble the salad:

½ cup balsamic vinegar reduced to ¼ cup

¼ cup olive oil

½ tsp salt

1 Tbl Balsamic Vinegar

Place ½ cup balsamic vinegar in a large skillet over medium heat and reduce down to ¼ cup. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining ingredients and whisk well. Add the kale to the hot skillet, allowing the Kale to wilt a little.

Place Kale in a large bowl, and add the roasted vegetables, and Fennel. (if your skillet is large enough you can add the vegetables directly to the skillet). Toss everything together until all the vegetables are coated with dressing and serve.

Serves 2-4 people.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design