Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce




½ of a large onion, diced (about 1 cup)

6 large cloves garlic, chopped (about 2 TBL)

¼ cup oil

2 – 20 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1 ½ cups water

1 – 3/4 ounce box of fresh basil, stems removed and chopped (about 3 tbsp)

2 ½ tsp salt

1 TBL sugar

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent.

Add tomatoes and water, bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add Basil, salt and sugar.  Use and immersion blender to blend the sauce smooth.  If blending in a traditional blender, cool the sauce before blending to avoid hot sauce splattering.

Makes 7 cups

Use immediately or divide up and freeze.

Kimchee Soup



¾ cup onion, chopped

2 TBL garlic, chopped

½ cup ginger, chopped

3 TBL Oil

1 cup kimchee, chopped

3 TBL Gochujang

4 cups water

3 TBL soy sauce

1 tsp black soy sauce

½ tsp five spice powder

3 tsp sugar

1TBL Sriracha

2 cups Napa cabbage, chopped

1 tsp sesame oil

Ramen Noodles – spice pack saved for another use

Hard Boiled Eggs

Kimchee for garnish

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and ginger, then reduce heat and sauté for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add Kimchee, Gochujang, water, soy sauce, black soy sauce, five spiced powder, sugar, and Sriracha.  Bring the mixture to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add Napa cabbage and cook for 5 minutes until cabbage is slightly softened.  Add Sesame oil and remove the soup from the burner.

To serve the soup:

Bring a pot of water to boil, add the dry ramen noodles and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain the noodles and divide into bowls, top the noodles with soup.  Garnish the bowls with a little more chopped kimchee and hard boiled eggs


Flour Head Bakery’s Hot Cereal with Muesli and Fresh Berries

Berries on Top

Great Beginnings

Yummy Spoonful



1 cup water

1 ¼ cup milk or milk substitute

½ cup Cream of Wheat or Wheat Farina

4 tsp light brown sugar

pinch of salt

Place water and milk in a small bowl over medium heat.  Gradually whisk in the wheat farina, bring to

boil, and whisk constantly until mixture thickens.

Divide the hot cereal between bowls.  Drizzle each bowl with honey or maple syrup, and top with Muesli, and fresh berries.

Serves 2-4

Collard Green Salad


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.

Hoppin’ John



1 lb black eyed peas

8 cups water

¼ cup oil

¾ cup onion, chopped

1 TBL – 4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup parsley, chopped

½ cup soy sauce

Check over black-eyed peas looking for stones 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, remove the lids and cook another 15 minutes or until peas are soft.  Check periodically to make sure water does not run out and add water by the cupful if water runs low (you should have approximately 2 cups of liquid in the pot when the peas are cooked).

When the peas are soft, over medium heat, in a small skillet heat oil, add onions and garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add onion mixture to peas followed by parsley, and soy sauce.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve over steamed white or brown rice top with Collard Green Relish.

Serves 4 – 6

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.

Pinto Beans and Cornbread and Sauteed Greens – Facebook Live Episode 5

In an age of convenience, it’s pretty easy to grab a can of well-seasoned beans, a can of whatever kind of greens – mixed or not- that suits you, and you can even grab a round of cornbread neatly wrapped in cellophane and head to the self-scan checkout in about 10 minutes if there’s no line.

You can do that for almost any kind of food that suits you – if that suits you.

I suspect we all want to eat better, fresher food and to eat with our families, perhaps even to cook with them, too.  It’s an ideal and authentic urge that we watch happen on screen, we talk about it and even write passionate posts about it, but, like Mark Twain said about the weather: everybody talks about it, but nobody actually does anything.  Perhaps that’s a little too broad – many of us try to cook.  Even if it’s just frozen fish sticks, we feel the need to make the effort from time to time.

We eat with our aprons on

But regardless of nutritional consideration, there are a host of good, solid memories that never get created if we don’t take a little time in the kitchen with the ones we love.   And these memories are investments that keep paying out for a lifetime.

In today’s episode, Mahasti’s making a simple country dinner – maybe you call it soul food, or maybe it’s comfort food to you; for me, it’s a memory of Mamaw Ethel and a special time and bond that we created nearly 40 years ago.  Even thinking about it makes me miss her and love her and feel special all over again – just like I did then when she and I would sit alone in the kitchen with a bowl of beans and big shaker of garlic powder.  Nobody else in my family seemed to love this seasoning like we did, so when we shared this moment, we would giggle as we made the surface of our beans white with garlic.  It was our moment.

It’s a simple memory, I know, but my heart swells and my eyes water with longing to live it once more.  Mamaw Ethel left us 17

The finished dish

years ago, but her cooking, beans, yes, but also stack cake, and oyster dressing, and cornbread and apple dumplings and more live in me so much that she’s with me every time I smell and eat them or any of the food that she made and shared with a heart full of love.

You can’t get that from a can.

It’s not just good nutrition that you give your family when you take the time to cook and break bread with them – it’s a lifetime of

comfort and love that you’re creating.  Maybe you have memories like that?  If you do, you know the value of time spent in the kitchen.  We hear a lot about gifts that keep on giving – this is one of the best of them.

When we say Food Gotta Cook it isn’t just a tag line for us – it’s a way of living and a way of loving that sticks to the ribs of the soul.  It’s not as convenient as a can, but it lasts a whole lot longer.


Pinto Beans

Finished beans with toppings

1 cup dry Pinto Beans

3.5 cups water

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Black Pepper

Look over the pinto beans and discard any rocks.  Place the beans in a small bowl and cover with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches, and let soak overnight.

Drain the beans in a sieve and rinse with cold water, then place them in a small pot.  Pour 3.5 cups cold water on the beans and bring to a boil.  Cook the beans for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans are soft.

Add the salt and black pepper.

Serve the pinto beans immediately.  Beans can be made a day or 2 ahead and re-heated or frozen, thawed and reheated.

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time 5 minutes

Inactive time 12 hours

Cook time 1 hour


Sour Cream & Buttermilk Cornbread

Cornbread batter ready to bake

¾ cup Sour Cream

¾ cup Vegetable Oil

2 Eggs

1 cup Buttermilk

1 ¾ cup Cornmeal

1 TBL Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl whisk together the sour cream, oil, eggs and buttermilk.   In another medium bowl mix together Cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with whisk until all the ingredients are mixed well.

Pour the cornmeal batter into a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet.  Bake the cornbread for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or a thermometer register 195 degrees.

Cornbread can be frozen, thawed and reheated in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until warm in the center.

Prep time:  15 minutes

Bake Time 25 minutes


Sautéed Greens

Sauteeing the kale

4 cups Kale leaves or other greens

1 TBL Vegetable Oil

2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

¼ tsp salt

Wash Kale.  Cut the stems into ½ inch pieces and set aside.  Cut the leaves in half lengthwise, and into ½ – ¾ inch strips.  Keep the stems and leaves separate.

Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add kale stems and sauté for 1 minute.  Add leaves and sauté just until the leaves are beginning to wilt.  Add the Vinegar and salt and sauté 1- 2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat and transfer the greens to a small bowl.

Serve Family style or to assemble:  Cut a piece of cornbread and place on a plate, top with a ladle of pinto beans, followed by sautéed greens and chopped onions.  Serve Immediately.

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 5-7 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Suggested Utensils

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Measuring Cups

Glass Measuring Cup

Measuring Spoons


Silicone Spatula

10″ Iron Skillet

12″ Iron Skillet

2-Quart Saucepan


Stainless Tongs

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.

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


Juliet famously pined, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”  Of course she was considering handsome young Romeo whose family name represented an ancient feud and was, one might say, the Hatfield to her McCoy.  But names matter, at least in some matters they do, and sometimes for odd reasons.

Consider the Avocado.  Its real, rather, its original name, ahuacate, is an Aztec word for a certain part of the male reproductive equipment that resembles the, ahem, sack-like shape of the avocado.  Get the picture?


the ingredients are ready

The folks who wanted to market the oily fruit to Americans certainly got a picture – one can only imagine their faces when someone explained the name.  I suspect they had nightmares of rival campaigns trying to denigrate and rebrand their product as Aztec testicles. Fortunately for the avocado farmers, the renaming worked; and that’s also fortunate for us – just imagine a world without avocado.

Guacamole, like popcorn, chocolate, and chewing gum, dates back to the Aztec Empire, too.  In fact, the basic recipe hasn’t changed very much: avocado, tomato, onion, some hot pepper and cilantro.  And many folks will argue that the basic recipe is all you need.  But we know that history and available ingredients change recipes all the time – not to mention the human drive to mix things up.


chips and dip anyone?

And this is exactly what Mahasti’s recipe does.  While it stays true to the basics, the addition of both mango and blueberry give the dip a surprising depth of flavor and pops of delicate sweetness.  Mango’s texture is a perfect substitute for tomatoes in this variation while the blueberries add an additional kind of fun bite to the eating of it.

The fruit has a tasty interaction with the jalapeno, too – the heat of the pepper actually accentuates the sweetness of the fruit while the blueberries in particular act as an internal balm to the jalapeno’s warmth.  There’s gotta be some food science to explain it, all, but, all I know is that this mix is uniquely delicious.

20170506_075243 (1)

the rumble in progress

This recipe also has the distinction of being the winning Guacamole in the soon to be legendary contest: Guac Rumble 2017 between Mahasti and WBIR’s Daniel Sechtin.  Certainly Daniel’s traditional version was delicious – especially with his deft use of serrano peppers and garlic; but Mahasti’s version swayed the judges by sheer force of flavor, and, of course, because it’s awfully attractive, too.

Tomato Head’s “Better than Daniel’s” Guacamole

½ Mango

2 TBL Jalapeno, chopped

3 TBL Cilantro, chopped

3 TBL Red Onion, chopped

3 Ripe Avocado

½ cup Fresh Blooberries

1 TBL Lime Juice

½ tsp Salt

Cut ½ mango off, remove the flesh with a spoon and chop into small pieces and place in a medium bowl.

Chop Jalapeno, cilantro and red onions, and add them to the bowl.  Cut avocado in half and remove pits.  Score the avocados into sections, and scoop out into the bowl.  Add blueberries, lime juice and salt.  Mix well smashing the avocados with the side of the spoon a little if too chunky.

Serve Guacamole with chips as an appetizer, or alongside tacos, or enchiladas.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design