Deviled Eggs

My relationship with eggs is a Facebook status:

It’s complicated.

And like many a well-documented social media bond, my affair with eggs has always been mercurial and overly sensitive to the delicate shadings of status updates.

Today, I’m a fan of eggs of all sorts – boiled, deviled, poached and even shirred.  But it’s been a tempestuous affair.

It all started as a child when cousin Johnny and I could happily divide a boiled egg (he the white, I the yolk) until one day, without warning, poof!  The love was gone. I was done.  Just done.  In an instant, even quicker than Tayor Swift can sing, “Never, ever, ever,” my egg splitting days were over.  I don’t know that there was a reason, but, while I continued to hang out with Johnny, the egg and I were over.

Much later, after a late and very merry night, friend Ann made us a boiled egg and toast as a buffer against our indulgence.  It was a medium boiled egg, crunchy with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper eaten in succession with bites of good bread, well-toasted and slathered with rich, Normandy butter.  Heaven.  A perfectly textured nibble, generously endowed with my favorite treats (salt and fat), it rekindled an old flame burning in my heart.  For years, even long after I abandoned besotted evenings about town, that egg service has remained my favorite snack:  we were reunited and it tasted so good!

Despite that reconciliation, my prejudice against deviled eggs persisted even longer.  It may have a been a lingering and unpleasant memory of limp and tepid examples from church socials where the yolks were so pale and pasty that not even a sprinkle of tasteless grocery-brand paprika could enliven their visual appeal.  First impressions are strong, and this one endured until only a few years ago.  The change transpired at a family Thanksgiving when my new favorite aunt presented a plate of eggs stuffed with a deep yellow yolk flecked with parsley and garnished with a half a green olive on top.  In moment, better far than a metaphor can ever, ever be, I wasn’t just in love – the egg was love:  Delicious, simple but well considered, and pleasing to all the senses.

That, of course, is the truth of all great food loves – a good eat is a well-rounded appeal to at least 4 senses (and sometimes all five if there’s a sizzle involved).  And that’s exactly what this recipe for deviled eggs has going for it.  The addition of a little sriracha deepens the color of the stuffing and puts a little of the devil in it too, giving both the eyes and the tongue a treat. Red onion adds some texture and capers, with a little punch from Dijon, bring a refreshing savor for the aroma and the taste too. But, of course, all these elements perfectly frame the rich and smoky flavor of the salmon which also affixes a luxurious silkiness to each bite.

It’s a festive deviled egg to be sure, but it’s just the right kind of celebratory for the Fourth July or any gathering with the people you love.  That’s the real reason we spend time in the kitchen – it’s a palpable way to show our love, and a good recipe makes it a palatable and enduring affection, too.

 

Tomato Head’s Smoked Salmon, Red Onion and Caper Deviled Eggs

6 large eggs

3 TBL Mayonnaise

1 TBL Dijon Mustard

1 TBL red onion, chopped fine

1 TBL capers, chopped

2 TBL Smoked Salmon, chopped fine

1 tsp sriracha

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

Boil eggs for 10 -11 minutes. Remove the eggs from the hot water and place in an ice bath. Peel the eggs then cut them in half lengthwise and gently remove the yolks, keeping the whites intact.

Place the yolks in a small bowl. With a fork mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. Cool for 1-2 hours and serve chilled.

 

Tomato Head’s Grit Casserole with Mushroom Cream Sauce        

I can’t recall my first memory of grits.

I may have blocked it. That’s not because of any dislike, per se, but more likely it comes down to shame.  I suspect that my first

Grits and Cast Iron

encounter with grits involved copious butter with lots and lots of sugar, too.  And as any self-respecting Southerner will tell you, sugar and grits are a dishonorable combination that casts considerable shade over the house that dares to serve it.  You will understand, of course, why I may have repressed any such memory, if, in fact, it ever transpired at all.

Or it may be that I suffered at the hands of hurried or inconsiderate cooks who didn’t care to or know how to cook grits properly and, thus, served up some al dente.  As far as I’m concerned, an underdone bowl of grits is a far greater transgression than a sweet one; and it’s much more horrid to the young and sensitive palate.  Imagine the shock of that first, granular bite – why you’d want to forget that, too.

But whatever it was, something happened way back when to make me more than a little suspicious of this staple; and that’s wreaked havoc with my love of fine dining in town over the last decade or so as there are more grits on pretty plates than you can shake stick at.

In the intervening years, I have managed to accept grits or at least to taste them with an open mind, not because of the number of talented chefs giving grits a loving and careful treatment, but because of an old friend and roommate named Harry who shared his conviction that all grits are improved by good casserole treatment.

Mushrooms and Cream

Harry’s Sunday habits were practically set in stone and included the New York Times, mimosas, biscuits, country ham and cheese

grit casserole.  The paper was for Harry to read aloud to you whether you liked it or not, but everything else was selected for sharing.  Harry’s house was one of those places where you never knew who might show up hungry.  And being a firm believer in hospitality, Harry always had something to offer – provided, of course, that they would listen to his selected readings from the Times.

I don’t recall his exact recipe, but the one that follows is very close.  And, as Harry would tell you, it feeds plenty and can sit happily in line with ham or whatever you serve for any upcoming family feasts or breakfasts or brunches for a crowd, waiting its turn and keeping its good taste and texture as everybody fills up their plate.

Tomato Head’s Grit Casserole with Mushroom Cream Sauce        

2 cups Whole Milk

Comfort on a Plate

1 cup Water

½ cup Heavy Cream

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 ¼ cups Stone Ground Grits

1 TBL Butter

1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded

2 eggs

Place the milk, water, heavy cream, salt and ground pepper in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until mixture starts to let off steam.  Gradually stream in the grits while whisking, reduce heat to low and whisk constantly until mixture thickens.  Remove the grits from the heat and add in butter and cheddar.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, add ¼ cup of hot grits to the eggs and whisk until combined.  Add the egg mixture to the cheese and grit mixture and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

Serve the Grit Casserole in the skillet with Mushroom Cream Sauce on the side.

For the Mushroom Cream Sauce:

6 cups Mushrooms, sliced

2 TBL Butter

1 tsp Salt

½ tsp Black Pepper

¾ cups Heavy Cream

In a large skillet over high heat, melt butter.  Add mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and cream.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until the cream thickens, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour Mushrooms into a small bowl.

Serve with Grit Casserole

Serves 6-8 people.

 

 

 

Hot Milk Cake

 

Despite the digital age and the ease of having all my favorite books on a portable screen, I’m still dedicated to the real thing.  Books fit my hand, and there’s something particularly satisfying about holding the bottom corner of the next page of between my thumb and index finger; it’s a tease to my anticipation.

And with actual books, when I’m browsing through a bookstore, a sense of the hunt comes over me – and that feeling’s never so intense as when it’s a used bookshop that is my hunting ground.  It’s a treasure hunt, made complete by the enticing, almost delicious aroma of old books and their inevitable dust.  Pages old and new have their own scents that mingle into something that I find almost intoxicating.

But the hunt has other, better rewards if I’m prowling for cookbooks, something I can never seem to stop doing.  Cookbooks can yield the finest treasures, especially if they’ve been well used by thoughtful cooks who scribble notes in the margins that reveal certain truths or elucidate some mystery.  Perhaps they’re adjusted cooking times, or oven temperatures, or some reminder of an improvement – things like, “needs more vanilla” or “better with pecans,” living moments that bear witness to that best of recommendations for recipes and cookbooks, too – that they been used more than once.

If you’re particularly lucky, there may be even more treasure in the form of newspaper clippings, perhaps yellowed and nearly crackling cuttings that help date books for the time of their use – a small window into the past of the book’s owner.  Or, when the fates smile, the book may have the richest treasure of them all: an original recipe.

My favorite of these come on an index card, handwritten in ballpoint pen, stained and faded with use, complete with little corrections, changes that tell that the recipe is tried, true and perfected along the way.

This how our current recipe came to us.

Mahasti found a lovingly used treasure, The Cake Cookbook by Lilith Rushing and Ruth Voss, while on her own used book expedition.  Published in 1965, the book’s cover speaks of an era of doilies under cakes and napkins between fine china tea cups and their saucers.  The authors, sisters, are pictured by their biographies: Lilith, in wise and frameless glasses, also wrote children’s stories for the Farmer-Stockman of Oklahoma City and married a Kansan; Ruth, the younger sister in cat’s eye frames, was the associate editor of the Thomas, Oklahoma Tribune, and lived with her bachelor son.

Two red cardboard leaves are pasted inside the front cover of the book, and on them are written the names Tommy and Kathlyn.  Perhaps one of them, (Kathlyn, Mahasti imagines) also took a black, ball point pen to a 3 and half by five, lined index card to record a recipe for Hot Milk Cake.

It’s a cake that seems to have been fairly standard in the American kitchen from the early 1900’s until faded out of favor in the late 60’s or 70’s.  We imagine that Kathlyn copied the recipe from her mother’s or grandmother’s cookbook, perhaps it was her favorite, perhaps it was the one that mom loved best.

The cake itself is a like a sponge cake but calls for some baking powder to help the cake rise.  It’s one of those rich and moist cakes that tastes of vanilla and butter and comfort.  Often it was served alone without adornment or just touched with a simple glaze.  Kathlyn doesn’t tell us how her cake was finished, but we’re betting it all gotten eaten with or without something extra on top.

HOT MILK CAKE (exactly as it was hand written)

Mix in a Big Bowl

4 eggs

2C Sugar

Sift Together

2C Flour

2 tspb. b. Powder

½ tsp salt

Add:

1C Boiling Milk into which 1 stick of Butter Has been cut up

Add:

1 tsp vanilla

Pour in a well greased & Floured tube cake pan

Bake 50 min in 350⁰

Tomato Head’s White Bean Chili

White Bean Chili

Yum

White Bean Chili Recipe

 

2 cups dry White Beans, checked for stones and soaked overnight

¼ cup Oil

½ cup Onion, chopped

3 large cloves Garlic, minced, about 2 TBL

Preparing to Cook

1 large Poblano Pepper, seeded and chopped

4 cups Water or Chicken Broth

1 cup Cooked Chicken, white and or dark meat shredded

2 tsp Salt

3 TBL Cilantro, chopped

2 TBL Cumin

½ tsp smoked Paprika

1 tsp Chipotle Pepper, chopped fine

2 TBL Cornmeal

½ cup Heavy Cream (optional)

Drain beans, place them in a medium pot and cover with enough water to cover the beans at with a couple of inches of water.  Bring the beans to boil, skim off the foam on top, reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are soft, for about 1-1.5 hours, adding more water if necessary.

Meanwhile chop onion, poblano peppers, and garlic.  In a large 6-7-quart pot, heat ¼ cup of oil on medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes.  Add garlic and poblano peppers, and sauté for 1-2 minutes longer.  If your beans are not soft, turn the heat off and let vegetables rest until the beans are soft.

Toppings to Customize

When beans are soft, drain the beans, saving the cooking liquid.  Pour cooked beans into the pot with the sautéed vegetables.  Measure your cooking liquid and bring the total liquid up to 4 cups by adding either water or chicken broth.  Add liquid to beans and turn the heat on to medium then give the beans a good stir.  Add the cooked chicken, salt, cumin, paprika and chipotle pepper and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the poblano peppers are soft.  Sprinkle the cornmeal into the pot while stirring constantly to avoid clumps, simmer the chili for 5 minutes longer, then add the cream if using; stir and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve topped with chopped onion, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, sliced radish, sliced jalapeno, avocado, corn chips or tortillas for a full meal.

Serves 8-10 people.

Warm Winter Pasta Bake

Yum

Baked Rigatoni Recipe

8 oz dry Rigatoni Pasta

2.5 cups Spaghetti Sauce

1 ½ cups Italian Sausage, cooked

2 cups Spinach, chopped

1 cup Ricotta Cheese

3 TBL Basil, Chopped

2 TBL Heavy Cream

2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta one minute less than the suggested cook time on the package in a large pot of salted water.  Drain the noodles into a strainer, rinse with cold water, and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add 2 cups spaghetti sauce to noodles and toss well to coat.  Add Italian sausage and spinach and toss to distribute the ingredients well.  Pour the other ½ cup sauce in the bottom of a medium cast-iron skillet or an 8×11 baking dish, then pour pasta mixture over the sauce.

In a small bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, basil and heavy cream.  Drop the ricotta mixture onto the pasta by the spoon-full, distributing the cheese evenly.  Top with shredded mozzarella.  Place the baking dish in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted and browned slightly.  Remove from the oven when done.  Allow the dish to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with some hot bread and a side salad for a complete meal.

Serves 6-8 people.

Shopping List

1 lb box or bag of Rigatoni Noodles, or any tubular noodle of your choice

1 tub Ricotta Cheese

Heavy Cream

1 lb block Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese

Italian Sausage

Spinach

Basil

Equipment list

Medium Stockpot

Strainer

Cutting Board

Chef’s Knife

Cast Iron Skillet

Small & Large Mixing Bowls

Dry Measuring Cups

Liquid Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Wooden Cooking Spoon

Tomato Head’s White Bean Kale Butternut Squash Stew

Yum

Warm and Hearty

White Bean, Butternut Squash & Kale Soup Recipe

Beautiful Colors

 

1 cup navy beans, dry

¼ cup oil

¾ cup onion, chopped

1 tbsp garlic, chopped

2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

1 cup fennel tops and fronds chopped

1 – 14 oz. can petit diced tomatoes

4 cups water

Coming Together

3 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

1 bay leaf

2 cups kale, chopped

 

Look through the navy beans for rocks; rinse and soak overnight.

Drain the beans.  Pour the beans into a medium pot and fill with enough fresh water to cover the beans by 2 inches.  Place the beans on high heat, when they come to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the beans until soft.

Meanwhile, chop the rest of your vegetables and measure the rest of your ingredients.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the Onions and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.  Add the butternut squash, fennel tops, diced tomato, water, tomato paste, and bay leaf.  Bring the mixture to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until the butternut squash is soft.

When the navy beans are soft, drain them and pour them into the pot.  Add the salt, and sugar (recipe can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated for several days).

When ready to serve add kale; stir to submerge all the kale and simmer until Kale is softened, 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8

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

Berries on Top

Great Beginnings

Yummy Spoonful

Yum

Recipe

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

Pumpkin Pancakes

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

The First Ingredients

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

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

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

The Real Pumpkin Arrives

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

Gosh, I’m feeling nostalgic already.

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

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

Stiff Batter

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

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

 

Flour Head Bakery’s Pumpkin Pancakes

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

On the Stove

2 TB sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground clove

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 eggs

1 ½ cups Buttermilk

¾ cup pumpkin puree

3 TBL melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

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

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

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

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

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

 

Flour Head Bakery’s Orange You a Vol Cake

A bite is not enough

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

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

Knoxville Loves Orange

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

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

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

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

Touchdown!

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

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

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

Flour Head Bakery’s Orange You a Vol Cake

3 cups All Purpose Flour

1 TBL Baking Powder

1 tsp. Salt

2 Eggs

1 3/4 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Sour Cream

1 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil

1 ¼ cup Buttermilk

1 TBL Yellow Food Coloring

¼ tsp Red Food Coloring

2 TBL Cider Vinegar

2 tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

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

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design