Tomato Head’s chorizo and onion quesadilla with guacamole

Today’s recipe for Tomato Head’s chorizo and onion quesadilla with guacamole can be an easy meal or snack, especially when the guacamole is prepped. More importantly we’re sharing a delicious recipe for guacamole, which really should speak for itself.

But for those of you who don’t know, guacamole is a perfect snack or addition to any meal in the summer time, especially by the water with a beer….I’ll stop dreaming now and get back to work. While this is a Mexican inspired dish, there is certainly room to be creative and bring in different elements.

Begin by making the guacamole, which will keep for a few days as long as you cover it directly with saran wrap, meaning no air between the wrap and the guacamole. This will slow down oxidation. This recipe for guacamole serves 4-6 people. For this part of the recipe, you’ll need:

4 ripe avacados

Juice of 1 lime

1 cup tomato, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 Tbl cilantro

¾ tsp salt

2 Tbl onion, chopped

2 tsp jalapeno, chopped

Cut the avocados in half, removing the seed and scooping the flesh into a medium sized bowl. This is easier done with a spoon (click the photo below to see video of Mahasti using this life hack). Mash the avocados with a potato masher or pastry cutter, then squeeze lime juice over the avocados. This will add to the taste and help the dish keep. Next, add tomato, garlic, cilantro, salt, onion, and jalapeno. Mix well and serve immediately. If not serving immediately, cover with saran wrap as previously directed.

The quesadillas are the next step of the recipe. For these you’ll need:

12 inch tortillas

½ cup cooked chorizo

½-¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese

sliced onion

Place tortillas on a work surface. Cover the half closest to you with chorizo, cheese, and onion. Fold the top half of the tortilla over the bottom and place the tortilla on a heated griddle or a large cast iron skillet. When the quesadilla has browned on one side, flip it over and brown the other side while allowing the cheese to melt. Serve with the guacamole, and enjoy!

Video of Mahasti's WBIR cooking segment

Video of Mahasti’s WBIR cooking segment

Tomato Head’s 25th Birthday

Sometimes, things just fall together.

While the pizzas and burritos you get today from the Tomato Head come from well-crafted ideas and careful calculations, it all started with an engineer who decided to do something bold. 25 years ago in August, Mahasti Vafaie left her career as an engineer, thinking of attending medical school. Instead, she found herself sitting in French café named La Madeline in New Orleans with her mother, realizing a dream to own her own restaurant.

She didn’t start off with pizza in mind.

The opportunity presented itself when the building she rented in Market Square came with pizza equipment. She wasn’t known to be a pizza chef. Yet she was (and is) a talented chef, filled with a passion, and a smart head on her shoulders to open her own pizza joint, remodeling and cleaning it up herself for under $10,000.

By the young age of 27, Mahasti’s Flying Tomato, the former name of the Tomato Head, was already one of the favorites in downtown eating, known for its unique pizza crust. It only sat about 50 people, less when there was live music, but people crowded in for good food, made with healthy ingredients.

There were only seven people on the first staff. Mahasti made all of the bread herself, every morning at 7:30, working countless hours. 25 years later, she and her husband, Scott, have overseen a remodel of the original Market Square location, opened a new store on Kingston Pike, and are able to give back to the community through the Loving Spoonful program.

All of this, while keeping to the basic philosophy that fresh, healthy foods make the best meals; the meals that they would want to feed themselves and their children.

We would like to celebrate 25 years of spinning ‘zza, and we want you to be a part of it. This is as much of a celebration for Mahasti as it is for everyone who has walked through our doors. To say thanks, we are throwing a party on Market Square, featuring live music and more on August 29th from 5-10 p.m. We’ll also be sharing our special Anniversary Brew that evening, and celebrating the musical talents of some of our favorite locals. More details are coming later in the summer, but you won’t want to miss this party. Here’s to you, thanks for 25 years.

Cheers.

Back to the Basics 2015 copy

Big Ears Festival: A macrocosm of Knoxville’s artistic community.

Big Ears Festival is more than music. This is a festival that is as much about expanding communities as it is a lineup. The city of Knoxville is opening its arms again this weekend to welcome back Big Ears and the vast, internationally renowned community of artists of many mediums.

For the second year in a row, the Big Ears community is reaching back to Knoxville through its community outreach program Little Ears which raises money to support The Joy of Music School and the Community school of the Arts. Both of these Knoxville based schools offer opportunities in the arts to children and teens who have trouble affording them otherwise. It’s a welcomed partner of our Loving Spoonful charitable program.

At the Tomato Head, we are proud to be partners with Little Ears and supporting both schools by displaying photographs of the Joy of Music School and paintings from the Community School for the Arts in our Market Square location through March. If you miss them, you can see them in April at our Kingston Pike location.

We are also featuring special Big Ears pint glasses for sale that benefit Little Ears. (More details here) During the festival weekend, stop into the Tomato Head to purchase a Big Ears glass and try the Saw Works Sonic Wit, the featured beer for the festival.

Little Ears is a program with powerful meaning and serious results. Last year, AC entertainment reports having raised almost $4,000 to benefit both of the organizations. This was enough to create two new scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year at the Community School of the Arts. Music education is integral to the festival, according to Neeley Rice, one of the forces behind Big Ears at AC Entertainment. The promise of Big Ears is it features musicians and artists of several mediums who push the envelope in their art.

The festival is in many ways a macrocosm of Knoxville’s talented artistic community that the School of the Arts and Joy of Music have helped to foster, and a level of discipline for the students who are just learning the skills of their art to aspire to. The paintings displayed at the Tomato Head were done by middle and high school students.

For many of them, this is the first time their work has been displayed outside of the school. The work is unique and you don’t have to be an art expert to enjoy the paintings. The photographs of the children at the Joy of Music School are pristine and capture beautiful moments of children learning to play music.

This weekend, Knoxville will again transform into what Jennifer Willard at the Community School for the Arts describes as an international cultural mecca. It’s safe to say that there is a lot of excitement in the air. It will be really neat to see the how the culturally diverse art on display at the Tomato Head through Little Ears is a stepping stone that every artist masters before becoming a force in pushing their craft forward like the artist featured in Big Ears.

Knoxville has such great culture, and this weekend is promising to be very special.

Chicken Enchiladas in Tomatillo Mole

Do you ever wonder what chefs who actually know how to cook throw together for a last minute dinner?

Here’s an idea of what Mahasti does when she doesn’t have time to cook. This recipe for chicken enchiladas in tomatillo mole has quite a few perks. Once you’ve made the mole, you can keep it in stock, which makes this recipe, and many more, quick and easy. Mole can be thrown on top of a long list of things. Many of the ingredients for this tomatillo mole, such as the peppers, onion, and maybe even tomatillos if under the proper conditions, can be grown in your own garden which makes the mole the freshest it can be, and thusly taste even better. Also this recipe is easy, delicious, and fairly more interesting than making lasagna for the third week in a row.

To make the mole, you’ll need:

8 cups husked tomatillos (about 16-17 tomatillos)

1 large poblano pepper, destemmed and deseeded

1 large onion, peeled and quartered

½ cup cilantro

½ cup sour cream

1½ tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 400°. Place the tomatillos, poblano, jalapeno, and onion in a large baking dish and bake for 50 minutes. Look for the tomatillos to have black spots on them, then take them out and allow to cool. Place the mixture into the bowl of your blender, then add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

The mole is really the bulk of the recipe in terms of time commitment. It is easy to store and keeps well, so keep it in stock.

To assemble the enchiladas, you’ll need:

One corn tortilla

1-1½ Tbl Mole

Scant ¼ cup chicken

Scant ¼ cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Shaved cabbage

Keep your oven at 400°. Place the corn tortillas in one layer on your work surface. Spread each tortilla with Mole, covering the tortilla almost entirely.  Place chicken and cheese on top of tortilla and roll the tortilla up into a tube.  Place tortillas seam side down in a baking dish or cast iron skillet.  Cover the tortillas entirely with more Mole; about 1/4 cup per enchilada.  Sprinkle tops with a little more cheese.  Place the dish in the oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve immediately with corn chips or beans and rice.

Tomatillo Mole

The New Festival Beer You Haven’t Tried

Nothing shines better in the sunshine than the colors of a well brewed beer. That’s certainly what Saw Works Brewing Company is hoping for this spring with the cloudy gold shine of their new Sonic Wit.

Created for the Big Ears Festival, the Sonic Wit was meant to be stimulating on a hot day of drinking. Will, the Head Brewer at Saw Works, explained how the Sonic Wit was inspired by Icelandic ales and Belgian wheat beers with the intention of keeping the unfiltered look and notes of orange while drawing out the wheat to be replaced by Tennessee favorites, rye mash and honey malt.

The result is an unfiltered American ale with an orange-citrus forward note and a smooth honey rye finish that moves quickly across the tongue. This beer is light, easy to drink, and can easily be enjoyed at Big Ears or on a patio in the warm weather.

Luckily, you’ll have a chance to try this beer too, even if you won’t be attending Big Ears this year. The Tomato Head will be one of the only places featuring the Sonic Wit, as part of our Saw Works lineup for our featured brewery of the month, and will be a light orange zest for pairing with a salad, chicken, or chocolate desserts. We’ll tap the keg of this very special beer on Thursday, March 26.

Just as it was intended, the Sonic Wit is a great pairing for food, sunshine, and great music. A number of the Big Ears creators actually helped in the brewing of this beer, which just goes to show the local bonds of our small city that pull together to show that Knoxville has culture worth taste.

Saw Works Brewing Sonic Wit

Put away those winter blues with a sweet snack in the sunshine​

Oatmeal has all of these really great health benefits, like being good for your heart and lowering cholesterol. This must mean that oatmeal cookies aren’t bad for you, or at the very least draw even, like celery with peanut butter*.

Lucky for you, this weekend at the Tomato Head we are featuring two different recipes for oatmeal cookies. We’ll be pitting our Flour Head Bakery oatmeal spice cookie against Patti’s infamous oatmeal cookie recipe.

Which one is better? You be the judge by visiting our Facebook page to vote.

I tell you this, you’re going to get to try some top notch baking. Bust out your inner cookie connoisseur and come on down to the Tomato Head this Saturday and Sunday to enjoy an oatmeal cookie-off in the sunshine.

Don’t worry, we’ve got milk too.

In case you’re interested, Patti’s Infamous Oatmeal Cookie recipe looks like this:

1 cup Oats

½ cup Walnuts, Chopped

½ cup Dried Cranberry

¾ cup Flour

½ tsp Salt

½ tsp Baking Soda

½ cup Shortening

½ cup Dark Brown Sugar

¼ cup Sugar

1 Egg

½ tsp Vanilla

In a medium bowl mix together the Oats, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, Flour, Slat, and Baking Soda.

In a medium bow, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat shortening with sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until egg is incorporated. Gradually mix in the flour and oat mixture until all the oats and nuts are mixed into the butter.

Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Makes 25 small cookies.

*this claim is not backed by any actual fact, it’s just here to help you feel better about sweets if you need the justification, because we care.

Click the video to watch Mahasti’s appearance on WBIR Channel 10.

TomatoHead's Infamous Patti Oatmeal Cookie WBIR

Tomato Head’s Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower

When I listen closely, I can hear it. Maybe you can too. It sounds like a small crack, then a shuffle of a shelf. It sounds like water dripping steadily from the roof onto the speckled ground outside of my bedroom window.

It is the sound of freedom from the ice storm that has encased us since the tail end of Valentine’s Day madness.

As you thaw, perhaps still feeling somewhat lethargic from the snow days and freezing temperatures, you can quickly make this simple sundried tomato pesto pasta before returning to Netflix and a cozy bed. Of course, Tomato Head’s sundried tomato pesto pasta is a versatile meal that can be used on several occasions such as cooking for friends or family, or especially for a date.

The important thing is that this dish is delicious to eat and fun to make because there is room for creativity.

Pesto will keep well for approximately two weeks, and making it in advance means that it is ready on hand for an even quicker meal. Plus pesto goes well with many other dishes or snacks as well, so having a batch on hand can be really helpful. Mahasti likes to add cauliflower and spinach to this recipe, but it can be eaten plain with just the bread crumbs. It would serve well as a side dish for chicken, fish, or steak. You can even substitute kale for the spinach and leave off the cauliflower. Really, the possibilities are endless!

Here’s what you’ll need for the pesto:

1 cup of sundried tomatoes in oil

⅓ cup of slivered almonds

½ cup of olive oil

2 small cloves of garlic

1¼ cups of water

2½ Tbl of fresh lemon juice

¾ tsp of salt

Place all of the ingredients into the jar of your blender and blend until smooth. Please note that this pesto is vegan. If you don’t have a blender, that’s okay. You can stop by either of the Tomato Head locations and pick up an 8 oz container of vegan or non-vegan pesto, then be well on your way with the rest of the dish.

Now it’s time for the roasted cauliflower. You’ll need:

2 cups of sliced cauliflower

1 Tbl of olive oil

¼ tsp of salt

¼ tsp of black pepper

Toss the cauliflower with your oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the cauliflower flat onto a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until golden. Remove from the oven, flip the cauliflower, and broil until the other side is golden as well. This usually takes about 4-5 minutes per side, but timing depends on your oven.

Now, for the bread crumbs. You’ll need:

½ cup of Panko bread crumbs

2 Tbl of butter

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until the breadcrumbs are completely coated and begin to brown slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now it is time for the pasta. To assemble the pasta, you will need:

Spaghetti Noodles

1 cup of chopped fresh spinach

Roasted Cauliflower (see above)

Panko bread crumbs (see above)

Measure out enough dry spaghetti noodles to reach the approximate diameter of a quarter. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Before draining the pasta, remove ½ cup of the paste water and set it aside.

While the pasta is cooking, place a large skillet on the stove. Just before draining the pasta turn the eye under the skillet to medium. Now drain the pasta. Next, add the drained pasta, ½ cup of sundried tomato pesto, and the ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Toss the noodles with the pesto until the noodles are completely coated with pesto.

Turn off the heat and add 1 cup of chopped spinach. Toss well until the spinach is evenly distributed. Divide the pasta between two bowls and top with breadcrumbs and roasted cauliflower.

Choosing the right wine for a dish with pesto can be tricky. Ultimately, you want a white wine bold enough to cut through the taste of the pesto. I would suggest pairing Tomato Head’s sundried tomato pesto pasta with a crisp, fruity Sauvignon Blanc, or a dry white from the region of Genoa in Italy, depending on your preference for fruity or dry wine. Wines from this region of Italy tend to be quite bold for the purpose of pairing with sauces such as pesto.

Now the best part, enjoy your pasta.

Featured Artist in Market Square: Ocean Starr Cline’s “Roots and Branches” Paintings on display at Tomato Head

A collection of paintings titled, Roots and Branches, by local artist Ocean Starr Cline is on display at the Tomato Head in Market Square. Besides being an artist, Cline is a local educator, blogging philosopher, as well as a full-time mother. Cline has been a presence in Knoxville’s art community for almost ten years, and painting for nearly twenty.

Roots and Branches is inspired by her own experiences as a Buddhist and a mother to her three year old daughter. Cline finds meaning in heritage, something she says she connected with through hand embroidery. For Cline, the Roots and Branches collection captures where we’re from and where we’re going. However, she claims that her interpretation doesn’t really matter.

In her blog, Cline describes the feeling of sharing her work, which is nerve-racking for any creative mind. To her, painting is as much of an expression of her own thoughts and emotions as it is the viewer’s. In a way, both the viewer and the artist are opening themselves to each other. What she hopes to bring to any room in which her paintings are hanging, certainly what we hope to share with our guests, is simply happiness that can be shared together.

In that spirit, the interpretations that she finds interesting are those of the viewers.

Cline’s paintings are not only interesting for their symbolism. Her use of texture and colors produce bright, complex scenes. Cline uses a wide spectrum of materials beneath her paint in order to create interesting textures, such as sawdust, leaves, fabric, and fibers.The colors used in Roots and Branches were chosen by her daughter, who has actually begun to sell her own art. That’s right, the same three year old daughter is a budding young artist with a talented mom as a coach.

You can read more about Cline’s work, inspirations, and her philosophy surrounding art by visiting her blog or her webpage. Ocean Starr Cline’s work will be on display at the Tomato Head location in Market Square through the end of February. Roots and Branches will also be displayed at the Tomato Head on Kingston Pike during the month of March.

Happiness is a buttered biscuit.

Happiness is a buttered biscuit.

Tennessee Brew Works Pint Night, February 27

Have we got something special planned for fans of Tennessee Brew Works on Friday, February 27. When you purchase any Tennessee Brew Works on draft, you get to keep the pint glass! This is a perfect opportunity to try a flight of beers from this Nashville brewery at our location in The Gallery of Knoxville, or check out our brand new bar stools from Holler Design at Market Square.

You’ll have the chance to try the “Spring Gig” from Tennessee Brew Works: Walk The Lime. This Tennessee Wheat Ale (ABV 5.4%, IBU 16) is uniquely brewed with 100% wheat! This tart and tropical all wheat beer is lightly bittered. They dose with fresh lime zest and then dry hop. It starts with lime on the front of the tongue and nose, but finishes with peach, passion fruit, and watermelon. Perfect for getting you in the mood for springtime on the patio.

It’s an all day event so come down for lunch or celebrate the end of the work week (and hopefully the snow) by stopping in for drinks and dinner. Both locations open at 11am.

Tn Brew Works Pint Night The Tomato Head

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