Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

It’s been a year since we started Crustcrumbs with a series of Ghostbusters-inspired Lime Slime posts that have successfully managed to haunt our top posts tiles, so accordingly, this year we’re celebrating our Halloversary or Anniversoween (your choice) with another bizarre mashup of childhood nostalgia and food blogging.

For those that don’t remember, after the 1978 Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movie—a kind of less popular Sharknado of its day—in 1990 there was a cartoon of the same name, which acted as my introductory lesson into grotesque foods that I don’t think anyone would’ve ever guessed could have come in useful in my career.

Hot House

Hot House: Beefsteak tomato, bean sprouts, pig tongue, chicken toes, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

To pay homage to this cheesy and not-so-classic cartoon, we thought we’d play around with some different varieties of tomatoes, some of which already look pretty strange on their own, seeping juices as they burst and split from their tender skins.


Legs-A-Tronic: Bali tomato, Silkie legs, glacé cherries, and black-eyed peas.

To add to the creepiness we butchered one of the food world’s hottest birds right now, the Silkie chicken, in addition to some run-of-the-mill chicken feet for teeth and horns, a pig tongue for well, a tongue and mini octopus tentacles to add a slimy alien touch to these fruity nightmarish numbers.

Touchy the Tooth

Touchy the Tooth: Green Zebra tomato, pumpkin seeds, baby octopus, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

With no access to pig’s eyes and no stomach for extracting goat or fish eyes, we went with something a little more rated G: black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

The "Mother Clucker"

The “Mother Clucker”: Hugh’s tomato, Silkie wings, beak, and cockscomb, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

We took graphic inspiration from the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes 1978 movie poster and 90s toy line, and mixed that up with the witty word play of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards of the 80s. Collect them all!

Ugg and the Gang

Ugg and the Gang: Tomatillos, chicken toe nails, octopus tentacles, black-eyed peas.

Happy Halloween and thanks for all the support over the last year! We hope to keep making weird and fun posts that, at the very least, entertain ourselves and continue to let us play with our food.

Behind-the-Scenes: Halloween Dessert Cart

Happy Halloween!

When John asked me if I wanted to start a food blog with him, I was sold as soon as he mentioned doing a Ghostbusters-themed recipe series for Halloween.  It ended up being a huge undertaking for our first Crustrcumbs food photography shoot, but it was a lot of fun. John wanted to set up a slimed dessert cart as an homage to the scene with Slimer in the Sedgewick Hotel.


We contacted several different properties about shooting on location, but it ended up being too complicated and prohibitively expensive, so we decided to shoot at my photography studio.  We borrowed a cart from our friend Jordan (thanks Jordan!), got a cheap white sheet from Wal-Mart to cover it, and convinced Home Depot to sell us a sample roll of hotel-esque wallpaper.  Overall, it cost us less than $20.   This is what our backdrop looked like:

Behind-the-scenes food photography

I taped the wallpaper to the studio wall with gaffer’s tape.  I thought about buying a piece of plywood and gluing the wallpaper down, because it was really annoying trying to keep the pieces lined up while minimizing seams, but it was nothing a shallow depth of field and Photoshop couldn’t fix.

John prepping the fruit salad Bernardin Fruit Fresh

John made most of the food beforehand, and assembled it at the studio.  The fruit sculpture took the longest amount of time.  Food photography tip: use Bernardin Fruit Fresh to keep the fruits from browning!

John toasting Stay Puft Marshmallows John toasting Stay Puft Marshmallows

John brought his torch to toast the Stay Puft marshmallows, which made our photoshoot smell like camping.  After John had everything plated, we realized only about half of the food fit onto the cart.  It took some time to shuffle everything around.


The profiteroles were balanced on a light stand.  By the power of Zuul, they never fell down.

We wanted the lighting to look like crappy hotel hallway lighting to keep it on theme, but still highlight the food.  Believe me, “make my slime-covered food look like it’s in a hallway with crappy lighting, but also make it not look too gross” is more difficult than it sounds.

Most of the time when doing food photography, I use natural lighting or a bounce flash, but for this I set up some strobes. I use Paul C. Buff’s Alien Bees for lighting, which are reliable, easy to use, and relatively cheap.  You can also find cheap accessories and modifiers on eBay or Amazon. I ended up with the following setup:

Lighting Diagram

The main light was a big softbox on the right side.  I decided to light from the side to reduce reflections on the dishes, metal, fruit, and marshmallows, while cursing John for using so many shiny things in our first photoshoot.  I used a gold reflector to bounce light back onto the profiteroles and cheesecake.  This achieved the “crappy hallway” look, but the fruit was too dark, so I added a spotlight on the fruit plate.  I did this by using a 20 degree honeycomb grid in a standard 7″ reflector.

This was taken after we already started cleaning up, but it shows the lighting setup:

Behind-the-scenes food photography

When we were finally happy with the lighting on the food, John decided to add more reflections by covering everything in slime.  Fun!

Slimer visiting our photoshoot

This is the final image we ended up with:

Halloween dessert cart covered in edible lime slime

Still life isn’t my area of expertise, but this shoot was a lot of fun.  Tomorrow we have a photoshoot with an actor from Second City, so stay tuned for something sniffly next week.  (Sniffly?  What?)

Lime Slime Gin & Tonic

Gin and Tonic with Lime Slime

This cocktail seems like the obvious choice if you happen to have a little lime slime leftover. Like the rest of the desserts on the cart, it came about by seeing what would pair well with lime. What would it taste like if some lime slime happened to fall into our post-shoot gin and tonics? This is a playful cocktail and perfect for a Halloween party. The slime doesn’t dissolve readily into the drink and leaves an attractive pile of slime at the bottom of the glass. When stirred, the slime captures and holds the bubbles in place. Plymouth gin is my choice for most gin-based cocktails but go ahead and use your favourite. There are some fantastic artisanal tonic syrups on the market now but because this drink is fairly low-brow, what with the slime and all, save your money and go with a big name brand.

Lime Slime Gin & Tonic

Makes 1 drink
2 oz Plymouth gin
5 oz tonic water or sparkling water
splash of lime slime

In a glass filled with ice, add the gin and tonic water. Splash in a little lime slime and watch it pool on top of the ice and into the bottom of the glass. Serve with a cocktail swizzle stick so your guests can play with the slime in their glass.

Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream

Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream

Profiteroles are always a crowd pleaser but I’ll admit, I’ve never understood the fuss. The pastry is not particularly delicious on its own – just a little puff of nothing and the words “pastry cream” have never described anything that brings culinary delight to my mind. For our profiteroles, I’ve enriched the pâte à choux with a little extra milk and a bit of sugar and then filled them instead with a rich strawberry mascarpone cream, which has the added bonus of not needing to be cooked. Stacked high on a plate, drenched in white chocolate, and then drenched again in lime slime, well at least now we’ve got something.

This is a messy dessert to pick from. If you want to recreate this for a crowd, I’d suggest maybe arranging them on an elongated plate, at most stacked two profiteroles high to keep yourself safe from any disastrous tumbles. Typically when speaking of a stack of profiteroles, we’re talking about croquembouche, which has the benefit of being held together with hard caramel and spun sugar. For our dessert the profiteroles are glued together with white chocolate then quickly stashed in the fridge so the chocolate has a chance to firm up before everything falls apart. Take pleasure in the sloppy look of this dessert – a pile of profiteroles looking as if Slimer has already had his way with them.

Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream

Makes approximately 60 profiteroles

For the Strawberry Mascarpone Cream:
2 x 475g tubs mascarpone
750ml sour cream
225g icing sugar
18g freeze dried strawberries (available from MEC)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Profiteroles:
400ml cold water
350ml whole milk (3.8% M.F.)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
large pinch of fine sea salt
300g unsalted butter, cubed
425g unbleached all-purpose flour
8 large eggs, beaten

For the White Chocolate:
450g good quality white chocolate

Start by making the mascarpone cream. Pulverize the strawberries in a coffee or spice grinder until they are turned into a fine powder. Using a hand or stand mixer, combine the mascarpone and sour cream and mix until smooth. Add in the icing sugar, strawberry powder, and vanilla extract. Mix until thickened and chill until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the profiteroles, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter into a large pot. Heat gently until the butter melts then bring the mixture up to a boil. Take the pan off the heat and dump in the flour. Using a wooden spoon, beat the flour in the pot. Return the pot to the heat and continue to stir the mix until it thickens and the paste stops sticking to the sides of the pot. At this point – to save your forearms – if you have a stand mixer put it to use and transfer the paste into the mixer. If you feel like you have something to prove, go ahead and continue in the same pot. Slowly beat in the eggs, being sure each addition of egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. By the end the mix should be smooth and shiny.

Fill a piping bag with the paste. On several parchment-lined baking trays, use a 1″ round piping nozzle and pipe the paste into roughly 1 1/4″ balls. Use a wet finger to smooth out the top of each profiterole and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown. While hot, transfer the profiteroles to a cooling rack and pierce each with a toothpick to release the steam inside.

When ready to assemble, make a small hole in the bottom of each profiterole. Using a piping bag that’s been fitted with a small round piping nozzle, fill each profiterole with the strawberry mascarpone cream. In a bowl, add the white chocolate and melt in the microwave on high power for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between each time until the chocolate is smooth and just melted. With a small spoon, paint the bottom of each profiterole and stick to a large platter, forming a large circle – this will be the base of the tower. Use any misshapen profiteroles to fill the inside of the circle. Continue up the tower, painting a small amount of the chocolate on the bottom of each profiterole to help stick them together. As you continue up, you may find the structure unstable – a quick stash in the fridge will help solidify the chocolate and keep everything in its place. Once completed, drizzle the tower in the remaining chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve. Douse in lime slime when your guests are watching.