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?)

Halloween Dessert Cart Roundup

Halloween dessert cart covered in edible lime slime

I wanted to pull together a list of all of our Ghostbusters-themed Halloween dessert recipes.  All of the recipes were written by John, and the photography done by me.  Tomorrow I’ll show you a behind-the-scenes look at our photoshoot.

Ghostbusters Halloween Dessert Cart

Halloween dessert cart covered in edible lime slimeLime Slime
A little bit of molecular gastronomy to kick off Crustcrumbs. A gooey, sticky slime that’s perfect for Halloween.

Cheesecake with a Coconut Crumb Crust

Cheesecake with a Coconut Crumb Crust
This gluten-free cheesecake is perfect on its own, but on Halloween, the lime slime is required.

Ginger Ice CreamGinger Ice Cream
A spicy ginger and boozy-sweet apple ice cream; and John explains how to stop your homemade ice cream from becoming too hard in the freezer.

Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone CreamProfiteroles with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream
A messy dessert covered in white chocolate and drenched in lime slime.


Exotic Fruit Sculpture

Exotic Fruit Platter
Exotic fruits arranged on a serving tray and, of course, topped with slime.

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops
Homemade marshmallow toasted and placed on top of delicious concord grape tarts.

Gin and Tonic with Lime Slime
Lime Slime Gin & Tonic
A slimy twist on a cocktail classic.

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.

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

You can’t have a Ghostbusters themed food shoot without Stay Puft marshmallow something. There aren’t exactly many food references in the movie, with the exception of eggs of course, which you’ll see were used plentifully in the recipes for ginger ice cream and profiteroles.

Concord grapes are in season and available through to the end of October in some markets. Buy them up whenever you see them and freeze them so they’re always on hand to add to flavour and colour to various desserts throughout the fall and winter. Just be sure to seed them before freezing. They also compliment the lime slime nicely and their deep dark purple lends itself well to a Halloween menu.

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

Makes 12 Tartlets

For the marshmallow:
10.5g unflavoured powdered gelatine
100ml cold water
125ml white corn syrup
175g granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or ground vanilla powder
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
icing sugar, for coating

For the pastry:
400g unbleached all-purpose flour
150g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
210g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold milk

For the filling:
690g concord grapes, halved and seeded
75g granulated sugar
35g instant tapioca (we used Kraft Minute Tapioca)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Start by making the Stay Puft marshmallow tops. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and generously coat it in icing sugar. Using the top of a 3 1/2″ brioche tin, outline 12 circles in the sugar so you know how large to pipe the marshmallow tops.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, add 50ml of water and sprinkle the gelatine evenly over the surface and allow to plump as you begin making the syrup. In a small pot combine the corn syrup, sugar, salt, and 50ml of water. Attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot and cook the mix over medium-high heat until the sugar syrup reaches 240°F (it won’t take long so watch carefully). Turn on the mixer to the lowest speed and slowly pour in the syrup, followed by the ground vanilla powder. Slowly increase the speed of the mixer to its highest speed and whip until the mixture is thick and white and the outside of the stand mixer bowl begins to feel cool to the touch. If using, add the bourbon and whip until fully incorporated.

Fill a piping bag with the marshmallow and pipe rounds onto the prepared sheet, filing the circles just inside the outline as the mix will settle and spread a little bit. Dust the tops of the marshmallows with more icing sugar and leave to dry for 6-8 hours. If you have the time, by all means make the marshmallows a day or two ahead of time and store them coated in icing sugar in an airtight container.

Begin making the tartlets by starting with the pastry. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and lemon zest. Using your fingers and a light touch, gently squeeze the butter into the flour mixture to form coarse, uneven crumbs. You are done as soon as you are sure there are no bits of the flour mixture left untouched by the butter. Add the egg yolks and milk, and using a fork, work them through until a crumbly dough forms. Divide the dough in two and tightly wrap each portion in plastic wrap, forming the dough into a flattened and compact disc as you go. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients for the filling in a medium bowl and set aside while you finish up the pastry.

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to warm up for about 10 minutes or until it’s pliable enough for rolling. Roll the dough out between two large sheets of parchment paper to approximately an 1/8″ thickness. You could also roll out the dough on a well floured surface with a floured rolling pin, if you want to save on parchment. Line six 3 1/2″  brioche tins (or muffin tins if you’re without small brioche tins) with the pastry, pressing it gently to the sides and put the pastry cases in the fridge while you repeat the rolling and lining process for the additional six tins. You could of course skip the dividing stage and roll out everything at once, but unless you’re working on a beautiful and spacious cold slab of marble, you may find the amount cumbersome to work with.

Place a muffin paper-liner inside each shell and fill with pastry weights (we use dry beans). Blind-bake the shells for approximately 20 minutes, pulling them out just as they begin to turn golden around the top edges. Remove the weights and liners and fill the par-baked shells with the grape filling. Return the tartlets to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling begins to set and the pastry turns a deep golden brown. Allow the pastries to cool for 10 minutes before unmolding.

When ready to serve, place a marshmallow top on each tartlet and torch the tops using a kitchen blowtorch, being sure to go around the bottom edges in order to help adhere them better to the tarts. You could also do this under a broiler, watching carefully that they don’t burn.