“The For Real, Friel” – An Award-Winning Homage to My Gardening Granddaddy

Winner winner tomato sandwich dinner!! This year’s Tomato Art Fest was so much fun for our family.  It was a beautiful day with gorgeous weather and I walked away a winner!!  I’m not quite sure what prompted me to put an entry into the recipe contest hosted by Nashville Farmers’ Market, but after seeing the schedule of events I thought “what the heck” and put my name on the list.  The only parameters of the contest was that it had to be a tomato sandwich.  I think I have mentioned once or twice that I have a rather large obsession with Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, so that was obviously the foundation of my sandwich.  Our eggplants were at their peak ripeness and we had TONS of herbs.  I decided to put together a sandwich with homemade rosemary foccacia bread, roasted eggplant, a big thick slice of cherokee purple tomato and herbed goat cheese.  Needing a little tartness to bring it all together, I made an apple balsamic reduction and topped it all with a little spicy arugula.  Now that the sandwich was created, it needed a name.  Drew suggested the Purple Nurple, which was quickly shot down for obvious reasons.  With all the components from our garden, it made me think of my gardening granddaddy, so I decided the sandwich should pay homage to him.

Hayden Friel Mullins was as unique a man as his God-given name.  “Friel” as everyone called him never fell short on quirkiness. None of us really know the reason my great grandparents gave him this name or where it came from.  Until I just recently started looking into the German surname “Frelinghuysen” that we always thought inspired his name, I have since discovered and determined (without being able to ask them myself) that it was most likely inspired by the Irish surname “Friel” meaning The Gallant Man.  In the end, who the heck knows why they gave him that name, but it certainly fit him to a tee.  Friel was definitely one not to forget.  Resourceful, successful, brilliant, dedicated, spiritual are just a few of the words I can use to describe him, .  For most of my childhood I thought his name was Friel You Jackass as my grandmother lovingly called him.  My grandparents had a “unique” relationship, but it was evident that it was full of love despite his bizarre pet name.  When Beth and I hit our Valley Girl phase we thought it was soooooo funny to say to him “For Real, Fuh-riel”.  Not too hip on 80s pop culture, he never had a clue what we were talking about, but we sure thought we were funny!!!  So, there you go………”The For Real, Friel” became the name of my sandwich.  I’m not sure if it was my super-tasty sandwich, creative name or pretty packaging, but I won a Special Honorable Mention created just for my sandwich.  It only seems fitting that “The For Real, Friel” received its own unique award in the generally 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place contest.  I was flattered and excited and sure wish that Friel were here to share it with.

“The For Real, Friel”

Grilled eggplant drizzled with apple balsamic vinegar reduction, sliced Cherokee Purple tomatoes, arugula and herbed local goat cheese on homemade rosemary focaccia bread.


  • 8 Roasted Eggplant slices, ¼” thick drizzled with Apple Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
  • 4 Cherokee Purple tomato slices, ½” thick
  • Arugula
  • 5 oz Herbed Local Goat Cheese
  • 8 slices rosemary focaccia bread
  • For the Eggplant slices:!
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
  • For the Balsamic Vinegar Reduction:!
  • 1 pint Apple Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp local honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • For the Herbed Local Goat Cheese:!
  • 5 oz local goat cheese, Bonnie Blue Farms
  • 3 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp crème fraiche
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • For the Rosemary Focaccia Bread:!
  • 2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 cup warm water (120-130 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese


  1. Lay out warm bread slices. Spread ½ oz or more of the herbed goat cheese on each slice of bread. Place grilled eggplant slices on 4 slices of bread. Layer with tomato slices. Top with a small handful of arugula. Place remaining bread slices and serve!
  2. For the Eggplant slices.!
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice eggplant approximately ¼ “ thick. Brush both sides of eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place eggplant on a cast iron grill pan or lightly-coated baking sheet. Bake for approximately 30 min or until eggplant is tender. Drizzle reduction over grilled slices.
  4. For the Balsamic Vinegar Reduction!
  5. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat vinegar just until boiling. Whisk briskly to prevent burning. Reduce heat to simmer and add honey and bay leaf. Reduce by half or until the vinegar takes on a syrupy quality. Allow to cool and drizzle over grilled eggplant slices.
  6. For the Herbed Local Goat Cheese:!
  7. In a food processor, combine goat cheese, thyme crème fraiche, salt & pepper. Blend until smooth.
  8. For the Rosemary Focaccia Bread:!
  9. In a large bowl sift together flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder and black pepper. Pour mixture into the bowl of an electric stand-mixer with the paddle attachment and add oregano, thyme, rosemary. Mix in the olive oil and water making sure water is at the correct temperature or the yeast won’t rise. Stir together mixture until combined. Using the dough hook, knead the dough on low speed for 8 minutes.
  10. Lightly oil a large stainless steel bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. It works best to place bowl in a warm bath of water or in a warm place that is at least 85 degrees. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour and a half. It should double in size.
  11. Spread a little olive oil on your baking sheet. Divide dough into four rounds. Cover with a towel and let rise 30 more minutes.
  12. Dimple the bread with your thumb about ½ inch. Cover and let rise for its final rise, about 2 hours.
  13. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with about 30 min left in final rise. Put baking stone in oven if using baking stone. Gently brush the tops with olive oil. Place rolls directly on pizza stone and back for 20-25 minutes. Spritz with water a couple of times during baking.
  14. Once done, place rolls on a wire rack. Let cool for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

 No entry is complete without a little presentation! Tomato art work was definitely called for since it was the Tomato Art Fest after all!

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  2. […] ~ “The For Real, Friel” Tomato Sandwich – This recipe is so special to me because it pays homage to my grandfather, who was such an inspiration to be me in so many ways. It is loaded with fresh ingredients from our garden all piled onto homemade herbed focaccia bread!! I won a special Honorable Mention for this sandwich at the 2012 Tomato Art Fest tomato sandwich recipe contest. […]

  3. […] while I was extremely honored to receive a “Special Honorable Mention” last year with my “For Real, Friel” Tomato Sandwich, this year I’m going for the blue ribbon, peeps!  So, in the spirit of tomatoes and the […]

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