Saturday, February 3, 2018

Super Food -- What to Eat While You Watch

What’s cooking? Cheese Crisps and Mexican Popcorn

It is a tenet of the professional football players’ code that if you haven’t played in a SuperBowl, you don’t attend as a spectator.

Well, that does it for me: a baked-in excuse for never making it to the game. I did once participate in a game of flag football, but could never get the hang of dodging and weaving my way down the field. I grew up in Texas, where not liking football is considered at least a misdemeanor, so I faked my way through the high school games. Then I went to Vanderbilt, where football wasn’t really much more than a fun excuse to drink too much. It’s a great school, but hopelessly outnumbered in large, muscular types by its cohorts in the SEC. So the idea of taking a perfectly good weekend and immersing myself in all things football is, well,...

And now that I mention “a perfectly good weekend,” I would like to call your attention to the fact that this year’s game is being held in Minneapolis, where, as I write this post, it’s 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Hahahahaha...

So not only is it warmer to watch the game – if that’s your plan – on TV, but the best food is at someone’s house.

Speaking of food, here’s another amazing factoid: the National Chicken Council – just the thought of which makes me laugh – released its annual estimate of chicken wing consumption during the Super Bowl, and they’re predicting 1.35 billion wings (that’s billion, with a “b”) will be eaten this Sunday.

Friends, friends – as much as I like chicken wings, which, okay, isn’t all that much, there are so many more gratifying things to eat that won’t get red goop all over your hands. And just to prove it, the Kitchen Goddess presents six of her very best crowd pleasers that also won’t leave you wondering what to do with the bone.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup:  A lovely down-to-earth taste, served in small glasses or cups

Cheesy Black-eyed Pea Dip: One of the all-time great party hits, and yes, I did recommend them for last year’s game.

Sausage-stuffed Dates: Ditto.

Marinated Zucchini:  A healthy snack – who’d have guessed?!

Parmesan Gougères: Not as frou-frou as they sound, and you can make the dough, form the balls, and freeze them. Pop ’em into the oven frozen, and add a couple of minutes to the cook time.

Ultimate Mac 'n Cheese: Yes, you’ll need a plate, but who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese at this time of year?

None of these take much time, but in case you’re really strapped, here are two more that are so simple and easy you can practically make them with your eyes closed (though I wouldn’t recommend it).

Cheese Crisps

Pre-heat oven to 375º. Line two half-sheet baking pans (13" x 18") with baker’s parchment. [N.B. The Kitchen Goddess is here to warn you against trying this recipe with anything but baker’s parchment or a Silpat sheet. Without one of these treatments, that cheese will harden to something like permafrost on your pans.]

For the cheese, you’ll need a tablespoon of grated cheese per crisp, so if you want 16 crisps, for instance, you’ll need a cup of grated cheese (about 4 ounces).

The cheese should be coarsely grated using the large holes on a box grater, or the grater blade on a food processor – not the fine grate of a rasp. Hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Peorino Romano work well, as do cheddar and Manchego (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese). You can also make the crisps with a mix of cheeses.

Using a tablespoon measure, place mounds of cheese onto the parchment. With your fingers, spread the cheese out to form thin circles 2½ -3 inches in diameter, making sure to leave 1-1½ inches between the circles.

Bake 5-7 minutes, watching carefully in the last couple of minutes because some cheeses will cook faster than others, to make sure they don’t burn. Cool them on the baking sheet, and store them in an airtight container.

If you’re feeling adventuresome, add a bit of cayenne pepper or other favorite herb or spice to the shredded cheese; but really, they’re just fine as they are.

* * *

Kitchen Goddess notes: (1) You will notice here that the KG has used store-bought popcorn, which normally she would see as heresy. But sometimes you just want to go the easy route. If you’re in this camp, just be sure to buy popcorn with the least amount of seasoning, so as to maintain the flavor profile of the spices you’re going to add. (2) Nutritional yeast sounds like some weird, hippy thing, but it’s available in the bulk food area of most grocery stores. It’s a deactivated yeast – so no making bread with it – that has a great cheesy, slightly nutty flavor. And it’s a “complete protein,” so it comes with iron and B12, as well as other B vitamins. It’s low in fat and sodium, sugar-free and gluten-free. (3) The KG had no limes (!), so she pulled an Omani dried lime out of her spice pantry and ground it to a fine powder. If you have Omani dried limes – and a few friends do – it’s a fabulous substitute here.

Mexican Popcorn

1 6-ounce bag low-sodium, low-fat popcorn (or pop your own)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes (see note above)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper (freshly ground is best)
zest of one lime

Put the popcorn into a large bowl and toss it with the melted butter, starting with about a quarter of the butter and working in 3-4 stages as you toss the popcorn and add more butter.

Mix the salt and spices and lime zest together well. When the butter has been evenly incorporated into the popcorn, add the spice mixture, also in 3-4 stages: sprinkling some over the popcorn, then tossing it.

Enjoy the game!

1 comment:

  1. Great recipes all! Had enough time during commercial breaks to cook each of them(!) Sorry about Vanderbilt. You know you're the league punching bag when every other team wants to play you for their homecoming game...