Football and food

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Remember bowls? Not the kind that pit one college team against another but those handy receptacles for filling with warm, festive winter food, easy stuff to eat when your attention is on a hot football game. Nice to team with other edibles.

Super Bowl weekend is a time when parties center on the big game on TV and the fare at the table.

Here are a few suggestions to consider for your party menu, though, of course, chili is taken for granted. The first two recipes are from Cooking Light magazine.

Crisp and Spicy Snack Mix

2 cups crisscross of corn and rice cereal

1 cup tiny pretzel twists

1/2 cup reduced-fat wheat crackers

1/2 cup reduced-fat Cheddar crackers

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon ginger stir-fry sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine the crisscross cereal, pretzels, wheat crackers and Cheddar crackers in a bowl. Combine butter, stir-fry sauce, chili powder, cumin and salt; drizzle over cereal mixture, tossing to coat. Spread mixture into jellyroll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until crisp, stirring twice.

Makes 4 cups (serving size 1/2 cup).

If you wish, serve this stew over mashed potatoes. Make it and keep warm in a Dutch oven or slow cooker.

Beef Stew

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1-inch pieces

3 1/2 cups halved mushrooms (about 8 ounces)

2 cups diagonally cut carrots

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion

1 1/2 cups sliced celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Two 14 1/2-cans no-salt-added stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 bay leaves

2 1/4-ounce can sliced ripe olives, drained

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery and garlic to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to pan. Stir in water, wine, thyme, salt, pepper, tomatoes and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Stir in olives, and cook for 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaves. Stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6 servings (serving size 1 and 1/3 cups).

A book called "Macho Nachos" by Kate Heyhoe sounds exactly right for our purpose, and it proves so. Sloppy Jacks are a version of Sloppy Joes, the homey old meal-on-a-bun. Here, the meaty Joes cover corn chips instead of buns, under a layer of Monterey Jack cheese.

Sloppy Jacks

For the Sloppy Joes:

2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground red chili

1 pound lean ground beef (95 percent lean)

3/4 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons minced parsley (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Nachos:

4 to 5 ounces corn tortilla chips

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper

1/4 cup finely diced red or green onion

Prepare the Sloppy Joe mixture: Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and ground chili and cook another minute, until the garlic softens. Dump in the ground beef and cook until crumbly and no longer pink, breaking up large chunks as it cooks. Stir in the ketchup and 1/2 cup water. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be moist and glazed, neither dry nor liquidy. Stir in the vinegar, parsley, and salt and pepper. (The mixture may be made 2 days in advance; reheat before using.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, or preheat the broiler, with the rack 7 inches from the top of the oven or the heat source.

Assemble the nachos: Arrange the chips on a 12-by-18-inch baking sheet or ovenproof platter. Sprinkle on half the cheese, then spoon on dollops of the meat mixture. Top with the remaining cheese, bell pepper and onion.

Bake the nachos for 5 to 7 minutes, or broil, until the cheese melts.

Makes one 12-by-18-inch tray or equivalent.

Chinese Firecracker Nachos reflect Chino-Latino tastes. "In each crispy bite, the sweet heat of Szechuan cooking dances to a Latin beat," Heyhoe writes. Melted Muenster cheese mellows the spiciness and seasoned cabbage adds a sharp note.

Chinese Firecracker Nachos

For the Pork:

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger

1 pound lean ground pork (95 percent lean)

2 tablespoons Chinese chili garlic sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

For the Nachos:

4 to 5 ounces corn tortilla chips

5 ounces Muenster cheese, sliced and torn into smaller pieces , or about 2 cups shredded

3 ounces napa cabbage leaves, very finely sliced

3 to 4 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 green onion, chopped (white and green parts)

Make the Firecracker Pork: In a large skillet, warm the sesame oil over medium heat. Stir-fry the ginger until it starts to soften, about 1 minute.

Raise the heat to high. Dump in the ground pork, breaking it up into crumbly bits. As the pork cooks, stir in the chili garlic sauce and the hoisin sauce. Continue to cook, stirring and breaking up the pork. Add the sesame seeds. The pork will give off juices as it cooks, then the juices will start to evaporate. Cook until the pork is fairly dry on the outer surface, so the chips don't get soggy. (The pork mixture can be fried as much as a day in advance; refrigerate if not using within an hour.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, or preheat the broiler, with the rack positioned about 7 inches from the top of the oven or the heat source.

Assemble the nachos: Arrange the tortilla chips on a 12-by-18-inch baking sheet or ovenproof platter. Sprinkle on the cheese and then the pork mixture.

Bake the nachos for 4 to 6 minutes, or broil, until the cheese is bubbly. While the nachos cook, toss the cabbage with the rice vinegar.

Serve the nachos with green onion and the seasoned cabbage sprinkled on top.

Makes one 12-by-18-inch tray or equivalent.

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