By Linda Pizzuti
Super Bowl season is upon us, and we begin to plan for the big day, especially collecting friends and family around some good food and football. Starting pregame, consider offering up something beyond the conventional salsa-and-chips scenario for game-goers.
In addition to the usual cold beverages, provide some hot mulled wine (aka glühwein) and hot apple cider — little winter celebrations in a cup, not to mention automatic aroma-wafters.
Make some pizza, also easy to do with kids, especially if you are the pregame entertainment. Create a few homemade ones, or, in the make-your-life-easy category, use store-bought or bakery-bought pizza dough. You can expand beyond the traditional margherita (tomato, basil, mozzarella) and make mushroom pizza (sautéed white button mushrooms, or some portobellos and shiitakes plus some garlic and thyme) or pizza bianca (ricotta and mozzarella, plus maybe a little basil or pesto and some crushed pepper flakes — pizza bianca gone a little rebel).
Bacon and pancetta lovers may want to try a version with sautéed onions and gruyère, in the style of a flammkuchen. Or maybe your team would rally for lemon shrimp pizza (lemon, cooked cream or béchamel sauce and shrimp) or smoked salmon pizza (cream cheese or crème fraiche and caramelized red onions, topped with some salmon and dill).
Supplement the pizzas with a salad (staying healthy if you dare), or an antipasto platter (essentially a composed salad of roasted peppers, provolone, marinated artichokes and mushrooms, tiny sweet pickles, plus prosciutto and salami). Round it out with homemade or store-bought dips or hummus, some crudités and chips. Game on.
Half time: You can go down the path of hotdogs or bratwurst or other wursts, buns and a choice of mustards, then add some baked beans, warm potato salad and braised red or savoy cabbage. Ah, life is good.
Or offer an easy-to-grab buffet of sliders, maybe Reubens (corned beef or boiled ham, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing on party rye), antipasto sliders (Italian deli meats, provolone, roasted peppers, you get the idea) or crab-cake sliders with a good tartar sauce on small potato rolls. If you are feeling ambitious, make some meatball sliders (meatballs in a marinara sauce, topped with mozzarella or parmesan, mounded on French bread). In the spirit of being highly efficient, maybe make up a batch for spaghetti, then freeze the extras to reheat on game day.
Or make a muffuletta or two — a large round peasant loaf hollowed out and stuffed with meat and cheeses and vegetables or tuna as you like, plus a vinagrette of a few vegetables and herbs and spices, wrapped and weighted down for a few hours, then ready to slice in wedges.
Add a layered salad and, if feeling ambitious, sweet potato fries (oven roasted wedges coated with olive oil, salt and pepper), and you are done.
But what may bring us back to the spirit of the game may just be a big bowl of chili — a pot of love and heat. Take the game-goers along on a vegetable-driven offensive strategy with a chili of beans or lentils spooned over couscous, rice or noodles, and serve with all the traditional accompaniments, or just some grated parmesan.
Add a sweet note of chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies and maybe some hot cocoa, and your team will be ready for the second half.