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Food for Super Bowl Sunday


February 3, 2017

Chef Amber Michelle

Steaming eggplant and spaghetti squash

Super Bowl Sunday has become as much of a national holiday as any other. Even those who only watch this one game a year, look forward to the evening of beer and cheering, nachos and wings and all the things that will make your New Year's resolutions of health a distant memory.

As a chef and hostess of many holiday parties over the years, I've seen some good changes. Healthy changes. Oven fried instead of deep fried, low fat yogurt instead of sour cream, chicken tenders instead of wings and taco salads instead of nachos.

When entertaining a crowd, I really want my guests to enjoy their food without worry, fear of fat or stress of being singled out. These days, we have friends of all ages and dietary considerations. People are throwing around phrases like plant-based diets, vegetarians, many of whom are actually more like carbotarians, vegans, dairy-free, paleo, and gluten free. I truly relish the challenge and find I can make one central dish and have enough accompaniments around it to please everyone.

The key is to feature one classic dish that everyone can have, and build from there. A vegan green chili and pot of beans are easy to make using water or vegetable broth, instead of chicken stock or ham. I often add a good squirt of liquid aminos for a meaty taste. Serve spicy roasted pork on the side along with grated cheese, sour cream, or low fat yogurt, corn tortillas as well as flour, or try Rudi's gluten free tortillas. They have a thin light texture, and are easy to fold or crisp up on a hot cast iron pan.

This year I am making my friend's favorite All Day Sauce, a Roman-styled spaghetti sauce. In a tomato base I add onions, garlic, fresh herbs, whole mushrooms, black olives, grated zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, red and green bell pepper, and a small dried chili for a little zip. I'll take a third of the sauce out to simmer with meatballs, made with gluten free cracker crumbs. None of us usually eat pasta or bread so we see it as a treat. There will be homemade focaccia, spaghetti squash, warm pieces of fresh mozzarella, and small squares of polenta fried in olive oil. My paleo people and gluten free friends can relax, the vegetarians are happy and the vegans, delighted.

In my family, it's not football without dip. Instead of chemical laden, commercial, dairy based dips, I go with nut or seed based dips packed with flavor. Pipian, a Mexican pumpkin seed dip, takes about eight minutes to make and is a delicious crowd pleaser with any type of chip, cracker or freshly cut vegetables, especially jicama. In a blender or food processor, place 1-1/2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds, ½ cup sunflower or safflower oil, ¼ cup of water, 1 tsp. sea salt, the juice of two limes, 2 cloves of garlic, three raw jalapeños, 2 or 3 roughly chopped scallions, and ½ bunch of cilantro or parsley. (Not everyone likes cilantro so I use flat leaf parsley). Pulse until combined and then blend until smooth, adding water, oil or juice to taste.

Chef Amber Michelle

Fresh first

While there's usually an abundance of beer, wine and signature cocktails, not everyone drinks alcohol. With the drive home to consider, there are two iced tea drinks I like to serve instead of soda or water. The first is green tea sweetened with white grape juice, mixed 2:1. Sometimes I freeze red grapes to use as ice cubes or garnish with fresh mint. The second is hibiscus tea sweetened with sparkling citrus water or Italian soda. I set out the tea in a pitcher with a bottle of Italian Blood Orange soda next to it. (It's available at Safeway.) In a tall glasses of ice with an orange slice, it's a festive way to stay sober.

Make everything ahead, start with Pipian served with crudités and chips. Set out your football buffet at half-time so you can enjoy with everyone else. Since it will be cold here in San Juan County, a warm mulled cider or cranberry juice is delicious at the end of the evening and will keep your guests warm on their way home.

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