Make points with a spread

0
84

25598752

OK, so we lost to the Giants. We’re still going all the way to the Super Bowl. I have had this positive feeling all season, but never more so than when A.J. Feeley came in and wowed the nation, helping lead the Birds to six straight victories.

For the playoffs and the big bowl, I have developed menus with themes for each game. Sure, we can order in pizza, hoagie trays, even Chinese. But delivery pizza is, to me, inedible and Chinese does not always travel well. The solution is to prepare robust foods that everyone will enjoy. I like buffets because everyone can help themselves to a variety of dishes.

Several antipasti platters form the basis for a build-your-own-hoagie party. I shop at DiBruno’s and Claudio’s for most of the ingredients. For the past few years, we have been able to purchase authentic mortadella, prosciutto di Parma and prosciutto di Daniele from Italy. Jambon, that marvelous pinky- almost-white ham from France, is added to the meat and cheese platter. So is Genoa salami. Sharp provolone is the cheese of choice for hoagies in our house.

Shredded iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced onions and tomatoes are placed on a separate platter. I also offer marinated sliced mushrooms, strips of roasted red peppers and marinated sliced artichoke hearts for those who prefer a vegetarian hoagie.

The type of bread truly is a matter of taste. I prefer long Italian breads, which I cut into pieces. The crust of the French baguette is too hard for a hoagie, but I don’t like a soft roll either. I like a dense Italian bread with a nice crust. A cruet of rich, dark-green extra-virgin olive oil is placed on the table, along with a shaker of oregano.

Bowls of potato chips are an absolute necessity. I cannot enjoy a hoagie without them. Although I prefer plain chips, offer flavored chips such as barbecue, green onion and salt and vinegar as well.

Side salads are imperative for a hoagie party. Cole slaw and potato salad are necessary comforts and I like to keep them relatively simple. Slaw with an Asian flair just does not cut the mustard here.

Soup will be warming on a cold January day. Nearly six years ago, I gave you my recipe for a rich minestrone. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit and I know you and your guests will enjoy it. The soup can be made with homemade chicken stock or canned broth. I used to use either in making minestrone, but now that packages of chicken, beef, vegetable and mushroom stock are available in supermarkets and specialty grocery stores, I have found they contain a rich flavor that is just as good as making stock from scratch. Some are low-fat and/or low-salt. The wonderful thing about soup is that the recipe can be easily doubled and tripled — just remember to use a bigger pot.

In keeping with the Italian theme, rum cake would be a great dessert. My husband Edward brought one home for New Year’s Eve. I haven’t had rum cake in years and forgot how delicious it is.

Here are recipes for the playoff party.

Minestrone

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white part only, thoroughly washed and sliced
3 plump shallots, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (28-ounce) carton chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with their juice
Sprinkling of dry basil, if you are not using fresh
2 cups water
3 large bay leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans small white northern beans, drained
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach leaves
Handful chopped fresh basil, if not using dry

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart soup pot. Add the leeks, shallots, onion, salt and pepper, and saut� for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the stock, water, bay leaves, tomatoes and dry basil, if using, and bring to a boil. Add the beans, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots can be pierced with a knife.

Turn off the heat and swirl in the spinach and fresh basil. Offer freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serves six.

Note from Phyllis: This really is a free-form recipe. If you have a handful of mushrooms or green beans, add them to the pot. Some cooks add a diced potato. Escarole, kale or cabbage are good substitutes for the spinach.

Cole Slaw

Ingredients:

2 cups Hellmann’s mayonnaise
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon celery seed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small green cabbage, shredded
1 small red cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, peeled and grated

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients. Taste for additional lemon juice.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbages and carrots. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss well to blend. Refrigerate overnight, tossing a few times so flavors meld.

Serves six to eight.

Potato Salad

Ingredients:

3 pounds red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons tiny capers, drained
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves

Directions:

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Drain well, set aside and allow to cool.

Place all ingredients except the potatoes and rosemary in a large bowl. Whisk together until well-blended. Add the potatoes and rosemary leaves. Gently toss well and taste to correct for seasonings. You may wish to add a bit more olive oil and lemon juice.

Refrigerate overnight, tossing gently once or twice.

Serves six to eight.