Let's face it, noshing while you watch is what the coming Super Bowl Sunday is about.
It's the number of hot dogs, pizzas, nuts, chips and dips you can't remember eating.
Chronic indigestion by half-time is a tip-off that maybe you, the host, should change your ways.
What to do?
"Lighten up." In California where the food scene shines with light-bright ideas, chefs and restaurateurs are doing their bit to liven up and lighten their Jan. 25 Super Bowl menus, whether at home or on the job.
Patrick Terrail, owner of the Hollywood Diner, suggests crudites and dips, immediately. "That puts some food in people before they start drinking, and it helps keep the drinking part low-key." (Terrail uses guacamole and a cream cheese-sour cream dip).
Ken Frank of La Toque: Sandwiches. "I love sandwiches and that's what I'd serve at the drop of a hat. The ones I do are killer sandwiches, my favorite kind." Actually they're French sandwiches, which are nothing more than a French roll rubbed with garlic and heated until crunchy outside and soft inside. Frank fills the sandwiches with lettuce, paper-thin sliced tomatoes and cheese, and adds delicacies like smoked duck breast or other lean meats or even asparagus and roasted peppers. Instead of mayonnaise, he dips the cut side of the sandwich into vinaigrette dressing.
"I think the Super Bowl menu should be light because of the all-day eating people do," said chef Kazuto Matsusaka, of Chinois on Main. "I love to do the Chinois fruit salad, which is naturally light and very pretty, too." Scoop out assorted melons with a melon ball cutter, then pour Chinese plum wine over the melon balls and marinate them overnight in the refrigerator to serve ice cold. "You can use Grand Marnier or other liqueurs instead of the plum wine if you can't find it in markets," suggested Matsusaka.
Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, chefs at City restaurant/Border Grill, like serving "oyster shooters," a specialty at Border Grill. "It's really light and fun. You put oyster meat in a sake cup and top it with a spicy salsa, which is really very low in calories," Feniger said. From City restaurant: roasted red peppers filled with feta cheese.
Los Angeles caterer Joann Roth, president of Someone's in the Kitchen, scored a culinary touchdown of the year by winning Kraft's Most Valuable Plate Award for the ultimate Super Bowl buffet at a cook-off held recently at the Rose Bowl. Roth fielded her cooking victory with deviled veal bones (fewer calories than beef) dressed in mustard and bread crumbs, sweet potato chips (baked), matched up with clam dip and cornbread studded with kernels of corn and Cheddar cheese (energizing). According to Larry Csonka, former All-Pro running back with the Miami Dolphins "most valuable players," who judged the contest, "Joann's cornbread is the best I've ever tasted."
There is nothing like antipasti for a Super Bowl menu you can safely keep out all day, thinks Evan Kleiman, chef-owner of Angeli in Los Angeles. "It's durable, filling and interesting," she said. Use assorted salamis, marinated vegetables, salads, goat cheeses, roasted peppers and serve them with bread sticks and good, fresh bread.
Kleiman also suggests a soup and sandwich Super Bowl menu. For the sandwiches she uses bruschetta (garlic-brushed rolls), split, grilled and filled with a selection of meats. For a heartwarming soup, Kleiman loves minestrone, filled with winter vegetables (kale, Swiss chard, celery, carrots, potatoes and garbanzo beans). She uses only water with vegetables, not meat stock. "That keeps the soup light and natural," she said.
To keep the food fun, John Sedlar, chef/owner of St. Estephe in Manhattan Beach, serves a snack called 'fish chips,' which are actually blue corn tortillas cut into fish shapes with cookie cutters, and decorated with various salad toppings or condiments, such as a mixture of diced pimiento and olives marinated in olive oil, vinegar and garlic. "I call it black and red fish chips."
The Typical Foods
If, however, you are serving the typical Super Bowl menu of hot dogs, pizza, tacos, popcorn and beer, the idea is to switch to the less caloric, de-fatted versions of the regular foods, saving your guests more than 900 calories--and possible indigestion--for the day.
One idea is to pace the menu throughout the day, using the various plays of the game as a cue," say Carol Saunders and Susan Cohen, who operate Specialized Diet Consultants, a nutrition counseling firm in Encino.
For instance, start the pregame warm-ups with a low-calorie salsa dip (in lieu of guacamole) and cut vegetables--and save 63 calories.
Tossing the coin calls for light, not regular, beer and unbuttered popcorn with a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese for flavor (in lieu of butter). Calorie saving: 97 calories for the popcorn and 54 calories for beer.
At kickoff, serve baked instead of fried chips and save 110 calories. By touchdown, the appetite for food you can dig into is touched off, so serve tacos made with lean ground beef with lettuce, tomatoes and baked, not fried, shells. Go light on the cheese, too, and save 76 calories.
Field goal is a signal to add pizza, lightened fat- and calorie-wise by using split halves of pita bread instead of regular pizza crust, and topping them lightly, not heavily, with tomato sauce and cheese. Calorie saving: 166 calories.
Guests are ready for another entree at half-time: turkey or chicken hot dogs instead of regular ones for a saving of 110 calories.
Postgame cheers--or jeers--call for dessert because of the calories saved. How about a frozen graham-cracker-crust pie filled with ice milk instead of high-fat ice cream for a saving of 140 calories for the pie?