Football is serious business around here. And so is football food.
The college season started last weekend, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers open the regular season Sunday with the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. High school and youth football leagues are already under way.
For those of us on the sidelines — or rather, in the parking lot or on the couch — this means it's time to dust off tailgate party and potluck recipes. Or perhaps consider some new ones for dips that can hang around for a while without refrigeration.
Dip and chips are standard football party fare, but dips made with mayonnaise or cream cheese can get unappetizing and downright dangerous if they sit out too long. You can nestle the bowl in a bigger bowl of ice to get more life out of the dip, but that's another thing to remember to bring to the stadium.
Salsa and bean dips, plus guacamole within reason, can last for half a game with no problem. Today's recipes are so delicious they'll be gobbled up well before the network pundits start in on who's done what wrong in the first half.
These dips all pair well with tortilla chips, and there are certainly many flavors and shapes of those these days, but they can also be scooped by pita and bagel chips, plus sturdy vegetables. (See inside for dipper ideas.) It's a good idea to offer both chips and veggies to satisfy a variety of dietary inclinations.
Salsas and bean dips can be made in advance, which allows flavors to meld completely. They are better the next day, when the heat of the jalapenos and the power of the garlic have been given time to bloom. This also lets you adjust seasonings and other elements. The Roasted Cherry Tomato Citrus Salsa tested for this story became quite thick overnight, so I added juice from a can of diced tomatoes to loosen it. (I stirred the rest of the can into a bean soup I was making.) The next time I make it, I'll back off on the orange zest to lessen the citrus flavor.
That's the beauty of salsas and dips in general. They are endlessly tinkerable. A little more heat, a little less sweet, all to jibe with your likes and dislikes. Today's Black Bean and Corn Salsa is called Heather's Cilantro, Black Bean and Corn Salsa on allrecipes.com. It has nearly 200 reviews, mostly glowing, but nearly all of the reviewers shared changes. It's the kind of recipe that you'll need to make once and then start messing with.
My favorite of today's recipes is the Watermelon Salsa, a refreshing accompaniment to the Florida football season, which is more about shorts and tank tops than jackets and gloves. The trick with this recipe is to let the diced watermelon drain in a fine-mesh sieve for at least 30 minutes before mixing all the ingredients. The recipe calls for a bit of salt, and if you sprinkle coarse salt on the melon while it drains, it will release even more liquid. (Watermelon is more than 90 percent water.) No need to salt again.
The recipe doesn't call for it, but you could add feta cheese crumbles just before serving and offer the salsa with toasted pita chips. It would also be a nice accompaniment for grilled seafood, especially shrimp.
I also recommend the Creamy White Bean Dip, which will not be white because of the basil that's processed with the beans. In our newsroom taste test, this dip got high marks, though many thought it was guacamole at first glance. Swirl a good-quality extra virgin olive oil on the top of the dip for presentation's and flavor's sake. Very good with bagel chips.
Guacamole is a wonderful addition to a football party menu, but making it depends on two important things: the price of flavorful Hass avocados and their ripeness. When Hass are 10 for $10, buy them. You may want to pass when they are 2 for $3 because you'll need about six to make enough for a party.
If they are rock hard, place on the counter and they'll ripen in about three days. Refrigeration slows the ripening process; don't do it. They are ready when they give to slight pressure.
Avocado flesh begins to brown as soon as it's exposed to air. To avoid this, mix with lime or lemon juice. The citric acid slows the process. Guacamole is best made a few hours before serving. It can start to look a bit wan after a couple of hours on the party table, but if it's good, it likely won't last that long. Keep an eye on it.
I stuffed my simple guacamole with lump crabmeat, which really gilds the lily. Because of that, I didn't add a lot of competing flavors. In my opinion, the best guacamole is all about the avocado, which I keep as chunky as possible. Lime juice, garlic and salt, maybe a bit of cumin and a diced, seeded tomato, are enough for me.
Tasty dips and football — that's something to cheer about.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8586.
3 cups finely diced seedless watermelon, (about 2 ¼ pounds with the rind)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
? cup chopped cilantro, (about ½ bunch)
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup minced red onion, (about ½ small)
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Place watermelon, jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice and onion in a medium bowl; stir well to combine. Season with salt. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Make-ahead tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to one day.
Note: Watermelon gives off a lot of liquid, especially as it ripens. To keep your salsa from getting swamped, drain the diced fruit in a colander for 30 minutes. More liquid will be released if you sprinkle it with a little salt. If you do this, do not salt again.
Makes about 4 cups.
Nutritional information per ½ cup serving: 26 calories, fat 0, 7g carbohydrates, 1g protein, 1g fiber, 75g sodium.
Source: Eating Well magazine
Roasted Cherry Tomato Citrus Salsa
1 bunch cherry tomatoes
1 poblano pepper, halved and seeded
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded
½ red onion, diced
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped
Zest of half an orange
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat broiler while you are chopping your ingredients.
Spread cherry tomatoes, poblano pepper and jalapeno pepper on a baking sheet. Roast under broiler until soft and lightly charred, turning once, about 7 minutes.
Remove from broiler; allow to cool about 20 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and pulse with an immersion blender until combined but still slightly chunky. Check for seasoning. Serve with chips, tacos or fajitas, or over grilled meats or fish.
Makes about 2 cups.
Creamy White Bean Dip
2 cans (15 ounces each) white beans (navy, cannellini, northern), drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Handfuls of fresh basil
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of ½ lemon
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, and more for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
Puree beans, garlic, basil, juice from lemon and zest in food processor or blender. When everything looks pureed, add olive oil slowly until you get desired creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust seasoning or texture, then scoop into a bowl and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Can be served cold or at room temperature but is best if made a few hours ahead so that all of the flavors can meld.
Makes about 2 cups.
Avocado Crab Guacamole
3 ripe avocados
½ red onion, minced (about ½ cup)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 jalapeno chile, stems and seeds removed, minced
½ ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
About 8 ounces pasteurized crab, lump or claw meat
Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel and put into a mixing bowl.
Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, lime juice and salt and gently fold.
Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready, or if eating soon, cover and keep at room temperature for up to an hour.
Just before serving, fold in chopped tomato and crab, saving some to garnish the top.
Makes about 3 cups.
Source: Adapted from Simplyrecipes.com
Black Bean and Corn Salsa
1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained
1 (15-ounce) can white corn, drained
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
5 green onions, finely sliced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup lime juice
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, or to taste
Stir the yellow and white corn, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, green onion, red onion, bell pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Gently mix in the lime juice and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil to serve.
Makes about 5 cups.
It's likely you already have your hall-of-fame chip choice. Most people stay true to their favorite potato or tortilla chip, yet a walk down the salty-snack aisle reveals a locker room full of choices. Just the Pringles display alone is a wall of flavors, from loaded baked potato to jalapeno to a seemingly more healthful multigrain. • We sampled a few chips recently that are new or new to us. Some we think would be wonderful plunged into a bowl of salsa or guacamole, and others we imagine in a pile next to a burger.
Archer Farms is Target's store band, and its variety of clever flavor combinations is always impressive. Salt & Lime Corn Chips are perfect for salsa and bean dips. The lime is more subtle than the corn flavor, and the salt is just right. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Chips got high marks as an accompaniment for sandwiches but might overpower a dip.
Ruffles Ultimate Sweet & Smoking BBQ Chips are, to quote one tester, "a whole lot of chip." Rather than being dipped into salsa, they would be better with a creamy dip, onion or dill perhaps, to balance all that personality.
Tostitos is another chipmaker that's coming out with some tempting flavors. For salsa or guacamole, we're partial to the Roasted Garlic and Black Bean Tortilla Chips. They are sturdy enough to scoop up big chunks of avocado, and the flavors mingle well with Tex-Mex offerings. The Baked Three Cheese Queso Flavored Tortilla Chips got mixed reviews. Their nacho-ness seems appealing at first, but the super-cheesy assertiveness overtakes almost anything that comes after. Some thought they would be great for simple snacking.
When your diet and/or taste buds scream for something less salty and much more healthful, consider nature's dippers. Here are some vegetable alternatives that can help bring that dip to your mouth:
Bell peppers, regular and mini
Janet K. Keeler