College football has two weekends under its belt and the National Football League has one. If football is under way, tailgate parties, gatherings of friends or long afternoons on the couch are in the offing.
Besides football, that means one thing — food.
If the same things appear on your tailgate year after year, if you wish the chicken fingers would walk away, if the bean dip is beginning to disturb your friends a few hours after consumption, it’s time for some new ideas.
This month’s Tossed & Found includes four appetizers, coincidentally all drawn from Pinterest posts. Two can be made ahead of time and taken in coolers to the tailgate party. Two are best served at home.
The Stuffed Baguette, which calls for red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, salami and fresh parsley and thyme, easily could be made to taste with different meats, veggies and herbs. The preparation process would be the same.
The Crack Dip, likely so named because of its addictive quality, is simple to make and tasty to eat.
The Cauliflower Buffalo Wings and Mini-Reubens, both offering explosions of flavor, are best served piping hot from the oven.
Baguette (about 14 inches long)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped Kalamata olives
2 ounces finely chopped spicy salami
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste (unlikely to need a lot since there are plenty of salty ingredients)
Slice off both ends of the baguette. Using a long thin knife and working from both ends, hollow out the baguette, leaving about ½-inch thick crust all around. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and lump-free. Beat in the goat cheese and garlic. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Working again from both ends, fill the baguette with the cheese mixture. Pack the filling tight. (A slender shot glass is helpful for pressing the filling in.) Wrap the stuffed baguette tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours and for up to two days. Just before serving, slice the baguette into ½-inch thick slices and serve. For clean slices, use a hot, dry knife for each slice. Makes one 12-inch baguette — about 24 slices.
• Cook’s changes: I used a small French bread loaf instead of the baguette because that’s what the store had available. I did not finely chop my Kalamata olives but left them in the pieces they came in. Trust me, there is no need to add salt to the mixture.
• Result: Lots of chopping necessary, but the appetizer is fairly easy to make. The most difficult part is cutting out the inside of the baguette and stuffing it. I punctured the outer layer of the bread while cutting it out, and that caused a weak spot while stuffing, which I did with a spoon (since no shot glass was in eyesight). I ultimately cut the loaf in two at the puncture spot and stuffed it that way. Since it would be sliced anyway, the roll itself didn’t matter. The sliced roll has a slightly spicy taste but is very good.
Cauliflower Buffalo Wings
1 head cauliflower (or pre-cut pieces)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Trim the head of cauliflower into appetizer-sized pieces. Set it aside. In a shallow bowl, stir together milk, flour and garlic powder. Dip each piece of cauliflower into the batter and allow the extra batter to drip off. Place on a greased baking sheet. Spray the tops of the florets with cooking oil. Bake for 18 minutes. While the cauliflower is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Mix together melted butter and Frank’s hot sauce. Toss cooked cauliflower pieces with sauce. Serve with a side of blue cheese dressing.
• Cook’s changes: None.
• Result: I expected that, with the batter and the cooking spray, the cauliflower would come out of the oven crispier than it did. It just seemed, well, baked. Combined with the hot sauce mixture and dipped in the blue cheese dressing, I tasted only the sauce and dressing. It wasn’t bad — just not what I was hoping for with a more healthy veggie substitute. I’m not sure they’d do well as leftovers, either.
16 ounces sour cream
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
3 ounces bacon bits (from bag, not jar)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Combine all ingredients. Serve with chips or vegetables.
• Cook’s changes: None.
• Result: Simple and quick to make — in mere minutes. Those who sampled it loved it. I would certainly do it again because of its simplicity.
1 (16 ounce) loaf cocktail rye bread
1 cup Thousand Island dressing
1-1/2 pounds deli sliced corned beef
1 (16 ounce) jar sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
1 pound sliced Swiss cheese
Heat the oven broiler. Arrange cocktail rye slices on a baking sheet. Top each one with about 2 teaspoons of Thousand Island salad dressing, then fold about 1/2 slice of corned beef to fit the bread and lay over the dressing. Place a small amount of sauerkraut over the meat, then top with 1/4 slice of Swiss cheese (or a slice about as big as the bread). Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve warm. Makes 16 servings.
• Cook’s changes: I used a regular rye loaf and cut it into quarters because I couldn’t find the cocktail rye bread.
• Result: If you like Reubens, you’ll like these. I sampled way too many. The rye bread, sauerkraut and Thousand Island all stood out amid the thin slice of corn beef and the lovely, gooey cheese.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.