Whether or not you’re a fan of football matters little at this point. What’s more important is that the upcoming Super Bowl gives us all a good reason to brighten up these dreary January/February months with a party; nothing fancy, just a good old-fashioned “let’s pool our resources and get together” party.
I’m not ashamed to admit I know next to nothing about football, except of course, for the inescapable media blitz about some cruel person pulling the wool over the eyes of one major player of the game, who, I think, must be a few bricks short of a load to believe as he did in the mythical girlfriend. Apart from that, I do also know the names of the two teams playing in the Super Bowl, but that’s about it. So why would I want to throw or even attend a Super Bowl party?
The answer to that is, as usual, it’s an outstanding excuse to feature one of my all-time favorite foods as an obvious theme for a party, namely soup.
Invite as many family members and/or friends as your TV viewing area will allow, ask each of them to bring their favorite soup (along with copies of the soup recipe to hand out, if requested). Provide a generous assortment of rolls, bread and crackers, along with two or three salads (fruit, tossed green, coleslaw, Salmagundi, etc.), and let the party begin.
As for what to drink? My numerous nephews always bring a lot of their favorite beer, no matter what else is being served; parents always bring whatever their children may want, because I’m not likely to know what that may be, and I make sure there’s ample coffee, tea, mixers and usually a huge pitcher of bloody Mary mix.
Dessert can be as simple as a large platter of assorted cookies, homemade or purchased.
Informal, easy, buffet-style; everyone helps themselves to a cup or bowl of soup whenever they feel like sampling the various offerings, sits where they can view the TV or not, as preferred, and all I have to do is remember to ask someone who knows what channel the game is on to turn on and tune in the TV. And, of course, I feel obligated to check out as many of the soups as I’m able, just in the event there’s something new and outstanding I should pass along to you.
What a great way to enjoy a sport you seldom watch and know little about.
Today’s recipes are, naturally, all about soup, with the only problem being which ones to choose. I’ve been gathering soup recipes since I was in college and it’s one of my fattest files. It’s the ultimate meal, after all, because you can turn virtually any ingredients you may have on hand into a pot of soup, enough for two or 20. (Remember the old story about stone soup?) Here are a couple of hearty, satisfying, delicious suggestions.
First, you can’t have a Souper Bowl party without a pot of chili, but it’s not a dish you expect from Italy. Nevertheless, wait until you try this Italian chili before you say, no way.
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
2 T. olive oil
2 cups diced onion
½ lb. pepperoni sticks, cubed
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 cans (28 oz. each) whole tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if preferred)
1 can each (14 oz.) cannellini beans and red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 T. dried Italian seasoning
Salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
Sour cream, sprigs of fresh basil, as topping/garnish
In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté the sausage over med.-high heat until browned. Add onion, pepperoni and garlic; cook 5 min. Stir in tomato paste and sauté 1 min.
Deglaze pot with wine and vinegar; reduce until nearly evaporated. Add tomatoes, broth, beans and seasoning. Simmer 45 min. to 1 hr. Can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated when ready to serve.
Serve with sour cream and sprigs of fresh basil on the side to garnish. Note: This keeps well on the buffet table in a Crock-Pot; have the sour cream/basil sprigs or chopped to add, as preferred.
Because we’re talking a Super Bowl party, there may or may not be children present, and this particular soup is an excellent “adults only,” not-your-usual tomato soup. If children are in the mix, monitor this buffet soup tureen.
14 oz. canned diced tomatoes
1-½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable, if preferred; I add a bottle of clam juice)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
Small bunch of basil leaves
½ t. celery seed
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of Tabasco, to taste (optional)
4 T. vodka, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sprigs of Italian flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Put tomatoes and broth in a saucepan, add garlic, basil and celery seed; cook over med. heat for 3-4 min. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return to the rinsed saucepan.
Season to taste with Worcestershire, Tabasco and salt and pepper. Stir in the vodka.
Warm until ready to serve, with parsley on the side for garnish as desired. (This is best if served in small round bowls, or cups.)
Serves 4, is easily doubled.
The Tuscany area of Italy is known for, among other things, its bean soups; hearty, satisfying and full of flavor.
There are several variations; this is one very traditional Tuscan White Bean Soup and it’s outstanding on a chilly winter evening. Also great for a Souperbowl buffet.
6 oz. pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 cups water, plus extra as possibly needed
1 lb. dried cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed
1 large onion (don’t bother to peel), cut in half, plus 1 med. onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled, plus 3 cloves, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for a drizzle when serving
1 sprig rosemary
Balsamic vinegar, for serving
In a Dutch oven, cook pancetta over med. heat until just golden, 8-10 min. Add water, beans, halved onion, unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaf and 1 t. salt. Bring to a boil over med.-high heat, cover the pot partially and reduce heat to low.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are almost tender, 1 to 1 ½ hrs. Remove beans from heat, cover, and let stand until beans are tender, about 30 min.
Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid (you should have about 5 cups; if not, add water to reach 5 cups). Discard pancetta, onion, unpeeled garlic cloves and bay leaf. Spread beans in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool.
While beans are cooling, heat oil in the pot over med. heat until shimmering. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-6 min. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds (don’t burn!). Add cooked beans and reserved cooking liquid. Increase heat to med.-high and bring soup to simmer. Submerge rosemary sprig in the soup, cover and let stand off the heat for 15-20 min. Discard rosemary, season with salt and pepper to taste.
It’s ready to serve; keep warm on stove top or in buffet warmer/Crock-Pot. Have olive oil and balsamic vinegar available; the soup is traditionally drizzled with olive oil when served, with balsamic vinegar to also drizzle in optional.