Today is the Super Bowl. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in some remote corner of the globe, and even if you couldn’t give a rat’s fanny about football and the fuss surrounding, you know this. I’ve never been a big follower of football, but I always look forward to watching the Superbowl. Why? My reason is the same as most non-footballers — the commercials. At least that was my reason until five years ago, which was when I started to pay attention to what was going on between the commercial breaks. What was the catalyst for this sudden gridiron interest after decades of not giving a crap? A man. Specifically, one who followed his hometown teams with rabid fervor, and vehemently despised every team in mine. How could I possibly be attracted to such a fellow? Well, he was actually a very sweet guy when none of his teams happened to be playing. Problem was one of his hometown teams was always playing. Bigger problem was that hometown was Boston. And as most everyone knows, there’s never been any love lost between the fans of New York and Boston.
My loyalties run blue when it comes to competitions. Blue pinstripes, big blue jerseys, blue states. And as far as sports teams go, my passions tend to be confined to my beloved Yankees. Football? Sure I’ll watch the Super Bowl annually, and if forced to choose during the season, I'll go Giants over Jets, though rarely pay any particular attention to the action on the field. Now just imagine being in a relationship with someone downright psychotic about it. Certainly that could pose a few challenges right off the bat. Factor in the geographic undesirability of not liviing in the same region, and it’s fair to say this pairing was likely going to be an uphill climb. Yet we were both clearly smitten when we met and both willing to leap. He even took pride in the fact that he had never ever dated a Yankee fan, the last two words said with an inflection of loathing befitting someone who bleeds Red Sox red. But me, well apparently I was worth it to him.
It was fun for a while, but after a few months the end looked inevitable. Oddly enough, the downhill course of the relationship seemed in lockstep with that year’s football season. Whether our teams contributed at all to our relationship's demise is doubtful, but on that particular Superbowl Sunday, well, maybe. I know for sure the result of the game lessened my sorrow regarding our ending. You see, that year was the first time the Giants (my team) met the Patriots (his) in the Superbowl. Luckily for both of us, we were watching the game in our separate cities. Luckily for me, the Giants won. My guys were the underdogs, winning from a wild card spot and facing a team that seemed destined to pummel them flat. Which served to escalate the trash talk from my future non-boyfriend. It definitely helps lessen the blow when the impending ex acts like a colossal ass shortly before the breakup. I highly recommend it for one’s heartbreak resilience. So as my Big Blue moved closer and closer to victory, my mood brightened, my smile grew, I knew I was going to be just fine, and this would be a Superbowl to remember. And ever since then, I like watching the game, too.
While I love all the wonderful food associated with most Super game-watching activities, I thought I’d like to go in a little less caloric direction with my snacks this year. While certainly not “diet food” (a stupid term in my book), my Crispy Rosemary Crackersand Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip are a little healthier than the average calorie-laden fare, and make a nice balanced alternative between bites of spicy wings and nachos.
Crispy Rosemary Crackers
(Inspired by a recipe from Gourmet magazine)
These are a terrific addition to any Super Bowl feast, a great “carrier” for my Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip(recipe follows after crackers), and pretty darn good any other time too. The recipe makes three 10” flatbreads, which can be broken up into various sized shards, or scored before baking (like I did) to get somewhat more uniform-sized pieces.
1 ¾ cups flour
1 TBSP finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 TBSP grated lemon zest
½ cup water
3 TBSP olive oil (2 for the dough, and 1 for brushing before it goes in the oven)
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top - I use Maldon but if you can’t find it any coarse sea salt works well.
Place a heavy-bottomed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven, and preheat to 450ºF.
Whisk together flour, kosher salt, baking powder, rosemary and lemon zest in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and 2 TBSP of the olive oil. Mix together with a spoon or your hands to form a ball. Knead a few times; divide the dough into 3 small disks and cover with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
Take a sheet of parchment paper about the size of your pan (doesn’t have to be exact) and roll one of the disks very thin so it makes about a 10-inch or so round. Put the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl or dish. Brush the dough with the oil. If you want to make more uniform crackers, score the disk with the back of a bread knife or ravioli cutter into square-ish pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt. Carefully take the hot baking sheet out of the oven, place the parchment on it and return to oven.
Bake for 4-5 minutes, spin the pan and bake another 4-5 minutes until the dough has browned a little around the edges and on any bubbles that have formed in the dough – you don’t want these dark brown. Slide off the parchment and onto a cooling rack. Repeat with the two remaining dough disks, using a clean sheet of parchment for each. When the large cracker is cool, break into pieces along score lines, or however it wants to break.
After the last bread has come from the oven, turn oven off, but leave the pan in. When all the crackers have been broken into pieces, spread them evenly on the baking sheet, put back in cooling oven and leave them for about a half hour so they dry out. This guarantees the crackers are crispy but don’t overcook and burn.
Store in an airtight container – Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Calories: about 105 per ounce, which is around 5-7 crackers, depending on size.
Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip
Makes about 2 cups
Great with the crackers above, chips, crudités or spread on crusty bread with a drizzle of good olive oil and squeeze of lemon. It’s also pretty good for you, lower in fat, higher in protein and good carbs and more than a third fewer calories than everyone's favorite with sour cream and onion soup mix combo.
1 Can Cannellini Beans
1 TBSP grated lemon zest
1 ½ tsp chopped rosemary
1 small garlic clove, grated (about ½ tsp) -- If you grate garlic it’s MUCH more pungent so go easy
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 TBSP good olive oil (this is a great place to use a flavorful oil, since it won’t get cooked)
1 ½ TBSP lemon juice
1 small pinch red pepper flakes (about 1/8 tsp)
1/3 cup fat free Greek yogurt
Drain the beans over a bowl so you have a little of the liquid if you need to thin the dip if too thick in the processor. Add the beans and the rest of the ingredients except the yogurt into the bowl of a food processor and zap until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the yogurt. Cover and stow in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors combine. You could easily make this a day ahead of when you are planning to serve.
To serve, let the dip come to room temperature, then taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with a drizzle of flavorful olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Calories: 620 total, or about 80 calories per ¼ cup.
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