Kitchen Shrink: Fab February foods and events
Although February is the shortest month of the year (even during a bonus-day leap year), it is jam-packed with exciting events celebrating sports, romance, and cultural festivals. Not coincidentally, they all embrace long-standing customs and foods rich in traditions and rituals (sugars, and grease, too). So let’s get these parties started as we have a scant 28 days to rejoice.
February roars in with the “Year of the Tiger” as the designated zodiac sign for the Chinese Spring Festival. This Lunar New Year has a load of fiercely powerful Yang energy to tackle the challenges ahead. Tiger years are symbolic of adventure and major changes, so let’s harness the energy of this apex predator to slay the pandemic beast, and restore health and prosperity for 2022. Traditional Chinese New Year delicacies include sweet and spicy prawns (or how ‘bout some tiger shrimp) for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters so all good things will come to fruition, a whole fish to symbolize togetherness, or a whole chicken for prosperity, and uncut noodles customarily served for longevity. So noodle up with a chilled buckwheat noodle salad, or a lo mein stir-fry with chicken, seafood, and a load of veggies from pea pods and mung sprouts to red peppers and broccoli florets for a pop of color, and an antioxidant oomph.
From Tigers to Bengals and Rams -- Super Bowl LVI kicks off this year in the City of Angels at the spanking new SoFi Stadium with the home team L.A. Rams facing the Cincinnati Bengals. Football fare is typically a line-up of spicy, sugary, fatty, and greasy junk food. The average fan will indiscriminately scarf down more than 1,200 empty calories on Super Bowl Sunday. Take heart, the health- and cholesterol-conscious fans among us can still indulge without feeling deprived by swapping out bloating, high fat potato and corn chips for vegetable chips (taro root, sweet potato, beet, and kale), or hearty, mineral-rich grain-based chips (quinoa, chia seeds, amaranth, and flaxseed) accompanied by crudités, including a Technicolor of rainbow carrots, sugar snap peas, cauliflower florets, and radish buds.
Fatty mayonnaise and dairy-based dips are out-of-bounds —instead try friendly-fat guacamole, Greek yogurt, and assorted salsas and hummuses. Beef chili can be slimmed down with lean ground turkey or chicken breast, or a vegetarian multi-bean combination. Burgers go Paleo with butter lettuce or kale wraps, while deep-fried, have-a-fire-extinguisher-on-hand chicken wings can be seamlessly replaced with grilled chicken skewers paired with tangy dipping sauces. For authentic, regional flavors try Cincinnati’s famed cinnamon-chili over spaghetti, and serve some tiger shrimp appetizers too for those Bengals, while L.A. fans can indulge in a mash-up of multi-cultural delights, including sweet potato tacos, French dip sandwiches, rice paper Imperial rolls, and chili cheese dogs. Game on!
Now from playing football to playing footsy, Valentine’s Day falls smack on the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday. Due to the close proximity of these two events, a smart culinary strategy this year would involve a lusty yet light meal. Whip up a heart-healthy feast with plenty of wild-caught, (and local, where possible) treasures from the sea like a steaming bowl of tomato-based cioppino swimming with diver scallops, mussels, clams, and chunks of fish, or grilled halibut, black and white sea bass, Mexican white shrimp, sablefish, or California spiny lobster smothered in a bourbon butter sauce with s side of roasted seasonal ratatouille, or parsnip puree.
Or try this intoxicating, multi-tasking seafood “martini” that can be equally enjoyed with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, your buddies on Super Bowl Sunday, or your family to toast the Lunar New Year. . .Cheers to all!
All-Purpose Seafood “Martini”
-10-ounces lobster tail meat, crab meat, or diver scallops, cooked and chopped
-6 jumbo shrimps, cooked and peeled, tails remaining
-1-cup vegetable cocktail juice
-1/3-cup tomato juice
-1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
-1-teaspoon Tabasco sauce
-1-tablespoon shallots, minced
-2-tablespoons Persian cucumber, minced
-12 green pimento-stuffed olives, halved
-1-teaspoon fresh Italian parsley, minced
-1 Roma tomato, minced
-1/4-cup vermouth or white wine
-Lemon twists, Italian parsley sprigs, or giant green olives, for garnish
In a medium size glass bowl combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Add the lobster, crab, or scallops to the sauce, and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Evenly distribute the mixture into 2 cocktail glasses. Add 3 jumbo shrimps to the rim of each glass, and garnish with lemon twists, parsley sprigs, or giant green olives.
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