Jennifer Behm Blog: Tailgating Tips for Summer Ballgames
07/13/2012 AT 12:05 PM EDT
As I was growing up, my mom was the ultimate armchair quarterback for Sunday football, and my 107-year-old great-grandmother – yeah, I said 107 – could name ALL the Philadelphia Phillies stats from memory. (Ironically, she never watched them on TV just listened to them on the radio)
So, you might say that sports are in my blood.
I also think that as a kid we went to every Reading Phils game. I even saw Mike Schmidt play there! The first big-league, live sporting event I ever saw was the Flyers Vs. the L.A. Kings. I was a Luc Robitaille and L.A. Kings fan – big mistake to cheer for the opposing team at a hockey game in Philadelphia!
But one thing I remember like it was yesterday: the smells coming from the concourse food vendors! Oh, yes – yummy cheese steaks, hot dogs, steamed buns ... I was hooked!
For me, the whole experience of a live sporting event starts with the tailgating. I have been fortunate to attend the World Series, to watch my fighting Phils, the Women's World Cup, hockey games, the rugby Sevens – but my friends and I love to see our hometown MLS soccer team, the Philadelphia Union.
"Game Day" starts for us the day before.
When I was in college I would do this during class – apologies to my professors. Now, it is between our catering and private dinner gigs. I always make sure what I make can last for a while sitting out, or can hold in my homemade "hot box."
Here is how to create your own: Take three or four bricks, wrap them in foil and place them in the oven at 500 degrees for one hour. Line a cooler with foil-wrapped cardboard, place hot bricks in the bottom and cover with another piece of foil-wrapped cardboard. Place food in the cooler. Do not open until ready to serve.
I used this for my famous truffled 5-cheese macaroni and cheese and, for my last event, a pulled pork and short rib with homemade BBQ sauce, my house-made pickled red onion, whipped goat cheese on a warmed (hence being in the hot box) roll. I actually cooked and fed this to our former Union captain Danny Califf and his daughter – and they LOVED it!
Another Yummy Vital
I season shrimp with sumac (yes, sumac). If you are like most people, when you hear "sumac" the first thing that comes to mind is poison. It is a good idea to be wary of poison sumac, also known as poison oak, but you have nothing to fear from sumac the spice. Although the two are related, sumac the spice is derived from the berry of a plant called Rhus coriaria. Side note: It was once used to calm a sour stomach.
So, season with sumac, pimento and za atar – a Middle Eastern spice – kosher salt and a little vegetable oil. Mix. Let sit 1 hr. Grill (a little char adds a load of flavor). Allow to cool. Chill until ready to serve.
A quick dip: Greek yogurt, mix in your favorite herbs, a squeeze of lemon, 2 minced roasted garlic cloves, half a cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped fine, a splash of Tabasco – and to tie in your spice from the shrimp, add a pinch of each spice.
Our Son's of Ben ticket holders gave us two thumbs up on our food and our soccer skills. Because my busy schedule does not allow me to play as much as I'd like, I always bring a ball to kick around!
It is Friday the 13th, and I will be trying on dresses for my wedding! Good thing 13 is my lucky number, and I can share what culinary madness I find on the left coast!
Catch me every Friday on PEOPLE.com to see what crazy food and adventures I have to stimulate all of your senses!