Smoky scents of grills waft in the distance, greetings and hugs intermingle between busy participants readying long tables lined with selections of old favorites, varying combinations of classics for filling the crowds, and then, some foods with newer twists whose play will determine their own score by the crowds taste testers, its Tailgate time.
Well it was the first Tailgate of the season for us this season anyway, having the opportunity to join in with our favorite university field hockey team over the weekend. Revisiting some happy memories of the past, while meeting some of the new players and their families at this great tradition of the outdoor shared table together.
Ah, there’s my girl, Alex the Athlete, now graduated two seasons past. These are memories to forever embrace and cherish for both players and their families. And as our Coach, Steve Jennings says, “you get out of it, what you put into it.” The moment made me recall our freshman year and those senior parents at the time emphasizing to us the importance of treasuring every moment, and giving it the best that you’ve got during that fleeting time. It goes by so fast.
The Team Family Tailgate is not like an Instagram photo with a single juicy burger topped with bacon and all sorts of fancy accompaniments. The Team Family Tailgate serves to nourish the team and their families through a sustaining meal, and in the bonding built together through these efforts. It is a lot of hard work. It requires a sort of “buy in” of commitment. The team players have their job, and the families have theirs, and between these two functions, as they call it ‘aunit,’ one not only creates memories, but builds on lasting friendships of a lifetime.
Originally, since the team was scheduled to be in town over the weekend, we had planned on Tailgating at both games. But my grandson, the J-Dude had his very first cross country meet requiring a schedule readjust and preparing lots of extra for the following days Tailgate. We made grilled burgers and four salads, three of these were tweaked former classics that used to go over well, and one offering a whole new twist on things, Freekeh Salad, dried fruit, pine nuts, za’atar. We had a lot of discussion around my house surrounding this salad and its preparation. Ultimately, my eldest, the J-Dudes mom, Sooky the Stylist, wanted it to be served alongside lettuce cups. We liked the concept, and it tasted great, though thinking of it too late, we didn’t have enough little lettuce cups so this Freekeh Salad was served atop some endive. At Tailgating end, with just some little kernels stuck to the greens, it was a score that gave me another delicious winning salad to share with you for Tailgate Tuesday.
And look at the J-Dude #674 who pulls ahead and places to get his first ribbon ever. So exciting!
Team Family Tailgating. It’s hard work. But the commitment, along with the preparation of providing sustaining meals, all builds in the treasured memories and friendships for a lifetime. It’s a fleeting moment, so worthwhile in giving it all you’ve got. Go Team.
- 1 cup freekeh
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 2 cups chicken stock or water, approximately more or less as needed
- 1/8 cups dried cranberries, chopped
- 1/8 cup golden raisins
- 1 orange, grated rind, cut segments, remaining orange from segments squeezed for juice
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted in a pan
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
- 1/2 teaspoon za'atar, or more to taste
- couple good pinches coarse kosher salt at finish, or more to taste
- few grinds fresh cracked pepper
- small lettuce pieces such as baby green leaf or bibb
- Carefully rinse freekeh kernels and remove any loose skins, also checking for any pebbles or debris as you would with beans. In a medium sized saucepan add the freekeh along with a teaspoon oil, a good pinch salt, and either chicken stock or water, bring to a boil, stir. Reduce heat to lowest temperature and cover tightly with a lid, cooking for around fifteen minutes before forking through the freekeh, tasting for doneness, adding a bit more liquid if needed and continuing to cook until freekeh is soft with still a bite. Once cooked, let freekeh sit covered for ten minutes, transfer to a platter and fork through. Stir through the chopped dried cranberries, golden raisins, red onion, toasted pine nuts, fresh mint, and orange zest. Season salad with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and Za'taar. Fold in the orange segments then squeeze in the rest of the juice remaining from the orange and skins. Stir, check seasoning, adjusting to taste. Serve on a bed of greens or with individual lettuce cups on the side for filling.