Touchdown treats: what to eat on the sidelines

by Toula Nikas

I grew up in a family of sports lovers. My dad’s family is from Wisconsin, home of the Packers, the Bucks and the Brewers. Our heritage is Greek, which means we love our soccer. And, having lived in Toronto for the past five years, I’ve slowly formed a strong allegiance to the Blue Jays and Raptors. As a result, watching sports—whether live or at home—has played a particularly large role in my life.

Of course, no sporting event is complete without snacks. There’s nothing like crunching into something savory as you watch your team score that goal, touchdown, or homerun—or taking comfort in food when your team is losing. But it can also be tricky: our attention is dedicated to the game rather than to what, and more importantly how much, we eat. Thus delicious and healthy is the way to go.

One of my favourite recipes for this type of occasion is something fresh, filling and satisfying. It’s a corn, avocado and bean salad complete with shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and sour cream—full-fat Greek yogurt does the trick too—on the side. The salad is topped with a refreshing lime dressing, keeping the flavours nice and light.

For these events, I also love making Julia Child’s bruschetta. It’s relatively healthy depending on the bread you choose and to many people’s surprise does not call for cheese. Rather the bread is fried in olive oil, rubbed with garlic and topped with heirloom tomatoes and basil. The flavours are so beautiful and fresh that cheese would almost be too indulgent.

Touchdown treats (2)
Tomatoes like live sports too

I love both of these recipes because they have that satisfying crunch necessary when watching a sporting event. And, in my experience, it’s something nice for the friends and family members who could care less about sports. There’s nothing like loved ones, good food and screaming at the television.

Corn, Avocado and Bean Salad

For the corn, depending on the season, I either use frozen or broil an ear of corn and scrape off the kernels.

½ cup corn, cooked

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

½ red onion, finely chopped

1 avocado, cut into chunks

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

juice of 1 lime

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

sharp cheddar cheese, grated, to serve

tortilla chips, to serve

sour cream/full-fat Greek yogurt, to serve

  1. Add the first five ingredients to a large bowl and toss.
  2. Dress the salad with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until your preferred tanginess is achieved.
  3. Portion in bowls and top with a handful of shredded cheese. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream/full-fat Greek yogurt on the side.

Julia Child’s Tomato Basil Bruschetta

loaf of your favourite bread, cut into 1-inch slices

1 clove of garlic, peeled and whole

3 tbsp + 2 tbsp (to upwards of 1 cup) good quality olive oil

1 1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes, quartered and chopped

1 tsp sea salt

1 handful of fresh basil, finely chopped

  1. Toss tomatoes in three tablespoons of olive oil and salt and set aside. (This allows the tomatoes to release their juices and become extra flavourful.)
  2. In a medium frying pan over medium-heat, bring two tablespoons of olive oil to a sizzle. Fry bread two pieces at a time in olive oil until golden on each side. (You may need to add a little olive oil here and there depending on how absorbent your bread is.)
  3. Once all of the bread is fried, gently rub one side of each piece with the garlic.
  4. Drain the juice from tomatoes using a strainer. Top each slice of bread with a heaping spoonful of the strained juices. Finish off with a generous sprinkle of basil.