The ‘rents didn’t have cable again until 2000, when reception abruptly blotzed on in the middle of a lightning storm. All of a sudden, Pa had more fishing shows than he could handle and Ma could see St. John’s lose basketball games ANY TIME SHE WANTED. They ordered it permanently soon after, and I got my first gander at Food Network. I became a constant viewer, and beyond The Office and American Idol, it’s really the only TV I watch anymore. FN is my background noise, my recipe center, and my source for making informed fun of Sandra Lee. And even though The Boyfriend, our roommates and I chucked cable last year in an attempt to save on bills, FN miraculously remained (bizarrely, along with three Spanish-language channels and QVC). It’s like it KNEW I would wither and die without Alton and Ina.
Then it happened.
This weekend, like my first boyfriend out of college, Food Network got homesick and moved back to Ohio. (Translation: it checked out.)
So, uh … AUGH! WHAT DO I DO? A food blogger without Food Network is like a sports blogger without ESPN or Pa without 47,000 fishing shows. What if something crazy, like movement, happens on Ace of Cakes? What if Giada makes the claw hand and I miss it? What if Tony Bourdain writes another devastating critique of the channel and I don’t know what the crap he’s talking about?
It’s a conundrum. The four of us can definitely afford cable, but truly, we were fine without it. And is it worth the expenditure for a single channel? Yarg. It is my greatest test in frugality yet.
Because, seriously? Without Food Network, where will I find recipes like Emeril’s Grilled Sweet Potato Salad? I love it so hard, and though it’s a little pricier than what I’m accustomed to with a side dish, it will be much more reasonable in two months when the prices of red bell peppers and mangos come down. It’s way cheaper than what you’d get at a restaurant anyway, and there are other advantages besides: the salad is both a starch and vegetable (so you won’t need another side), it’s packed with Vitamins A and C (fiber, too), and it’s a neat changeup to throw at a barbecue (especially for your mayo-hatin’ relatives).
Arg. This is an issue. Readers, I need your opinions. To FN or not to FN? That is the question.
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse.
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 sweet onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 mango, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, stem, rib, and seeds removed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/8 cup olive oil
1 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1) Start your grill.
2) Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (adding spices last) until vegetables are evenly coated.
3) Tear off 2 huge sheets of heavy aluminum foil. Layer them one on top of the other. Pour the veggie mixture in the middle and make a pouch. (Make sure it is very well-sealed.) Pop it on to the pre-heated grill and heat about half and hour, until veggies are tender enough to eat. (Or, roast in the middle of a 450°F oven for 45-50 minutes covered, then 15-20 minutes uncovered.)
4) Take pouch off grill and let it sit a few minutes to cool down. Unwrap and dump in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. (NOTE: Emeril calls for cilantro and peanut garnishes, as well. I leave them out because they drive the price up and really don’t add much.)
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
291 calories, 9.5 g fat, $1.43
1 pound sweet potatoes: 409 calories, 0.7 g fat, $1.03
1 sweet onions: 70 calories, 0.1 g fat, $1.04
1 mango: 135 calories, 0.6 g fat, $1.00
1/2 red bell pepper: 15 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.84
1/8 cup olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.20
1 teaspoons fresh lime juice: 5 calories, 0 g fat, $0.13
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/8 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
Pinch cayenne: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
TOTAL: 873 calories, 28.6 g fat, $4.29
PER SERVING: 291 calories, 9.5 g fat, $1.43