By Kara Kimbrough
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it." Last week, this somewhat-flippant saying came to mind on a couple of occasions. A trip to the Gulf Coast’s mammoth eight-day event, “Cruisin’ the Coast,” and the discovery of innovative recipes courtesy of…don’t judge…TikTok, opened my mind and broadened my horizons to new experiences I’d previously overlooked.
First, as much as I love visiting our amazing Gulf Coast, I've pointedly steered clear during the annual extravaganza highlighted by cars and trucks from a bygone era. I’ve never been a car aficionado, as evidenced by the fact that I drive vehicles until the wheels fall off.
But a chance to check out a new restaurant (review will be forthcoming) in an historic hotel happened to coincide with Cruisin’. So I headed down, all the while reminding myself to “avoid the old cars” and “stay out of traffic.”
Both goals were dashed pretty soon upon arrival. I realized there was no way to steer clear of increased traffic or the more politically-correct term, vintage vehicles. Close to 10,000 cars and trucks of a bygone era were registered in this year’s event.
But surprisingly enough, as I zoomed along U.S. 90, I thoroughly enjoyed cruising side by side a fire engine red truck, flashy silver Corvette and a flawlessly restored Model T with a melodic horn.
According to event organizers, cruisers from 44 states, Canada and England convened on the Coast to show off their restored vehicles, many worth thousands and thousands of dollars. Most impressive to me (besides the fire engine red truck) were the crowds of friendly and yes, very happy, people gathered in parking lots in every city and town along the Coast. Blue skies, sunshine and balmy breezes enhanced the good-time feeling and camaraderie that flowed between vehicle owners, locals and tourists who’d gathered for no other reason than to admire beautiful vehicles made in every decade since the early 1900's.
To say this event has a monumental economic impact on the Coast – and the entire state as well, as Cruisers cross Mississippi from all directions on their way to the Coast – wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
After returning from my Cruisin’ adventure, a friend told me about a TikTok recipe I HAD to try. I have a TikTok account, but rarely access it. TikTok has received negative publicity for unsavory content, but there are ways to filter out the “bad stuff.” I have my account set to only allow videos from certain categories (cooking, food, decorating and DIY, to name a few) to appear on my page. Searching for “most popular TikTok recipes” unearthed a wealth of interesting, creative and delicious-looking recipe videos I immediately “pinned,” or saved for a later date.
Baked spaghetti - the video/recipe mentioned by my friend – is a glorious combination of melted butter, heavy cream, marinara sauce, ground beef, cheese and pasta. The end result is a mouth-watering dish filled with some of my favorite things. If you’d like the complete recipe, drop me an email and I’ll send it to you.
The Italian grinder salad sandwich, a “viral” sensation on the internet, was pinned as my #1 video to watch. It’s the perfect combination of salad/sandwich for tailgate parties at football games, for watching football at home or served to a hungry crowd at your dinner table.
After making it, I can attest that it’s undeniably delicious and can feed the multitudes. Even better, it proved that TikTok, like Cruisin’ on the Coast, has more than a few redeeming qualities.
TikTok Italian Grinder Salad Sandwich
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup Italian dressing
½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⅓ cup Pepperoncini peppers
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
3-4 cups Iceberg lettuce, shredded.
1 large loaf crusty Italian bread
4 ounces sliced Pepper Jack cheese
4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
¼ pound of salami
¼ pound of ham, thinly sliced
¼ pound sliced pepperoni
¼ pound honey roasted turkey breast, thinly sliced
1 medium tomato
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced into rings (optional)
In a large bowl add the dressing ingredients - everything except lettuce. Stir until combined. Next, add the shredded iceberg lettuce and using tongs, toss until the salad is thoroughly coated with dressing.
Refrigerate until later use.
While salad marinates, prep the sandwich by preheating oven or air fryer to 425 degrees. Slice the bread lengthwise and open sides to lay flat. On one side, layer pepper jack cheese and top with slices of salami, ham and pepperoni. On the other half, add sliced turkey and top with mozzarella cheese. Toast for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted. Remove from heat and add sliced tomato on top of the baked deli meats and cheeses; season tomatoes with a little salt and pepper
Top the seasoned tomatoes with the salad, grated parmesan and onions, if using.
Last, fold the top of the bread over the grinder sandwich and press down to meld all ingredients. If taking to an event, wrap well in wax paper and keep cool until serving.
Note: ingredients can be adjusted “up or down” to your taste. And, add other favorite ingredients if you'd like. Everything “works” in this versatile salad/sandwich!
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.