Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

Tapas, little food samplers, are taking over our tables nowadays. It is a lot of fun to be able to create your own version of these small culinary delicacies. I personally enjoy this way of eating a lot, because it gives me an opportunity to try different local flavors on a variety of plates. It also enhances the chance to socialize with one another, without having to eat a full meal. One particular tapas that really hit the spot was something I tried a few times, without ever being disappointed: Stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.

 It is true that bacon can make just about anything taste good. The combination of the savory bacon, smooth creaminess of the goat cheese, and the sweetness of a date are a true winning combination. These dates are SO simple to make, and they are totally delicious! I love them because it's easy to make lots for social gatherings, and they can be assembled ahead of time.


18 pitted Medjool dates
 4 oz. goat cheese
 9 slices of bacon drizzle of maple syrup

 To start with, heat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, start stuffing your dates. Slice open the top of each date, and stuff it with 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite goat cheese. Then take a half of a strip of bacon. Wrap the half strip of bacon around the date, and secure it with a toothpick. Arrange all of the dates on a parchment paper lined backing baking sheet. Bake the dates for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then turn them over to brown the other side. Bake them for about 5 more minutes. At this point the dates are ready to eat, but I prefer them a little more golden brown.

So, what I like to do is drizzle them very lightly with a little maple syrup, then turn the broiler on for a few minutes. Keep a REALLY close eye on them, as they can become overdone quickly. When they reach your desired golden brown color, remove from the oven, and serve right away. They are also tasty at room temperature, but I prefer right out of the oven. They are wonderful with a glass of your favorite red wine. Enjoy!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Costicine al Lambrusco


When I visit Italy back home, I always want to take a day or two to visit my friends in Modena. They are special people, with a good heart and a great " joie de vivre". Maybe because they are surrounded by incredible food or some of the best sport cars in the world. Or maybe because they can go to the "Trattoria Il Fantino" any time they please, while I just have to settle down for drooling memories of my recent visit. This place was a wealth of surprises from the moment we stepped in. I learned throughout my life that when it comes to restaurants, lavish looks can be deceiving. But the moment you enter this place, there is a domestic, familiar feeling to it, like I was visiting some family members or close friends. The owner and his assistant are very simple, pleasant, friendly people, that welcome you with a warm, genuine smile. We were of course there for the traditional Gnocco Fritto and Tigelle, which came in abundance, accompanied with any sort of heavenly cold cuts and rivers of  Lambrusco, you can only find in this city. My young son, not a big fan of Tigelle or cold cuts, was somewhat disappointed so we asked if there was anything else that we could have to please his young taste. And that's where the pleasant surprise arrived. A warm oval plate of steaming baby ribs, slowly simmered for two hours with onion, celery and carrots  and plenty of Lambrusco. The end result was that my son, being the meat eater he is, was finally ecstatic, and we had to order another big full plate, since we realized that that everyone at the table was eyeing the first plate with envy and desire. Obviously, the owner, chef, being the simple, humble and incredible guy that he is, took me in the kitchen, and after a few minutes of lively soccer discussion he decided to share the simple recipe with me.

a rack of baby back ribs, cut into individual parts
2 carrots finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
sprig of rosemary finely chopped (optional)
1 bottle of lambrusco
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup beef stock, additional if  liquid needed.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil until very hot. Add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery and saute until somewhat golden. Next, over high heat, add the ribs, and give them a nice golden brown seer all over. Add salt, and a little broth.  If you want to add a little rosemary, do so now. Next add the whole bottle of lambrusco, it should cover the ribs completely. Over medium low heat, allow the ribs to simmer in the lambrusco until the wine is all evaporated. Stir occasionally, they will probably need to simmer for a good two hours.  The lambrusco will develop into a delicious sauce for your absolutely tender delectable ribs. The ribs should become so tender, they will be pulling away from the bone. Serve with some nice oven roasted potatoes, and a bottle of the best lambrusco you can find. The results are sure to be delightful.