You have seen them in your grocery store. They often catch you attention. Stuffed morsels. They are in the frozen section. The pierogi. Frozen dumplings stuffed, probably, with crappy potatoes, from the frozen section that is. I mean, who freezes mashed potatoes? Dumplings. What more…
Month: September 2009
Bacon. Who doesn’t love it? I consider bacon probably one of the best food items on this planet. The smokiness, the flavor, and the overall feeling you get when eating it, really makes it truly wonderful. It is one of my kids favorite foods. He could eat bacon all morning long. He gets excited by the smell alone. I will admit, he is like me, but a bit more skeptical at his age when trying new foods. I thought I would see how he think about what I was about to make.
So this past week I wanted to make a classic appetizer for a get together. The classic that we all know. Bacon wrapped water chestnuts. A great appetizer that is friendly for all ages to begin with, but I wanted to twist it up a bit and add a couple of my own items. Water chestnuts themselves are typically used in stir frys, and they take on some flavor of themselves, and have a nice texture and crunch to them. I have never found the fresh water chestnuts, so canned, whole chestnuts always have to do for this appetizer.
This recipe is so easy to make, is super affordable, and trust me, it is a real crowd favorite.
- 2 cans of whole water chestnuts, drained
- 8-10 strips of smoked bacon, thick cut, cut into smaller pieces to wrap around a chestnut
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 2 tbsp of light brown sugar
- pinch of pepper
- crumbled blue cheese
- balsamic vinegar reduction
Begin by mixing the soy sauce, black pepper, and sugar in a bowl. Mix well. Marinate the drained water chestnuts in the mixture for about 20 minutes. When you are ready, take a strip of the bacon, place a chestnut on it, and wrap it, make your cut, and use that strip to make the rest of your cuts of bacon, stacking if you want, to make it go faster. Your next step is to wrap each chestnut with the bacon, and securing each one with a toothpick. Place each one on a baking sheet, and repeat this process until all of the water chestnuts are wrapped. No brainer.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the baking sheet full of the bacon wrapped water chestnuts into the oven, and cook for roughly 20 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked, and cooked the way you want it. That is the beauty.
During this time, get your balsamic reduction going. This one is super easy and wow, you get a great syrup that you will probably want to use on a lot of items.
Ingredients for the balsamic reduction:
- 1 cup of good balsamic vinegar
- 4 tbsp light brown sugar
Make the balsamic reduction by heating a sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add the vinegar and bring to a boil. Toss in the sugar, and mix well. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let this cook down until it reduces down about half way, building a really nice syrup. Remove from the heat, and let cool on the stove.
Remove the bacon wrapped water chestnuts from the oven, and plate. Sprinkle the crumbled cheese over the top, and drizzle the syrup over the bacon as well. Let’s just say my guests were delightfully surprised by the appetizer, and they were all gone. However, my bacon lover, well, he was skeptical and did not eat them. My other kids, however, did. Always a good sign. Enjoy.
Lately I have had a serious craving for Lebanese food. I have been dreaming about it, and my mouth waters simply at the thought of the truly delicious flavors of middle eastern food. Garlic, fresh herbs, lemon. What more needs to be said? My garden is very well right now. Great tomatoes, peppers, beans, and herbs fill the lining of my back yard. So as I took notice of the recently picked tomatoes, I thought I would make a nice salad out of them. Sure, I thought immediately of making a nice and creamy tomato sauce for gnocchi or using a few in some Filipino afritada, but once again I had thoughts of middle eastern food on my mind, and I had to shake it. Doing a quick search in my pantry, I noticed I had two bags of garbanzo beans. This led me to think of hummus which I make often, however I had a salad on my mind. A chickpea salad, with fresh tomatoes and herbs, plus I had feta cheese in the refrigerator that was calling my name. The thought alone sounded perfect; creamy beans with a punch of mint and basil, salty feta cheese, and the acid of the tomatoes. Perfect.
This salad was super easy to put together, especially that I had everything laying around, which is always nice. I used bagged garbanzo beans, often referred to as chickpea or Indian peas. You can however use a nice canned bean, however you will want to rinse and cook until nice and tender if you go that route.
- 1lb of chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
- 3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/2 red onion, finely sliced, then chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3 cloves of garlic, mashed
- generous pinch of salt
- generous pinch of pepper
- 2 mature Serrano peppers or Thai chilies, seeded, and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 7 oz of feta cheese, crumbled
- handful of fresh basil, rough chop
- handful of fresh mint, rough chop
Take the chickpeas that have been soaking overnight and place in a pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook until nice and tender, about one hour. If you are using canned, cook for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, get the other ingredients ready. This should only take about 10 minutes, if that. Place the tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, chilies, and red onion in a large bowl. Mix and set aside.
When your beans are tender, drain, and let cool. When they come to a cooler state, heat a large skillet and add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Bring to a medium-high heat, and add the beans, mixing and cooking until you get some nice color to them. This is also a good time to filter any of the shells that come off the bean, and simply remove them. After about five minutes or so on the heat. Remove, and place them in the bowl that you prepared earlier. Mix well and let this come to room temperature, about 15 minutes or so. Toss in your chopped herbs and feta cheese. Taste. Season with more salt and pepper if need be and add a splash more of lemon juice if desired.
The freshness of this salad is dynamite. The excellent flavors of the beans, which are full of protein, the saltiness of the feta cheese, and the robust flavors of the herbs make this salad a pure hit at your next dinner party. Perfect for any occasion.