Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Dates and Spanish Meatballs with an Almond Sauce

Sorry vegetarians, this week's taste test constituted a veritable meat orgy. With the July 4th weekend and the requisite BBQ parties fast approaching, I thought I would try a couple of dishes that would make great party platters. And what better way to do party appetizers than Spanish tapas? I suppose Spanish food might not be considered quite appropos on a day celebrating American Independence to those who believe the BBQ should be all-American...but well...hey, at least it's not British.

These two appetizers are so yummy and flavorful, I guarantee they will be a hit with the guests—at least your carnivorous ones. The first one, the bacon-wrapped dates, are less of an experiment for me this time because I have made them before. However, I did discover them in a restaurant and just had to kind of wing the recipe. And they were so good I served them at our wedding rehearsal dinner and they disappeared before I even finished putting out the rest of the platters.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Honey

1 package bacon (I prefer the maple smoked variety)
1 package dates
Toothpicks (the thick, flat ones are sturdiest)

Cut the bacon slices in half (not lengthwise), so you have double the number of short pieces. Roll each date up in a bacon slice and spear them with the toothpick. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are crispy. Serve on a platter and drizzle honey over each piece.

My thoughts:
These appetizers are so easy to make and they really are party favorites. The combination of salt and sweet is so perfectly balanced, and it hits everyone's tastebuds just right.
I give this one: ♥♥♥♥. I think it is “Omigosh so amazing” I could eat it every night, but seeing as how it is bacon, I probably shouldn't.

Spanish Meatballs in an Almond Sauce

(These proportions served 4 people as part of a larger meal and made about 25 meatballs.)

For the meatballs:
1 slice wheat bread with the crust removed
2 tbsp water
2 c. ground pork (ground beef, lamb, or veal would also be good)
¾ small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley
1 egg, beaten
a few sprinkles nutmeg
a few sprinkles cinnamon
dried, crushed red chilies to taste
salt and pepper
all-purpose flour, for coating
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

For the sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 slice white bread, crust removed
½ cup blanched, slivered almonds
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 c. dry white wine
dried, crushed red chilies
salt and pepper
1 c. mushroom broth


For the meatballs, put the bread in a bowl, add the water and let soak in a bowl for about 5 minutes. Take the bread out and squeeze out the water and place bread back in the bowl. Add the pork, onion, garlic, parsley, egg, and seasonings & spices. Knead the ingredients together well.

Spread some four on a plate. With floured hands, roll the mixture into bite-size meatballs and roll each in the flour until coated.

Using a large, deep skillet for frying, heat the olive oil and fry meatballs in batches for a few minutes per batch. Turn the meatballs to sear each side. Do not cook through, only brown the outsides. Remove the meatballs from the pan.

Heat the olive oil for the sauce in the same skillet. Break the bread into pieces and add the almonds. Stir-fry until golden brown, then add the garlic and the wine. Allow to boil for a couple of minutes and add the seasonings.

Pour the sauce into a blender with the mushroom broth and blend until smooth. Return to the skillet, add the meatballs and simmer for 25 minutes. Season sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve the meatballs on a platter. Add the lemon juice to the sauce and mix until blended in. Pour the sauce on top of the meatballs. Garnish the platter with parsley and serve dish with sliced french or sourdough bread to mop up the sauce.

My thoughts:
These meatballs were super yummy. The sauce was not a combination of flavors I'm really used to, but it was surprisingly good and complimented the meat so well.
We served the two tapas with a feta and balsamic vinegar salad and artichoke-heart couscous and everything went really well together. I will definitely be making the meatballs again. My one caveat is that I personally am not a huge fan of parsley; I much prefer cilantro. So the next time I make this, I will use cilantro instead of the parsley. It took a little over an hour to make (though I do move slowly in the kitchen), but was much easier than I thought it would be. I give this one also: ♥♥♥♥. I could definitely eat it every night; but it does take some time to make, so I think it'll have to stay in the special meal category.

Happy Eating!

Rating System:
♥♥♥♥♥ Omigod this is awesome, I could eat it every night!
♥♥♥♥ Wow this is amazing for a special meal!
♥♥♥ Great choice for a dinner party!
♥♥ Hey, that was pretty good. We should have it again sometime.
♥ Eh. S'all right....
♠ Ugh, no! That was so bad I just had to share.

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