Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Heat of Summer

It's already getting cool, a few golden leaves showing and the school buses are back on the road. Summer has faded, and the last bit of its bounty can still be found at the market. Tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers of all shapes, colors and heat. It's a good time to grab that last bit of sunshine and make fresh salsa. Easy as well.

Fresh, Roasted Salsa
5 tomatoes, all colors, cored, seeded and quartered
5 small tomatillos, (I used purple, yellow and green), outer husk removed, halved
1 large onion, stem and root cut off, cut in eighths
5 peppers, 2 red bell, 1 poblano, 1 jalapeno, 1 green, 1 banana (or your preference)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (give them a whack with the side of the chef's knife)
2 tbs. canola oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place veggies on a baking sheet. Toss with oil, spread to one layer. Roast in oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until you get some golden edges, but not burnt.

Allow to cool, blend in food processor, just pulsing until roughly chopped. Add cilantro, pulse a few more times. Add salt to taste, pulse to blend. Enjoy with chips.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mmmm, Bacon, Sweet Bacon

I had this dish in a tapas restaurant in Chicago and made a note to try it at home. Usually, I prefer thick-cut bacon, local, from heritage pork. If you can find something of that caliber sliced extra thin, this is really good. If you can't, the applewood-smoked nitrate-free variety works well. Now, if you are "unlucky" enough to only be able to get the thick-cut good stuff, just do a single wrap on the dates. It won't be as pretty (see photo) but it tastes so good, no one will care.

Bacon-wrapped Dates and Almonds
1 lb. bacon slices
15 dates
30 Marcona Spanish almonds
1 tbs. butter
1 tbs. flour
1/2 cup whole milk
4 oz. bleu cheese
salt and pepper to taste

also needed: 10 bamboo skewers

Cut each bacon slice in half, horizontally, set aside with skewers. Slice each date length-wise and remove the seed. Tuck one almond inside each half date. Fold the date around the almond. Repeat with all of the dates and almonds.

Next wrap half a bacon slice around a date bundle width-wise. Repeat with the other half bacon slice vertically. Slide the skewer through to hold the little bundle together. Repeat, placing three bacon-date bundles on each skewer.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the skewers on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 25 minutes, or until bacon is crisp. While the bacon bundles are baking (say that fast three times) melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to make a blond roux. Cook for about two minutes. Slowly add the milk while whisking. The sauce should thicken well.

Add the bleu cheese in crumbles, whisking as you go, until you get a thick sauce. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve the skewers with the bleu cheese sauce on the side.

Ode to September

I love this month. Not because I am a Virgo. Believe me, after the fourth decade ticks over, you find other things to celebrate that are more fun. September is just magic. The last of summer's bounty of tomatoes, corn, peppers and stone fruit mingles with the first of fall's pears, apples and pumpkins. The second burst of greens and lettuces are available. You just can't not eat well this month.