Small Bites: Bacon Wrapped Dates

August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Credits:  JSprague DIDer Course Material

When entertaining a modest sized group, say about 8-12 guests (more than that and I’ll need help in the kitchen), I like serving tapas.  Many of the dishes would need very little preparation or cooking.  I won’t have to slave it out in the kitchen and guests are given a variety to choose from.  Load up on reds and whites and you’re good to go.  A fun way to entertain and be entertained, if you ask me.

I’d usually prepare plates of olives, 3-4 kinds of cheese – 1 hard like Manchego and/or a not so hard like Gruyère, a soft cheese like brie, and I usually go for a cream cheese spread like Boursin.  These are great to go with Jamon Serrano and sliced baguette.  Chorizo, rendered in its own oil, are always present in my table too.  Include a few heavy dishes – a pasta salad or a meat dish perhaps – and this takes care of filling up the tummy.

A friend sent me a box of honey dates from the Middle East.  A nice snack it makes but I thought these would go better with bacon.  Bacon wrapped dates – I once had this in a tapas bar and fell in love with it.  Served this as part of my tapas selection recently and my friends loved it too.

This dish can be prepared ahead of time and cooked when guests arrive.  The dates that are soaked in honey while easily caramelizes the bacon (so be careful not to burn), gives that added sweet contrast that makes this dish a winner in my books.  Sweet, salty with a hint of smoky aroma… Yum!


Bacon Wrapped Dates

What You’ll Need

  • Honey dates or dried dates
  • Cashews
  • Bacon strips

What You Do

  1. Slice dates lengthwise on one side to remove the pit.
  2. Fill the empty cavities of the dates with cashews.
  3. Push the sides together to close the dates up. Wrap a slice of bacon around each date and place them seam side down.
  4. Heat a small flat pan, preferably cast iron, on medium heat. Place the bacon wrapped dates, seam side down on the pan until the bottoms are brown and the seam is sealed.
  5. Turn and brown all the other sides.  Serve immediately.

Where to Eat in Luang Prabang: L’Elephant

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” —  George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever been instantly charmed by a place, its food, that all you want is to share it with everyone that matters to you?  Luang Prabang has that effect on me that I was back in no time with Anton in tow.

Set in the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the town, Luang Prabang is a medley of traditional wooden houses and European architecture, one of those cities oozing with charm.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pressures of mass tourism development have been held at bay, which lends to its allure.

Along with its culture and tradition, one of its greatest attractions is its food.  Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the roads along the two rivers.

Options include traditional Lao dishes to fine French cooking.  A remnant of the country’s colonial era – centuries of occupation and colonial rule by the French, Luang Prabang boasts of some good French restaurants.  And this, my friends, is one major reason for a revisit.  Four years is long enough.

I went back to relish once again a satisfying gastronomic delight.  L’Elephant is a long-standing restaurant pioneering a culinary renaissance in Luang Prabang, serving mainly French food although menu includes local options too.  It is housed in a typical 1960’s colonial building, a stone’s throw away from the Mekong.  Twirling fans, high ceiling, and wooden chairs look like a set straight out of “Casablanca”.  Wonderful ambience paired with good food leaves a lasting impression and so there we had our first leisurely meal.

The owners, French-Lao Yannick and Frenchman Gilles, first opened L’Elephant Restaurant in 1999 when Yannick’s grandmother proposed that he come back from France and open a business in her building.  Tourism was on the rise then so he agreed.  What was originally supposed to be a guesthouse became a restaurant instead.  Three more restaurants around Luang Prabang followed after.

They use fresh local produce grown in their own garden, which is probably why most of what comes out of their kitchen are remarkably delicious.

We had for our starter Carrots from their garden with Orange, Lime and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette.  Most refreshing.

Escargots de Bourgogne – French snails baked in parsley and garlic butter.  So simple yet it possesses such amazing flavors – a favorite.

For our main:  Roasted Boneless Quail stuffed with Luang Prabang mushrooms for Anton.  Superb if you like strong flavors.

Fillet of Mekong Perch in Coriander Sauce for me.  Laos being land locked and has only rivers flowing through, river fish are almost always on menus.  Although they tend to taste muddy, this dish has a clean taste, the coriander sauce adding a nice citrus-herb tang.

An indulgence no doubt as this could probably be the most expensive meal we had in Laos but the splurge was worth it.

L’Elephant Restaurant
Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang,
Lao P.D.R
For reservations: +856 71 252-482

Avocado and Feta

August 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

I am obsessed with avocados at the moment.  Partly because it is in season and I see them everywhere but mostly because I am loving its über creaminess on almost everything.  It makes for a wonderful dessert when combined with condensed milk and have been greatly enjoying it for decades now.  Some experimenting led me to a new discovery.  Buttery avocado, sharp Feta cheese and peppery Arugula mingle well together.  Finish off with some sliced fresh button mushrooms and honey-mustard dressing and they end up very good friends.

I’ve been occupied lately and I’m afraid I’ve neglected this blog a bit.  But I’ve been working up a storm in my kitchen despite my absence here.  In between work and travelling, I’ve been entertaining on the side so may this whet your appetite, as salads always do, for what’s to come.

Arugula, Avocado and Feta Salad

What You Need:

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

For the Salad

  • Baby arugula
  • 1 medium avocado, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup crumbled Greek feta cheese marinated in oil
  • 4-5 pieces fresh button mushrooms, sliced

What You Do:

In a small bowl, combine mustard, vinegar, honey and salt.  Whisk to blend well.  Add olive oil and whisk vigorously to emulsify.  Adjust according to your taste.

Mix salad ingredients together and toss with vinaigrette.  Makes 3-4 serving.

Note: I like using baby arugula but if this is hard to find, the regular ones are good too.  Feta cheese can be substituted with goat cheese.  Left over roast chicken torn into bite-sized pieces goes well with the salad, as is tuna from the can.

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