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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Breakup Cure


My friend Gabe recently broke up with his girlfriend. Breakups are tough, but luckily Gabe has managed to find a silver lining. Bacon. The woman he'd been seeing for more than two years didn't care much for breakfast foods and found bacon especially abhorrent. Gabe, who really loves bacon, has been living more or less an austere, bacon-free life. Enjoying his newfound freedom to indulge in smoked pork belly, Gabe has been cooking bacon fervently and relishing each salty, sweet, and smoky bite.

Enjoying datiles con bacon in Malaga
While I think bacon tastes pretty darn good, I've never particularly been a bacon fiend like Gabe. I've never felt inclined to try the chocolate-dipped bacon at the state fair and when out to brunch, I'm more likely to choose sausage over bacon or maybe even the tomato slices; however, I could eat a bathtub full of baked bacon-wrapped dates. Last spring, a Spanish friend led me follow-the-leader style through the sinuous streets of downtown Malaga, over, under, and through the throngs of people assembled for the Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) procession. Eventually we landed at a non-descript tapas bar with wine barrels for tables and plate after plate of mouth-watering dishes of olives, cheese, meats, and fish. Despite the free-flowing wine and the abundance of delicious local specialties, my favorite was the one dish I managed to order myself, using my barely comprehensible Spanish. I guessed that "datiles" meant "dates" and thank goodness I was right! The soft and syrupy-sweet dates wrapped in rich, smoky bacon were magnificent.


When Gabe tires of frying bacon for his Sunday brunch, I'm going to suggest he makes datiles con bacon for his next cocktail party. Dates are currently in season. Choose big, plump fresh dates at the market and serve this Spanish tapas with drinks before Thanksgiving dinner or make up a batch and pass them around during Monday night football. They are so easy to make and so rewarding.


Datiles con Bacon

• Medjool or Deglet Noor dates (pits removed) or dried Black Mission figs
• toothpicks
• 1/2 strip of good bacon for every Medjool date
OR
• 1/3 strip of good bacon for every Deglet Noor* date or dried Black Mission fig**




Make enough so that each person can have 3-5, depending on what else you're serving. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wrap each date (or fig) with the 1/2 (or 1/3) strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Spread evenly on the baking sheet. Bake at 400ºF until the bacon is crispy (about 18-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon and the size of the dried fruit). Remove from the oven and using tongs, transfer the datiles con bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess bacon drippings. Serve warm (but not hot). Yummy!!

* I LOVE Medjool dates and expected that I would prefer them to the smaller and firmer Deglet Noor dates in this recipe, but I was surprised to find that I actually prefer the Deglet Noor. Wonders never cease! Experiment and see which you prefer.

**Dried Mission figs will be hitting the farmers' markets soon. They are delicious in place of the dates. Until I went to Spain, I had actually only ever made this dish with dried Black Mission figs. Since they are smaller than the Medjool dates, you can probably get away with 1/3 strip of bacon wrapped around each one.