Devilishly Good: Pumpkin & Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Pumpkin Devils on Horseback

One of my all-time, go-to apps is blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto, or as date eaters in the know call them, Devils on Horseback. They’re really simple to prepare and cook in a matter of minutes, plus their sticky-sweet-chewy-saltiness makes them sooo addictive.

I recently attended a fall potluck party and decided to autumn-ize my favorite devils by subbing the normal blue cheese filling with pumpkin goat cheese. They were just as delicious as the original version, with a festive seasonal twist. Your friends will rave about them, and only you will have to know the spooooky secret of these fall treats: they’re stupid easy to make.

Pumpkin Devils on Horseback

20 dates, pitted
1 small (about 4oz) goat cheese log
1/8 cup pumpkin puree
8 (thin!) slices of good prosciutto
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
black pepper & sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Let the goat cheese sit out for awhile so it’s nice and softened, then combine with the pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin pie spice and a couple pinches of S&P.

Stuff the dates with your filling – you want them to be nice and full but not overflowing, because obv the cheese is going to get melty in the oven and you don’t want a huge mess on your hands. I probably used about 1-2 teaspoons in each date?

Wrap each stuffed date in prosciutto. Just tear off a 1″ ribbon from the slice and stick it around the fruit. It doesn’t have to be perfect at all.

Place all your stuffed & wrapped dates on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in the oven for just about 5-10 minutes. Once the prosciutto has kind of “melted” into the date and you can see the bottom of the dates slightly caramelizing, you’re good to go. Make sure to let these devils cool for about 10 minutes before serving – they get hotter than hell in that oven!

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Food Porn of the Day: The Porkiest Belly

Odd Duck Pork Banh Mi Buns

Pork belly is definitely a thing these days. So much of a thing that I’m almost… dare I say… over it. (Gasp!) Every menu in Austin, and probably in the country, is full of the stuff. It takes a veeeery special pork belly to catch my eye these days. All that being said, the pork belly at Odd Duck in Austin does it. “It” being “catches my eye and makes me care about pig again.”

The above is Odd Duck’s pork belly banh mi buns, which I devoured at lunch a week-ish ago. The meat is perfectly prepared and intensely flavorful. Chewy, yet somehow also melts in your mouth. By the way, next time you’re in Austin? Go to Odd Duck. You won’t regret it.

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Spaghetti Squash Chicken Carbonara

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Somehow, the Sicilian fiance and I have found ways to replace pasta with grains and vegetables–mainly spaghetti squash. Sometimes the recipes turn out great, other times the become a bit of a sloppy mess. When I tried chicken carbonara with spaghetti squash, it turned out delicious, almost as if you could not taste a difference. They key is to use it in dishes where spaghetti is not the main emphasis of the dish. Here, the spaghetti squash absorbed the flavor of the Carbonara and provided a bit of a crunch to contrast the texture of the chicken and peas.

The key to a good chicken carbonara is the sauce. If the sauce is creamy, full of garlic, and extra cheesy, you really can’t go wrong with the rest of it. OH, and some tasty pancetta mixed together with peas, chicken, and the spaghetti squash. This is also a carbonara recipe that requires no cream, so it is healthy of course. I cooked the spaghetti squash in the oven–roasted is the best way to do it. While it’s roasting, the rest of the mixture is given time to cook and simmer. Then, all you have to do is mix the spaghetti squash in with the combination, let it simmer, and enjoy!

“Faux-ghetti” Chicken Carbonara

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100 Ways to Use Beer in Food and Drinks #17: Brown Shugga’ Pulled Pork

brown shuga pulled pork

Every once in a while, the fiance’s schedule and my schedule line up so that we can have dinner together. Sometimes I make dinner (salads, stir fry, and fried rice), and most of the time she makes dinner. Last night, she made dinner — pulled pork. Thanks to my trusty beer exchange, there are a few unique beers I will hide away to have with a particular meal, or IN a particular meal. She asked me the night before to suggest a beer to cook our BBQ pulled pork in. In digging through my arsenal of craft beers, I came upon the Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ Sweet Release. BINGO – what else could complement a sweet BBQ pulled pork like a beer with a tasting profile including brown sugar, sweet fruits, and a warming boozy taste to pair with the tang of BBQ sauce. A match made in pork  and beer heaven.

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The Power of Salt

salt revolution

 

Remember when salt used to come only from those large cylindrical containers, and it was really just an afterthought, casually sprinkled atop your bland meal? I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along this crazy foodie journey I ended up with six different kinds of salt that currently live on my kitchen counter (not to mention the salt block, for full-on salt cooking), and deciding which salt pairs with which dish is one of the toughest parts of cooking dinner.

I recently received a package of Salt Revolution’s Aztec Sea Salt, and I have to say this is one of my favorite ones yet. Harvested from Mexico’s Cuyutlán Lagoon over a 45-day period each year, it’s sorted by hand in small packages, and combines a beautiful, subtle salty flavor with just the right amount of crunch — it comes in big, flaky pieces, much smoother than a jagged piece of rock salt, so it settles in your mouth in just the right way. Their small-batch approach means that each harvesting season they sell salt until their supply is gone; you can sign up to find out when the new batch is available.

Adapting a dough recipe from one of my go-to cookbooks, The New Spanish Table, I whipped up this coca-dough flatbread, topped with onions, rosemary, pine nuts, pancetta and goat cheese…and of course, some finishing salt sprinkled on top!

Sea Salt Flatbread

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Growing a Serious Sandwich

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With spring weather (finally-maybe-is-it-really) coming to most of the country it’s about time to start talking gardening. Now, to put it nicely my cooking technique focuses on creativity and innovation at the expense of perfection and measurement, and my gardening experience, not surprisingly, has had about as much success as my baking repertoire. Which is to say…not much.

So I was excited to receive a shipment of Gro-ables, a foolproof new way to grow herbs and vegetables in your backyard, garden or kitchen. Gro-ables are ready-to-plant seed pods that come with a built-in environment for your seed. Each pod contains growing materials, plant food and seeds (basil, spinach, cilantro, dill, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes and more). All you need to do is open the seed pod, drop it in some dirt and then water occasionally. Now that’s my kind of gardening.

With sunny weather on hand this week, I was inspired to get going with my Gro-ables — planting some basil, cherry tomatoes and lettuce on my windowsill. That in turn got me hungry for some fresh herbs and veggies, so while I’m waiting for those to grow, I took the basil I already had on hand, whipped up some fresh pesto and put together a new take on an ES favorite sandwich.

BLT Sandwich with Fresh Pesto, Mozzarella and Basil

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Tenerife’s Top Five Tapas

These days, it seems like there’s a tapas restaurant in every city in every country on earth—we even found one in Iceland a few years ago—but when I asked my fellow passengers on our way to Tenerife (in the Canary Islands) for recommendations for tapas restaurants, I got a resounding “Qué?”

This is because traditionally, tapas are not considered a Canarian dish, even thought the Canary Islands are technically part of Spain. Visitors travel to the Canary Islands in their droves, thanks to the abundant cheap flights to Tenerife and Lanzarote, and they have always been presented with plenty of delicious traditional local dishes such as fish casserole to enjoy along the beachfront.

But in recent years tapas have become more common here, as it is in mainland Spain. So with this in mind, here are my top 5 tapas dishes that have a Canarian twist…

1. Pimientos de Padrón

One of the most simple tapas dishes, pimientos de padrón is a special variety of pepper, cooked in oil and sprinkled with rock salt. However, beware the sting in the tail, as while most pimientos are very mild, you get the occasional surprise spicy one that will knock your socks off, so be careful!

2. Croquetas Caseras

(Photo: Pincas Photos)

(Photo: Pincas Photos)

Croquetas caseras are small fried balls of almost any filling, usually white fish or ham mixed with potato, but many fillings are possible. We found croquetas caseras that were filled with chicken, tuna and spinach as well, and not only are they delicious, they are also very filling.

3. Carne Fiesta

(Photo: Pamela Stocks)

(Photo: Pamela Stocks)

A dish that will tingle your tastebuds, carne fiesta is the name given to small cubes of pork that has been marinated in garlic, thyme, oregano, spicy peppers, salt, paprika, wine vinegar and white wine. The cubes are then fried to make deliciously tender and moreish meat treats.

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