01.08.10/01.09.10: a tale of two tapas (bacon-wrapped dates and anchovy, red pepper and goat cream cheese over bread)

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

So this coming weekend marks another Super Bowl (can I call it that even though I’m not affiliated with the NFL?) and another occasion when you might be called upon to make appetizers and “game day snacks” for your guests to mindlessly nosh as they watch said big game. It basically means that if you go anywhere near food media between now and Sunday, you’ll be inundated with recipes for chili and various x-layer dips and everything gluttonous and frankly, done to death. So I’d like to present you with two options that aren’t revolutionary in their construct, but are delicious and really easy to prepare and perfectly suited to slipping in with the usual suspects if you have guests with more discerning palates or you just want something slightly more sophisticated for yourself while watching the game.

Tapa of Anchovy, Red Peppers and Goat Cream Cheese

This is why tapas rule when it comes to easy dishes to prepare–so many of them were borne from the necessity of making easy snacks quickly (at least what I’ve seen) and so they aren’t fussy or overly difficult to make. Naturally some are much more complicated, but we won’t get into that today; instead, let’s focus on the simple and the easy to whip up: namely dates wrapped in bacon and anchovies over bread smothered with goat cheese. Imagine these as they likely once were–a cheap way for a chef to use up ingredients to serve to bar customers in order to entice them to eat more food.

The key to both of these is the ingredients: for the bacon-wrapped dates, get the best bacon you can afford. For the goat cheese and anchovy tapas, get high-quality spreadable goat cheese and the best anchovies you can afford–ours came from Russ and Daughters and were about $15 a jar, but totally worth it because they are subtle, salty and delicious all in one bite. You’ll also need a pair of heat-resistant tongs for the browning of the bacon, and you’ll have to pit the dates before you use them (though that is relatively easy as they are large and easy to remove with a slit of the date).

So go ahead and class up that Super Bowl party! The bacon-wrapped dates will be a certain crowd pleaser thanks to the inclusion of bacon, and the anchovy option will appeal to those who are dreaming of Europe (and perhaps of La Liga or EPL action) and you’ll put a smile on everyone’s face.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

adapted from The Book of Tapas

makes 8; scale up as necessary

  • 8 pitted dates
  • 8 slices of good bacon
  • 2 tablespoons of oil

Wrap a bacon slice around each date and spear with a toothpick. Bring the oil to medium-high heat and add in the bacon-wrapped dates, turning with tongs as each side gets browned until they are all browned. Drain on a paper towel and season with a tiny bit of salt if desire (but it shouldn’t need it).

Anchovies and Roasted Red Peppers over Goat Cheese and Bread

serves 4, scale up for larger parties

  • 1/4 baguette, sliced thin on the bias
  • 2 oz (or more) goat cheese, brought to room temperature or 2 oz goat cheese cream cheese
  • 1 roasted red pepper* (or about 8 slices from a jar)
  • 8 fillets of high-quality cured anchovies
  • 1-2 lemon slices

Add goat cheese to each round of bread, and then layer on anchovies and then roasted red peppers (see note for roasting it yourself) and serve, sprinkling the bread with a touch of lemon juice.

*To roast red peppers: turn oven to Broil and to Broil temperature, and quarter a red bell pepper whilst removing the seeds and the stem and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes (checking on time), remove when skin is charred and transfer into a bowl and cover with a plate to steam. When cool, remove skin and slice thinly.

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