Monday, May 24, 2010

Ode to Bacon

If I were a poet or songwriter this would probably come out in verse, but since I'm neither it will just be a mish-mash of all the wonderful things that I've learned about bacon!

If you are a vegetarian just skip this, ok and most of my blogs and practically all meals in my house, not that I don't like ya, just that I don't get ya.

So on to the fine attributes and uses of bacon:

Bacon needs to be cooked slowly - you can rush it if you must, but often it ends up burned and it never renders up it's full flavor, nor the full amount of bacon grease that can be used for so many other things.

Bacon is yummy all by itself but it adds a richness and depth of flavor to so many other dishes that it's a shame to only ever eat it solo.

Bacon comes in versions, Proscuitto etc, but really I have found that good old American bacon fits beautifully in any recipe from any country, from Chinese food to Italian all of it is better with American bacon.

American bacon all tastes different, but that's because even though the process of making it is the same, each maker has his own twist, his own wood, or timing or spices. The best bacon we have found comes from small independent processors, like Patchwork Farms in Columbia that is getting hogs from family growers that are growing a few pigs here and there and then processing them mostly by hand. It's certainly more expensive bacon, but bacon like chocolate and shoes is often reflective of the price paid for it. If you haven't found a bacon you love, you just need to try more bacon!

Bacon needs not come in huge quantity to make a huge impact. Because we buy relatively expensive bacon on a pastor's salary we tend to stretch it as far as we can. A few pieces of bacon cut into lardons can flavor an entire dish, and the fat that was rendered from it can either add more flavor to that dish or flavor a whole other dish.

Bacon shouldn't just be used in the traditional places. Everybody in America (normal people) knows that bacon is good with eggs, muffins or biscuits, it's breakfast fare for sure. Bits of bacon (or nasty little soy flavored ones) go on salads and strips of it onto cheeseburgers, or other sandwiches. But bacon makes an awesome pizza, adds notes to mac & cheese and other white pasta dishes that bring them up the scale of yumminess by miles, adds richness and depth to any dish that has an onion or tomato in it and well basically there just is no bad place to have bacon! If you're cooking something and it just seems to be lacking flavor, depth, or a certain you-can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it add bacon, if it doesn't fix it, it will still have been worth the experiment. Here is even a recipe for bacon ice cream which I haven't personally tried but is on our list.

So I guess my whole point here is bacon is amazing, in a culinary sense it can go anywhere, do anything, and it just makes everything better. Even dishes where it's not up front and center you can always tell there's a little yummy bacon in the background making everything better.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hummus, Tatziki and Pita

It is a running joke in our family that Mark is a carnivore that will not consume a meatless meal, at least not enjoy one. This one changed all that, well okay just for this meal, and it really had nothing to do with an intention of being meatless, it just turned out that this is something we really both love. He claims that the reason that it is okay even though it has no meat in it is because it has so much flavor, works for me.

1 can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1/4 c tahini
juice from 2 lemons
6 large cloves of garlic, grated or mashed
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients except reserved liquid in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, add enough liquid to make the consistency right for dipping.

Hummus is all about what you like, add more tahini, add less, more or less lemon or garlic, add in some roasted red peppers, hot yellow peppers, horseradish, onion powder, chili sauce, whatever makes it work for you. Our favorite brand of both chickpeas and tahini is Ziyad, it took us a while to find the one we like, try different ones they all taste much different than you would imagine since they pretty much all look alike. Oh and lastly the thing that amazed us was that hummus served as a meal out is a huge pile of hummus and a little bit of pita, this isn't the food that you put a speck on your bread, that pita is basically just an edible spoon.

1 24oz container plain Greek yogurt
1 large cucumber, seeded and grated into a strainer, let sit for a bit to drain some of the water off, squeeze some out but don't squeeze it dry or you'll have no flavor left
10-15 large cloves of garlic (or as many as you can handle) grated or mashed
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T dill weed
1 t Penzy's Greek Seasoning
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and enjoy! It gets better with time, and the garlic will actually get hot if you add LOTS and let it sit for a few days, yum!

For Serving
We love to serve this on a plate, a nice heaping helping of hummus, a big spoonful of tatziki, a little pile of feta cheese (Sam's has a good brand but it needs aging and is much better if you bring it home, remove it from it's wrapping, wrap in wax paper and store in an open Ziploc bag in your fridge for a month or so) some diced red onion and tomato and a nice big pile of fresh whole wheat pita.