Tuesday, September 29, 2009

bacon and bubbles at the beach... plus a surprise

last weekend was my birthday. and sele's - we're birthday twins. we decided to celebrate our lives with two of our favorite things - bacon and champagne. it was a great party.  good friends with blankets in the sun, eating bacon and drinking champagne - what more could you ask for?

i had to scale back my ambitions for making bacon treats for the party - so i wouldn't spend the whole day fussing in the kitchen and get out to enjoy myself.  i had a few ideas of bacon dishes i wanted to try, and a lot more that didn't get made.
included in the things that didn't get made are:
bacon truffles
peanut butter bacon cookies
bacon rice crispies
bacon jam
bacon (as in, making it yourself...another time)

i found this recipe for bacon pops: basically goat cheese balls rolled in crumbled bacon, pecans and herbs - and i love all those things, so that was definitely on the menu. it didn't exactly turn out the way i expected - the bacon and pecan mixture didn't so much crumble as it did melt into a kind of sticky, chunky butter, and i didn't feel like sticking lollipop sticks in them, so they were a little mushy - but really, with those ingredients it was bound to taste good.  serving with slices of apple was a good move - as there's only so much bacon and cheese one can eat before needing a pallet cleanser.

i had intended to make bacon-wrapped cherries, which seemed like a wonderful combination of sweet and savory, but i guess cherries are out of season now - so i returned to the classic bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with more of the goat cheese-herb filling.  very tasty, though i have to say aryn brought bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with gorgonzola, and i think gorgonzola is much tastier in that dish.

sele made bacon waffles that she filled with dulce de leche ice cream in a kind of choco taco-like effect.  awesome. 

sele also contributed the best bacon-themed gift:

yes, that's bacon lip balm.  it's an experience that really can't be described.  you'll just have to try it.  don't worry, it's vegan and kosher.


marty and i were enamored with these mimosas we had recently at our friends hannah and win's wedding that included a splash of port, so we recreated those for the party.  these were a huge hit - though i can't tell you how many times we had the conversation:
"it's a mimosa - with port,"
"what?! there's PORK in here?"
i guess that's what you can expect when you're having a bacon and champagne party.

and then, toward the end of the party came one of the biggest suprises of my life...
it went something like this:

i said "yeah."

Monday, September 7, 2009

more uses for peanuts and a druken pie crust

last week i took an unexpected trip to hawai'i to visit with my grandfather, who was in the hospital.  we weren't sure if he was going to make it out of the hospital, and all of his kids and grandkids flew in to see him.  it's a testimony to the power of love that he turned around from having "eight toes in the grave" as my dad says, to coming home and back into his element surrounded by family.  thank you to all of you whose aloha and support made that possible.

in honor of popsie, this post deals with two of his favorite food things: peanuts and apple pie.
for months i've had a bag of raw peanuts in my cupboard leaftover from making boiled peanuts a while back.  boiled peanuts are a favorite of popsie's, though he can't really eat them now that he's on a salt-restrictive diet.  since it was quite a while ago that those peanuts were fresh, i wasn't sure if they were still good to boil and eat, so i decided to sprout them.  i remembered a sprout vendor on kaua'i who sells little ziplock baggies of peanut sprouts - which are fresh and nutty and nothing like roasted peanuts - so i decided to make my own.  i shelled those little buggers and soaked them in water over night, then plopped them into the sproutman bag (which is supposed to reduce mold and such, but you can sprout these in a jar or even between moist paper towels because you're only sprouting for a couple of days).  peanut sprouts are ready to munch when they have little tadpole tails sticking out like this:

they're great sprinkled in salad, or just by themselves like regular peanuts.  i highly recommend peanuts for sprouting - if you have access to raw peanuts (mine came from the korean grocer up the block, where they were labeled "law peanuts" - no joke), they're super quick and easy to sprout and taste amazing.
i also saved a couple of these peanut sprouts and planted them in little pots in the window sill, just to see what would come of them, and it was so exciting.

the peanut surfaced in the soil and then split open to reveal the a little plant in the middle.  under sele's care while we were gone visiting popsie they flourished and now look like this:

i'll keep you posted if they start bearing peanuts.
on my last day in honolulu i baked an apple pie (popsie's favorite - again, without salt).  i hadn't baked an apple pie in quite a while, so i based my recipe loosely on this one from smitten kitchen.  my aunty wanda had a good suggestion to reduce the liquid in the pie filling - which inevitably leaks out of the apples while they bake and then makes your crust all soggy- microwaving the apples for a few minutes to allow them to release their juices.

i tried this, and then boiled down the juice until is was thick and sticky and added it back in.  i guess i didn't microwave them long enough, though, since the pie was full of liquid when it came out of the oven anyway.  now i know for next time.  i didn't have any on hand at my grandparents' house, but a good trick i learned from cook's illustrated is to use half vodka, half water for the liquid in your pie crust.  using vodka solves that problem i always have, where i'm afraid of adding too much water to my pie dough so it becomes chewy and not crispy, but then i don't add enough liquid and it's crumbly and really hard to roll out and work with.  using vodka allows your dough to be moist enough to be easy to work with, but then it evaporates in the oven, leaving your crust crispy.  the reason this works is that the ethanol in vodka doesn't bond to the gluten in the flour the way water does.  here's an npr story on the "pie dough crisis" - in which chris kimball explains the vodka secret.

the crust turned out fine without the vodka (other than the excess pie filling liquid issue), which may have been in part due to our inability to wait for the pie to cool down before digging in.  here you can see popsie encouraging the pie to cool.