Pine Scented Pork Belly

I wish I didn’t like bacon as much as I do but I really like it. Really like it. It’s the one thing I truly missed during my long lost vegetarian days. And my favorite thing to get at a Colombian restaurant is a juicy chicharron with spicy green sauce on the side. And if I am at a Polish deli, I can’t resist the roasted slab of bacon waiting to be ordered. So I thought wouldn’t it be nice to experiment a little and grill some fresh bacon with pine branches, infusing a little of that fragrance into the bacon. This is a rustic appetizer, best served with a variety of mustards on the side. Even better enjoyed on the deck, on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a pitcher of lemonade to wash things down. Enjoy!

DSC03444/roasted pork

  • 2 pieces of pork belly
  • fresh pine branches
  • sea salt
  • maple grilling plank
  • kitchen twine

Submerge the plank, twine and branches under water for a minimum of 1 hour. (The plank I used was about 6 inches wide.) Pre-heat the grill to 250-300 degrees. In the meantime, sea with salt and surround the pork belly with the pine tree branches and tie with kitchen twine, trimming the excess.

DSC03438/pork belly on plank

Place on the plank and place on the top rack of the grill. Turn every half an hour for four hours. Low and slow is key, so the fat renders and the skin gets crisp and the pork is golden brown or darker in color. Remove from the grill and allow to cool enough to handle, so you can cut off the twine and brush off the pine needles and branches. This is best served hot.

DSC03493/ pork with mustard

Red Leaf Lettuce, Fennel, Bacon & Egg Breakfast Salad

Breakfast salad? I know what you are thinking but on those really hot mornings where it was about ninety degrees at ten in the morning, it was just what made sense. Craving cool lettuce with salty and smoky bacon, I added fennel for an extra special touch along with an over easy egg and this is one breakfast salad that I’m going to make again, real soon. Maybe even for dinner next time. Enjoy!

  • a few red leaf lettuce leaves, about 2 cups chopped
  • 1 head of fennel, thinly sliced about 2 cups
  • a tablespoon finely chopped fennel fronds with some reserved as a garnish
  • 2 slices bacon, thinly sliced, and cooked until desired doneness1 egg cooked over easy
  • 1 tablespoon julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, cooked how you like

Whisk the sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice together, season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Adjust the seasonings accordingly and set aside. Combine the lettuce, fennel, (using a mandoline speeds up the slicing process tremendously. I don’t know what I did without it.) the fennel fronds, bacon and dressing right before serving. Top with the egg and garnish with the fennel fronds. Serves 1.

breakfast salad

Potato Cakes

What’s the only thing needed on a snow day? (Besides the more serious essentials, like shovels, snow boots, hats and gloves, etc.) Comforting…carb-loaded potato cakes, with a golden crust to hold in the creamy and warm inside. Did I mention these have bacon in them? I know, the story gets better…I don’t know how this happened but it happened, I found creme fraiche at a health food store on sale! I couldn’t wait to try it in my mashed potatoes and they came out great! The recipe is below for the mashed potatoes I made but if you have a tried-and-true mashed potato recipe, just set aside 2 cups for the potato cakes. For this recipe you’ll need cold mashed potatoes, so leftovers from the fridge are great. Stay warm, happy weekend and enjoy!

  • 1 pound skin-on Yukon Gold potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon crumbly Gorgonzola
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely cubed bacon *optional
  • plain or seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup flour, sifted
  • canola oil for frying

Cook your potatoes until fork tender, drain and mash in the creme fraiche, cheese, cream, butter. Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Allow to cool and place in the refrigerator. Once you are ready to make your cakes, fry up the bacon in a touch of canola oil, until as crisp as you like. Allow to drain on a paper towel and mix into the mashed potatoes. Add in the flour and combine well. (Depending on the consistency of your mashed potato recipe, you may have to add more flour. They shouldn’t stick to your hands as you roll them.) Form into little balls, (using a cookie dough scoop works great.) and then roll them between your hands to smooth them out. Press the balls into the bread crumbs on both sides, forming little cakes. Heat up the canola oil until hot on medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Fry in batches, browning on both sides. About a minute on each side is enough. Drain on paper towels, then move onto a paper bag, so they stay crisp. Serve with sour cream. Makes 22 potato cakes.

Bacon & Potato Pancakes with Sorrel Cream

Mmm…a childhood treat these were indeed. I loved when my mom made these! But there was never a set recipe, it was always by texture of the “batter.” And she knew when it was just right.  And I asked my husband to show me how he makes them, (as I drove him crazy, with the precision of it). Taking his grated potatoes and measuring them out by the cupful. Measuring, by memory the size of the  potatoes he chose, leveling off his spoonfuls of flour, lol, feverishly writing as he gave me the crash course the other day. And he said the same thing, you just kinda know, when it’s right. I wanted to be sure, before I experimented a little myself. I knew I wanted to add bacon, for sure, lol and polenta. And I was set on the cream ever since I nibbled on the lemony freshness of the sorrel leaves. I knew they had to be combined with sour cream to accompany a crisp potato pancake. This makes a little over two dozen potato pancakes. Enjoy!

  
  • 5 medium size potatoes, peeled and grated about 3 cups
  • 1/2 cup instant polenta
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cut into small pieces *optional
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 sorrel leaves, chopped, save some for garnish
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream

For the polenta, just bring one cup of water to a boil and pour in the polenta and stir and let it cool. Cook your bacon until it’s semi-crisp, it will cook through once you fry your pancake. Reserve the bacon drippings, so you can fry the pancakes. I know, lol you can always use canola oil. I ended up using grape seed oil, once the bacon drippings got low and it came out great. For the pancakes, combine the potatoes, polenta, bacon bits and the onion. Using a fork, break up the polenta if its’ hardened. Once all is combined, add the eggs, flour, a nice amount of sea salt and ground pepper. Get your drippings or oil nice and hot on medium to high heat. Place a tablespoonful of batter down into the hot oil and flatten them a little with the back of your spoon. You can always make them a little bigger or smaller. Cook each pancake for two minutes per each side. You will see it brown around the edges, it’s a built in timer, telling you that you should flip the pancake. Make one as a “tester” to check for seasonings, add more if needed. Drain your pancakes on paper bags if you have any on hand or paper towels. Combine the sour cream, sorrel and heavy cream to make the sorrel cream. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with some chopped leaves. If you don’t have sorrel available, use any herb you like, dill is great as is parsley. Serve the potato pancakes nice and hot!

Grilled Oysters with Bacon Mignonette Sauce

I am an oyster lover! Nothing beats raw oysters on a hot summer day. But shucking them is another thing, lol. I’ve had a few oysters that I shucked with a unintentional “crunchy” garnish on top, (you know what I mean…shell pieces.) And it’s not that tasty, so I keep it clean and grill them. You don’t get the same cool smooth satisfaction that you get from the raw, but more of a substantial slightly smoky oyster that you can dress up a little.

  • 1 dozen oysters
  • 2 thick slices roasted bacon, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic pear infused vinegar
  • frisee lettuce
  • lemon thyme leaves

In a sauce pan, heat up your bacon on low heat. You can find roasted bacon at any Polish deli, and it’s really REALLY good and worth driving miles out of the way for, lol, really good. Once you have your bacon lightly browned, add in your red onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add in your butter, stir until it melts and sizzles a little then add in your vinegar. Increase your heat on high and bring to a boil until it reduces, about 3 minutes, stir often and it reduces quickly, set aside. Heat up your grill to about 500 degrees and put your oysters directly on the grill. They open up quickly also, about 5 minutes. Once they open up, use tongs to get them off the grill, onto a plate. Use pot holders to handle them. One by one, with a knife in hand and a flick of a wrist, your oysters are completely opened and the top shell is separated. I moved the oysters to the shell half that has a natural curve to it, to hold some of the sauce. Place some frisee lettuce leaves down, arrange your oysters around the lettuce, drizzle the sauce over the plate and garnish with some lemon thyme leaves and enjoy!

Creamy Tortellini Salad

Nothing says a barbecue like a creamy pasta salad. This salad is nice because it has tortellini in it and it’s combined with corn, green peppers, bacon and basil. It would be great to complement spicy grilled chicken or ribs. This salad is very easy to make, so if you were invited to a barbecue this weekend and were asked to make something, this will please the crowd, without you spending too much time in the kitchen!

  • 13 oz bag of meat tortellini
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium red onion, minced
  • red wine vinegar
  • 7 basil leaves, minced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Vegeta or an all-purpose seasoning

Cook your tortellini according to the directions, run under cold water and set aside. Cook your corn in boiling water for ten minutes, once done run the corn under cold water and once cool enough to handle, run your knife along the length of the corn to remove the kernels. Be very careful, and big chunks of kernel sections are ok, if you like. Cook the bacon until crisp and dry on paper towels and set aside. In a small bowl, pour your red wine vinegar over your red onion, this is so it takes the edge of the onion. Leave it in the vinegar for 5 minutes then drain. Into a large bowl combine your cooled tortellini, corn, bacon, red onion, basil, tomato, green pepper, mayonnaise, sour cream and your Vegeta or all-purpose seasoning, to taste. Top with some extra basil leaves for decoration and enjoy!

Breakfast for Breakfast or for Dinner

I was never a breakfast loving person, except for the one Sunday morning, I convinced my mom to put bacon in the pancake mix. Then, I loved breakfast, but it was short lived, going back to cereal pretty quickly. But I tried to avoid it like the plague. lol Little by little, I began to enjoy breakfast on early Sunday mornings. Then going to a small breakfast spot in San Francisco going years back, changed everything. It was a savory, honey butter on homemade buttermilk biscuits, chicken sausages with grits, rosemary was somewhere on the menu, type of breakfast place. It was a meal-meal. Eggs were celebrated in a way, I have never experienced before. I wish I knew the name of the place, so I could share it, but to my dismay, I don’t remember, just knowing it was in the Tenderloin area. OK! So I called the hotel I stayed at years ago and after a little research, I found out it’s Dottie’s True Blue Cafe just outside the Tenderloin area. They did end up moving, they are located at 28 Sixth St. between Market and Mission. Plan B was going to be like a good basset hound wondering around, letting my nose lead the way to delicious breakfast aromas, hoping I would find it again, lol. Plan A is much easier! That breakfast I had that day could have been a meal, and that’s when eggs have made their way into my dinnertime meals. So this dish could be enjoyed for breakfast or dinner.

  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices bacon, (for a healthier version, you can use turkey bacon)
  • 2 slices of polenta, (the ready made type found in the Italian section or in the produce department, looks like a tube)
  • 2 small ripe tomatoes, cut into eighths,
  • 4 leaves of basil, chopped
  • Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • mayonnaise, about a tablespoon or so

Cut your bacon slices in half and fry them up in a non-stick pan. Drain them on a paper towel. Fry your polenta slices in the same pan, till crispy. Set it aside. Fry your egg the way you like, I like it over-easy, so the yolk becomes a sauce once it blends with the sauteed tomatoes, basil and Sriacha mayo. In a separate pan, saute your tomatoes in a little olive oil and once they are soft, stir in your basil. In a small bowl, stir your mayo with as much Sriracha sauce as you like, add more if needed. Now you are ready to assemble your dish. Place your polenta slices down, arrange the bacon around them, top with your egg, tomato basil sauce and drizzle with the Sriracha mayo. Enjoy!

I took an already enjoyed Sriracha sauce container and added mayo & more sauce, for convenience, when needing it on a sandwich. The one on the right, is in its’ most purest form, my current condiment obsession.

Bacon with Chocolate & Wasabi Peas

I know, it feels wrong but tastes right, in a wrong sort of way, lol. But that’s bacon for you. It’s Friday night and this is perfect for a little indulgence. Hoping you have all the ingredients in your kitchen. :)

  • 1 pound thick cut bacon
  • about 4 ounces of milk chocolate
  • 1/4 cup wasabi peas, crushed
  • lightly salted peanuts, chopped

Cut your bacon slices in half and fry them up so they are crisp or to your liking. Drain them on paper towels, so they are dry. In a double broiler melt your chocolate. Now the dipping begins! Dip your bacon slices into the chocolate, and sprinkle with the crushed wasabi peas and some with the chopped peanuts. Put your little bacon bites in the fridge so they set, but serve at room temperature for the best flavor. The peanuts were an afterthought, so I only did a few, but it’s a relief for anyone that isn’t crazy about wasabi peas. Enjoy and happy weekend! :)

Cheese Platter Yumminess

Let’s say we went to a party together, and I was missing, the first place to look is where the cheese platter is sitting. I love cheese! The buttery cubes of goodness, combined with something sweet. There was a time, I hated cheese. Like the time in kindergarten when I was forced to eat my grilled cheese sandwich, before I went back to class. Tears streamed down my face. I laugh at the memory now, but that day made me a little unhappy. Many years later, the love affair with cheese started. And then whenever there was a holiday or special day, a cheese platter was made, this one was one of my favorites!

On the plate, going clockwise starting at the green apple slices, we have brie, cooked bacon pieces, smoked Gouda, peanut brittle, blue cheese, Jarlsberg, a little bit of  walnuts followed by the center of raw pistachios nuts and fig marmalade. All served with a big loaf of your favorite crusty bread and quick and easy homemade butter (April 16ths’ post) There are so many possibilities of flavor combinations here…All creamy, sometimes salty and sweet…

  • apple slice + brie + bacon
  • bread + brie + pistachios + fig marmalade
  • Jarlsberg + bacon
  • bread + butter + fig marmalade
  • bacon + blue cheese + walnuts
  • apple slice + blue cheese + peanut brittle
  • bread + butter + smoked Gouda
  • apple slice + brie + pistachios

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! :)