Garbanzo Carbonara


I love Carbonara, but have a real problem making it my dinner. I find it extremely heavy an unbalanced. It’s all fat and starch, with low protein content (bacon, although delicious, doesn’t count as nutritious in my book). Even trying it with whole wheat pasta doesn’t justify the ratio of bacon cheese and egg. But I love the stuff.

One day it occurred to me I could substitute garbanzos in for the pasta. While still a bit starchy, in my mind and belly they feel more acceptable.  Served with broccoli, I can handle it every other month or so.

Garbanzo Carbonara
Ingredients:
3 cups cooked garbanzos (I like mine with a bit of a crunch)
3 strips bacon
3 eggs
1/2 cup shredded pecorino
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Its essentially the same as carbonara: Slice the bacon to desired size. i prefer to have nice chunks of it…if I’m gonna eat it I wanna feel it. I do inch-long strips. Cook it in your skillet until its done how you like it (I like mine crunchy). Remove and set aside.

2. Heat a bit of oilve oil in the same pan on high eat. Add your garbanzos and sautee until beginning to brown up nicely. Remove from heat and let cool just a minute, no longer.

3. Break eggs into the pan over hot beans, and stir constantly not allowing the egg to curdle. The heat should cook the egg enough, but the constant movement will give it a nice a creamy texture. Once the mixture thickens up beautifully, add in the bacon and cheese And stir to combine well. The cheese should melt just a little bit, adding another element of texture and flavor. Season with salt and pepper.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

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The first time I tried these I had actually been a vegetarian for a few years. It was at a party catered by the university welcoming incoming graduate students. Fancy waiters dressed in tuxedos carried trays of h’orderves  around. At the beginning I was careful to inquire of the contents of the food, but it turned out to be too complicated. I grabbed one of these guys and the flavor was one I could not identify, but they were addicting. A salty crisp on the outside with a hint of maple, a chewy gooey center – the combination explosive. I fascinated over what they could be. I actually never found out. Until a few months later, at another University sponsored event with the same caterers. I was there with some friends, one a fellow vegetarian. When I saw a tray of my old friends being wielded around I almost dove. And as I was marveling yet again over the salty sweetness, my friend asked me why I was eating the bacon wrapped dates. Huh…thats what that strange flavor is…

Well, these days I am not longer a vegetarian. The first time I came to Guatemala I found myself in awkward situations denying food from Tía Emma, or Abuela Zoila – two lovely women I would never want to offend. So little by little I would try a few bites to show respect, but still considered myself a vegetarian. One day, however, just about two years ago now, we went to Zacapa. There I tried chicharrone, which I would best describe as a bacon on steroids. If I could enjoy that, I could no longer call myself vegetarian. I wasn’t going to lie to myself.

To this day I don’t eat very much meat, however I will indulge every once in a while in chicharron or these bacon wrapped dates. High quality products, a new experience, or simply a sinful craving such as buffalo wings. Those are my excuses.

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I would also like to mention that these are served at Mercat, one of my favorite restaurants as mentioned in a previous post. Mercat’s were simple bacon wrapped dates, but I have come across a number of recipes calling for blue cheese, almonds, and other similar stuffings. I thought I would try a couple different ones. Some carry walnuts, some manchego cheese, some both, some neither. They are very simple to put together and take very little time to bake. An easy way to impress some friends at a dinner party or for drinks some afternoon.

Bacon Wrapped Dates:

Ingredients:
10 strips of bacon
20 dates, pitted and whole
Additional stuffings for the dates: blue cheese, gorgonzala cheese, manchego, or other; almonds, walnuts, ect…

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Fill the walnuts with your desired stuffings. Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap the bacon securely around the date. You may want to use a toothpick to fasten it, but I simply rested the tail of the bacon under the roll. Place on a baking sheet and in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the outsides are crisped to desired texture (I like mine well done) and the insides are soft. Serve warm or at room temperature (and I don’t mind them cold either).