Sunday, April 5, 2020

Ruth Reichl's Blueberriest Blueberry Muffins with Streusel

I have avoided mentioning the state of the world for the past several weeks because I just can't find the words. In the beginning, I stared at the wall marveling at how surreal this all is. It was all I was capable of. Nowadays, I've concluded that I simply cannot watch the news. It's not good for my mental health. So I get up and try to be productive.

My focus is almost completely gone. I can't focus enough to watch a show or read a book. My hands are raw from cleaning (I tend to clean when I get stressed). Some days I don't feel like cooking. Some days I do. Then I worry that there are no groceries in the stores and there hasn't been for days. Should I be trying to really stretch every single ingredient I have in my house?

Trust me, I'm stocked up. We have plenty for now, but I worry. I don't want to go to the stores. It seems like there's nothing there anyway and I don't want to catch the virus. So I stay home and take stock and order food online. I've become a full-time quartermaster, doing inventory and staggering deliveries.

One thing I'm thankful for is my weekly Misfits Market box. I've mentioned it before, but I will mention it again because Misfits delivers organic fruits and veggies to your door each and every week. After your first week, you can choose from a list of things and even add some add-ons to your order. They are keeping me stocked with the most delicious organic fruits and veggies regularly! Yes, occasionally something is misshapen or has a mark, but I'm fine with that on a regular day, so I'm definitely fine with that in these uncertain times. I urge you all to find a similar source for fresh produce. Unfortunately, I think things will be like this for a while.

This week I was able to add on two packs of the most beautiful organic blueberries. They arrived in perfect condition. Not one single blueberry was bad. I debated at length on what to make with them. Did I want to make blueberry syrup for pancakes, which would really make my blueberries stretch OR did I want to make some blueberry muffins like my mom used to make all the time?

Since I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately I opted for Ruth Reichl's Blueberry Muffins with Streusel and I'm so glad I did!

With two full cartons of blueberries, these muffins are definitely blueberry forward...AND I LOVE THAT! The batter is light and tender and so is the streusel topping, which allows the blueberry to be the shining star. These are the blueberriest blueberry muffins I've ever had and I think it may very well be my all-time favorite blueberry muffin recipe!

I added a little vanilla glaze to the tops, simply because I had some on hand, but these are absolutely perfect either way. I know, without a doubt, my mom would love them. I take a bite and think of her. I know she would be in disbelief at the world around us, as I am. I know she would feel the uncertainty. I know she would tell me to put on a smile and do what I can to help, so I mail cards to my students to tell them how much I miss them. I set candy on their porch early in the morning. We organize a teacher parade around our school neighborhood and I paint messages for the kids on my car. I give pep talks. I say prayers. I cook and I bake. I feel the overwhelming sense of grief in the pit of my stomach. We do what we can and we keep going.

I hope you and your loved ones are well. Please take care.

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes 12 muffins

For Batter
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) blueberries

For Topping
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3-1/2 tablespoons sugar

Make the batter: Put a rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375F. Generously butter muffin cups.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat; remove from heat. Whisk in milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Gently but thoroughly fold in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups and spread evenly. 

Make the topping and bake: Combine all topping ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over batter in cups.  Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edges of muffin tops and carefully remove from cups. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

My Favorite IHCC Chef and My Top Fifteen Giada De Laurentiis Recipes!

How do you pick your favorite chef? Is it based solely on their recipes? If so, is it your favorite recipes or your family's favorite recipes? Do you base it off the chef's personality? How much you like their cooking show? How well you like their cookbooks? Their ability combine flavors? The fact that they're a legend? There are just so many things to consider.

I am fond of many chefs, and cooks, for so many different reasons: Giada De Laurentiis, Jacques Pepin, Curtis Stone, Tessa Kiros, Madhur Jaffrey, Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten, and Yotam name a few.

It's a very close call, and it probably depends on my mood, but ultimately, it all comes down to Giada. I've thought about it for a long time. Agonized over it really. Was it Jacques Pepin, the one who reignited my love for cooking? Was it Tessa Kiros because she has great recipes and the most beautiful cookbooks ever? Was it Jamie Oliver because I love his passion for cooking and his contagiously happy personality? Was it Mark Bittman because I love that anytime I have a hankering for something he is sure to have a recipe? Was it Yotam Ottolenghi because he combines food in a way no one else can?  I could've picked any of them for any of those reasons and on any given day I just might, but today, it's Giada.

 I found myself going back to Giada again and again. Why? It goes back to the beginning, really. I think part of my love for cooking started while watching her cooking show. Back when we were a family of three. I can remember watching Giada and thinking, "I can do that" and "my family would love that dish."

It also comes down to a personal bias for the flavors she cooks with. I know for me, Mediterranean flavors are my absolute favorite. It also doesn't hurt that these are also the flavors my family enjoys the most. I know, without a doubt, everyone in the house is going to love Giada's recipes.

Here are some of my favorite Giada recipes that I've made over the years. These recipes go back to the beginning of my blog, many of these dishes shared as early as 2007 or 2008. This list is not in order and is by no means exhaustive. It is simply a list I put together of some of my favorite recipes that can stand the test of time!

As you're about to see, we are big fans of pasta and cheese with some meat, veggies, beans, and maybe even a little sweet treat thrown in for good measure!

If you click on the recipe title it will take you to the original post and recipe

All pictures courtesy of me! I had the chance to see Giada at a food show in Lexington years ago and have her autograph one of her cookbooks for me!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

My Top Ten Favorite Potato Dishes!

We are crazy about potatoes in The Stirring The Pot kitchen. When I thought about which potato recipe I would make for this week's Hot Potato theme, I couldn't come up with anything I thought would be more delicious than the potato recipes I'd already made...which led me to think that I've never created a roundup of my potato favorites, but I totally should, and it goes.

I looked through all my potato archives, and trust me, there were pages upon pages of potato recipes. I decided that I would only choose recipes where the potato played the starring role.

What follows below are my ALL-TIME FAVORITE POTATO DISHES. These are the ones that I've made over and over again. They are in no particular order. I love them all equally.

I truly feel that potatoes are one of the most comforting foods. During times such as these, we would all benefit from a few hot potato dishes. I'd also like to note that almost all of these dishes can be made with pantry ingredients and/or things you should have on hand (I'm talking bare bones ingredients here). Please take care of yourself!

If you click on the name of the dish, it will take you to the original post and recipe.

 Oh my word...this potato is SO GOOD y'all. The salty herby coating on the potato skin and the fluffy lip smackin' whipped feta. If you're a fan of feta, or if you're looking to up your baked potato game, this is the recipe for you. Each and every bite is full of flavor and oh so delightful!

Who doesn't love a crispy crunchy potato pancake dipped in a garlicky, spicy dipping sauce? These are so addictive, and you can make them with pantry ingredients! 

Mashed potatoes are the bomb. A recipe that two legends wrote together? Even better! Add garlic, and have a delicious comforting dish!

Now, I said that I didn't have a favorite in this roundup, but if I do, then it's this recipe. You see, potatoes and eggs are two of my favorite ingredients and this like a hug. Creamy mashed potatoes topped with an over-easy egg, all baked up in a cute little ramekin. This is serious breakfast food, for when you need a deep dose of comfort (like maybe right about now). Top it with chives, cheese, bacon, etc. Just try it! So so good!
This recipe is perfect for this time of year. Leftover ham and potatoes from Easter dinner? Please make this dish! These are like crispy golden mashed potato cakes with bits of ham and spinach. The crispy crunchy outside and the creamy savory interior are a perfect texture match. These would make a perfect after-Easter brunch!

Creamy, buttery, crispy, flavorful Yukon baby potatoes. A five-ingredient side dish that will blow a basket of french fries right out of the water. Jacques Pepin is like a potato genius!

 I've tried my hand at a lot of twice-baked potatoes over the years and Ruth's recipe is my favorite! These are the perfect side for a special dinner. They're also great for entertaining! Look at all that cheese!

 Ina Garten's Basil Potato Puree is what happens when you crave mashed potatoes in the summertime. I can remember making these years ago with the basil my mom grew in her garden. Mom could not stop talking about how special these were. She just loved them so much. Do yourself a favor and make these mashed potatoes this summer when you have more basil than you know what to do with!

 I love Ruth Reichl's twice-baked potato recipe the most, but I have to give props to Giada's twice-baked potatoes because everyone loves mini food. These twice-baked potatoes are so much fun. Irresistible little bits of goodness that are perfect for almost any type of event. Once you pop, you can't stop!

Last, but not least, Ina Garten's Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.Thank you, Ina, for introducing me to the potato ricer/food mill method of making mashed potatoes. It yields the most dramatically creamy and indulgent mashed potatoes one could possibly put in their mouth! My family goes crazy for these mashed potatoes and the secret really is using a potato ricer. Trust me, once you do it you will not make mashed potatoes any other way. These potatoes are heavenly! 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ottolenghi's Braised Eggs with Leek, Kale, Feta and Za'atar

When I received my copy of Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, this recipe was at the top of the list. Then as I paged through the book, my list kept growing and growing until it covered an entire sheet of paper.

Nevertheless, this recipe stuck in my mind. That happens to you too, right? Out of an entire page of recipes, and recipes from other books, there's always those few that stay right in the front of your mind. The ones you can't stop thinking about until you just bite the bullet and make them?

So, when I received my Misfits Market box and it had two very large leeks, and a nice bunch of kale, I knew they were destined for this recipe. Now, Ottolenghi calls for spinach in his recipe but I say, use what you've got. I enjoy spinach, but I prefer kale so this substitution was to my advantage.

I also didn't have the preserved lemons, and while it's not a perfect substitute, I did go ahead and make my own veggie stock (something that I do at least once a month to alleviate food waste) and so I added a little lemon peel this time around for a lemony flavor. How's that for a run-on sentence?

In the scheme of Ottolenghi recipes, this is an easy one, and it is both healthy and delicious. I personally loved the za'atar oil drizzled over the top and felt like this added loads of flavor to an otherwise simple dish. I made this on a Sunday morning for brunch and it was best served straight out of the skillet, immediately. That said, it also held up in the refrigerator well. I enjoyed it several mornings prior to work during the weekday.

Healthy, delicious, and simple. A total winner in my book!

Braised Eggs with Leek, Kale, Feta, and Za'atar
Adapted from Ottolenghi Simple
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 extra-large leeks (or 4 smaller), trimmed and cut into 1/4"  slices (6 cups)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/2 small preserved lemon, seeds discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped (2-1/2 tablespoons)*
1-1/4 cups vegetable stock*
7 ounces baby spinach or kale (use whatever greens you have on hand)
6 large eggs
3-1/2 ounces feta, broken into 3/4"inch pieces
1 tablespoon za'atar

Notes: I used kale because it's what I had on hand. Use whatever green you happen to have on hand. I also make my own veggie stock, so since I didn't have preserved lemon I added some lemon peel to my veggie stock to help carry over some lemon flavor.

Put the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large saute pan with a lid and place over medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, salt to taste, and plenty of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft. Add the cumin, lemon (if using), (this is also where I added the kale sine is heartier and needs a longer cooking time) and vegetable stock and boil rapidly for 4-5 minutes, until most of the stock has evaporated. If you're using spinach, this is the time to add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, until wilted, then decrease the heat to medium. 
Use a large spoon to make 6 indentations in the mixture and break 1 egg into each space.  Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt, dot the feta around the eggs, then cover the pan. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.

Mix the za'atar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and brush over the eggs. Serve at once, straight from the pan.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Madhur Jaffrey's Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry {Plus a Cookbook Review:From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail}

When I first found Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail, I found myself drawn to the veggie curries and the dals. The first recipe I made was her Natal Red Kidney Bean Curry from Natal in South Africa and it was delicious. This recipe for Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry was chosen simply because I had all the ingredients on hand, namely, a cabbage that needed using up. Madhur says this curry is a great favorite at wedding banquets in Guyana, India where cabbage is rarely added.

I felt the cabbage was a welcome addition, making the overall curry way more satisfying. Despite the hot curry powder and the blended chile base, I found this to be a rather mild curry. So, if you were looking for a spicy curry, you would need to up the hot chiles. I enjoyed this best with a hearty slice of bread on the side.

Written in 2003, Madhur's book details the history of The Curry Trail, complete with pictures, maps, and images. I was expecting a history of spices and instead received a brief history of Indians becoming indentured servants to what is now known as The Curry Trail. There is no doubt that this is a somber part of Indian history, but Madhur goes on to explain that Indian food is one of the only cuisines that has not changed at its core, it has only been added to. Each region of The Curry Trail has added certain ingredients and spices along the way, including places such as America, South America, London, South Africa, the Middle East, and all parts of Asia. As a result, Indian cuisine, such as curries and kebabs, is now the world's most distinctive cuisine and one that is immersed in global culinary traditions.

With its history of food and global traditions, this book has become one of my favorites. I highly suggest searching for it in used bookstores or going to Amazon and buying a used copy. I have searched and to my knowledge, there are no new copies available. Not only is it full of delicious recipes, but the history of The Curry Trail and the stories sprinkled throughout are compelling to any home chef. For those who might be wondering about pictures, there are some pictures of the recipes, as well as many other images, just not pictures of every recipe.

Chapters in this book are: Introduction of The Curry Trail; Chapter 1: Lamb, Pork, Beef, Veal, and Goat; Chapter 2: Poultry and Eggs; Chapter 3: Fish and Seafood; Chapter 4: Vegetables; Chapter 5: Dals, Beans, and Split Peas; Chapter 6: Kebabs and Soups; Chapter 7: Rice, Noodles, and Breads; Chapter 8: Relishes and Accompaniments; as well as Special Ingredients and Techniques. There is truly something in this book for everyone, those who eat meat and those who do not.

Recipes on my list

Chapter 1: Lamb, Pork, Beef, Veal, and Goat
Meatballs in a Curry Sauce (Kofta Curry)
Goan Pork with Potatoes
Curry Beef

Chapter 2: Poultry and Eggs 
Singapore-Style South-Indian Chicken Curry
Ground Chicken Curry
Silken Chicken "Tikka Masala"
Hard-Boiled Eggs with a British Curry Sauce
Poached Eggs in a Creamy Malay Curry Sauce

Chapter 3: Fish and Seafood
Singapore-Style Shrimp Curry
Kerala Crab Curry

From Chapter 4: Vegetables
Potato and Pea Curry
Potato and Tomato Curry
Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Chapter 5: Dals, Beans, and Split Peas
  Already made from Chapter 5
Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry* (posted here)
Natal Red Kidney Bean Curry (below)


Chapter 6: Kebabs and Soups
Beef "Kaait" Kebab
Ground Beef "Chappli" Kebabs
Silken Chicken "Tikka" Kebabs
Chicken Satay
Curried Pork Satay
Shrimp with Sesame Seeds
Thai Beef Curry Soup
Malaysian Shrimp Curry Soup with Noodles
Gujarati Split Pea Soup with Pasta (Dal Dhokli)

Chapter 7: Rice, Noodles, and Breads
Tomato-Garlic Rice
Curried Jasmine Rice
Yellow Rice with Peas
Vegetable Biryani
South-African Chicken Biryani
Aloo Paratha
My Basic Naan Recipe

Chapter 8: Relishes and Accompaniments
Peanut Chutney
Spicy Peanut Sauce
Green Chiles in Vinegar
Instant Punjabi-Style Pickle
Gingery Salad Dressing
Ginger Lassi
Nepalese Cinnamon Tea
Saffron Tea
Red Curry Paste
Thai-Style Penang Chili Paste
My Curry Powder
My Mustard Spice Mix
My Garam Masala
Nineteenth-Century British Curry Powder
An Indian Salt Mixture
Curry Sauce

If you're interested in the history of The Curry Trail, or if you simply love curries and/or kebabs then I would very highly recommend this book!

Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry
Adapted from From Curries to Kebabs
Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4-6

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 wiri-wiri peppers, 1/8 of a congo pepper 
(scotch bonnet, habanero), without seeds, or 3 bird's-eye chiles, chopped*
4 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon hot curry powder
1 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds (directions follow)*
3 medium potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
salt and pepper, to taste
4-1/2 cups green cabbage, its leaves cut into 1/2" squares (directions follow)*

*Notes: I didn't have any wiri-wiri peppers or habanero peppers so I used two serrano peppers. I could've used my dried red bird's eye chiles, but the point is to use what you have and I had two fresh serrano peppers that needed using up, so I used those. Madhur's notes about cutting the cabbage are as follows: halve the cabbage, put it flat-side down, and then cut it, lengthwise, into1/2-inch wide strips. Then cut the strips, crosswise, into 1/2-inch squares. To roast and grind the cumin seeds: Put a few tablespoons of seeds in a small cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high flame. Stir and roast for a few minutes or until the seeds area few shades darker and smell roasted. Then grind in a clean coffee grinder or another spice grinder. I used a mortar and pestle. What is not needed immediately may be stored in a tightly lidded jar and saved for later use.

Soak the chickpeas overnight in 5 cups of water. Drain the next day, put in a pan, add 5 cups of fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook very gently for 1 to 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are very tender. If the water in the pan threatens to dry out, add more boiling water. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid into a measuring jug and add enough water to make 2-1/2 cups.

Put the onion, garlic, peppers, and 4 tablespoons of water into a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the oil into a heavy, preferably nonstick, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. Put in the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes, removing the lid to stir frequently. Add the curry powder and roasted cumin. Stir once and put in the chickpeas, potatoes, salt and pepper, and the mixture of chickpea-cooking liquid and water. Bring to a boil, cover; reduce the heat, and cook gently, stirring now and then, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the cabbage and a further 1 cup of water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cabbage has just softened. Taste and make additions to the flavor base if necessary and serve.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Good Old Fashioned Pimento Cheese

In the south, pimento cheese is king. It's a dish that's been around for ages and no one ever tires of it. In fact, everyone and their mama has a recipe with their own secret cheeses and/or seasonings and it's quite likely that you'll eat a different version everywhere you go. Southerners eat pimento cheese out of an old recycled Cool Whip container on the back porch or served on the finest china in the finest of restaurants. It's versatile like that. A beloved and timeless classic.

That being said, people are awfully picky about their pimento cheese. If you use a different cheese than mama did, if the cheese ratio is off, if there are too many or too few pimientos, if the seasoning is off, but more than anything else, if you don't use a good mayonnaise, like Duke's or Hellman's, then you'll likely get snubbed.

I chose Ruth Reichl's recipe. Now, some of you may be wondering how someone from New York knows anything about pimento cheese. Well, it turns out that Ruth got her recipe from a southerner and it was spot on, even mentioning the use of Hellman's or Duke's.

This recipe works nicely. It's a classic pimento cheese, one that I think almost anyone would like. Make sure you use good cheese and grate it yourself. You'll get kicked to the curb if you use that pre-grated cheese. In my opinion, you need a good shake of cayenne, as well as Lawry's, and a little garlic powder. 

Serve the pimento cheese with crackers, pretzels (hard or soft), and celery, or make pimento cheese sandwiches. In recent years, pimento cheese has enjoyed fame served on top burgers with pretzel buns. You will see this delight of a burger in both casual and fine dining establishments all over the south.

Make yourself a batch and you'll see. Before long you'll be putting in on everything!

Good Old Fashioned Pimento Cheese
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes about 3 cups

1/2 pound extra sharp Vermont white cheddar
1/2 pound extra sharp New York orange cheddar
1 (7-ounce) jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped*
2/3 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste*
Lawry's, to taste*

Note: In my opinion, this recipe is heavy on the pimento. I used a 4 ounce container of diced pimientos. I do believe that 7 ounces would be way too pimento heavy, tipping the balance.

Finely grate cheeses into a large bowl. With a fork, stir in pimientos, salt to taste, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder and Lawry's (if using). Stir in mayo, mashing mixture until fairly smooth. (It should be flecked with small pieces of pimiento.) Scrape into a small bowl or jar and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Bring cheese to room temperature before serving. Serve with crackers or celery sticks, or use as a filling for finger sandwiches. Pimento cheese can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 4 days. 

Monthly Food Trend Challenge @ IHCC: Grandparent Food!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Giada's Crispy Sausage Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Lemon-Basil Crema

I've been living La Dolce Vita for the past four days. School was canceled due to illness, and no one in my household was sick, so we had a lovely four days off. Let me tell was bliss. I read two cookbooks, cooked several dishes every day, and got caught up on all kinds of TV. I'm hoping the much-needed rest was good for my immune system.

I also received a shipment from Misfits Market, a company that sources misfit organic produce and ships it directly to your home. Some people have strong feelings about companies like Misfits because they feel as though this produce would otherwise go to food banks. Most likely, there is some truth to that, but in my community and many others, we don't have access to a good variety of organic produce or foods. So, I consider it a total win because otherwise we would be forced to eat conventional produce and/or drive 30-40 one-way to obtain it.

So far I'm really enjoying everything I've received from Misfits Market. I have received some things with bruises or soft spots, but I enjoy having the chance to use up this produce. Food waste has become way too prevalent in America. What I love about is Misfits is that each week they give you a list of produce to choose from and you can actually choose what you get! Then there's the add ons, like these organic Medjool dates. I have a hard time finding Medjool dates in my market, let alone organic. So, if you're like me and you don't have access to good organic produce and goods, then you may want to give this company a try.

For this week's theme, La Dolce Vita, I wanted to make a dish that was both sweet and savory, that was on the healthy side, without added sugars. I researched stuffed dates and found that I had all the ingredients on hand to make Giada's Crispy Sausage Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Lemon-Basil Crema.

Giada says she serves these stuffed dates in her restaurant and they are her number one selling appetizer. I can believe it! These are so seductive: chewy and sweet dates wrapped in crispy and salty bacon stuffed with savory and spicy sausage. Then you have the fresh silky addition of the lemon-basil crema and it's like a party in your mouth. One bite and you simply have to have another and another. I'm convinced no one could eat just one!

If you're looking to satisfy your sweet and savory tooth, these are for you. They are absolutely incredible!

Crispy Sausage Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with 
Lemon-Basil Crema
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 12

For the Lemon-Basil Crema:
2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon mascarpone, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt, to taste

For the Dates:
12 Medjool dates
2 links hot sausage, casings removed
6 slices bacon (about 4 ounces), cut crosswise in half

For the crema: Whisk together the sour cream, mascarpone, lemon zest, lemon juice, basil, and salt. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors marry.

For the dates: Preheat the oven to 400F. Make a small lengthwise slit down the center of each date. Remove the pits and open the dates slightly; make sure they stay intact. Stuff each date with 1 teaspoon of the sausage. Close the dates up and around the sausage (they won't close completely) leaving some of the sausage exposed. Wrap each date in a piece of bacon and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes. Flip the dates, and bake until the bacon is crisp another 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm, with the crema on the side.