I really love to cook. I miss the days, before I had children, when I could leisurely grocery shop and plan long, drawn-out dinners - often far in advance of the meal itself, since it seemed the most intriguing dishes always had something that needed to be cured or stewed or marinated for 24 hours prior to being eaten. I enjoyed having guests for dinner on a weekend night, as it would leave me with the entire day free to prepare a meal that would be that much more wonderful and unique.
And then, there were four of us....
Nowadays, even with two small children at home, I still get a thrill from cooking, although I know that I'll have maybe 30 or 40 minutes to put a meal together. I still pass the time in a checkout line reading the store copy of Saveur, rather than the latest Vogue or Elle or gossip magazine (although, believe me, there remains room in my life for that guilty pleasure). Most of all, I still enjoy having friends over for sit-down dinners, even if it means that one of my angels may unexpectedly join us. The difference today is that I generally spend much less time in the kitchen preparing the meal. The surprise is that the outcome is often just as good as the meal that took hours in my past life.
What follows is a dish that requires a matter of minutes to make but results in flavors that are luscious and complex. The preparation is so straightforward that it hardly qualifies as a "recipe," but the combination is definitely good enough to merit notation. I take no credit for this ambrosia, other than having asked an owner of Ballard's Dandelion restaurant (through a mouthful of food), "Ohmygosh, how do you make this?" She kindly named a few ingredients, told me to bake it, and it was as simple as that.
This is the perfect appetizer to serve when you're having company over for food or drinks but don't have much time to spend in the kitchen. It looks as good and rich as it tastes, and is a reminder that some of the best things in life are the least complicated.
Broiled, Stuffed Dates
12 large Medjool dates*, halved lengthwise and pitted
2 ounces Maytag Blue cheese
6 slices of pancetta (sliced the thickness of bacon), cut in half to make 12 pieces
* Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
* Line a cookie sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
* Fill each date with blue cheese (about a teaspoon) and wrap with a pancetta piece, pressing ends of the meat together to seal.
* Place dates on pan, cheese side up, and put in oven. Cook about 10 minutes, or until pancetta is browned and crisp.
* Remove and serve.
*Medjool dates are carried in the bulk foods departments of Town and Country Market in Ballard, Larry's, Trader Joe's and PCC.