In May, I entered the 2014 Dole California Cookoff for a chance to win $25,000. Each recipe was limited to 10 ingredients and was required to include at least one cup of a Dole product.
I spent weeks in the kitchen perfecting my dishes. I’ve gotta say, some of my creations were total flops. It’s hard to be contest-winning creative without crossing the line into the disaster zone.
After lots of testing, I came up with four dishes that I was very proud to enter. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the top 3…not even sure if I made the top 50…but that’s okay. What I love about competition cooking is that it forces me to test my boundaries. It encourages me to try new flavors and it drives me to research food. Ultimately, it makes me a better cook.
This recipe is a twist on traditional bacon wrapped dates. The ancho-candied bacon is wrapped around pitted dates and grilled. When the heat hits the dates, they melt and caramelize and have a crunchy, creamy texture like crème brûlée. For brightness and color the appetizers are finished off with lemon thyme vinaigrette.
You can skewer these bad boys in advance and throw them on the grill when you’re ready to entertain. They’re best eaten right away. If they sit too long, the dates may continue to cook and harden, losing their heavenly texture. Maybe that’s what happened when the judges sampled them??? We’ll never know. All I know, is that these were a hit in my household, and I’m sure they’ll be a hit in yours.
- 15 slices bacon
- 1 8-oz. can DOLE Crushed Pineapple
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated shallot
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
- 2 8-oz. bags DOLE Whole Pitted Dates
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over low heat for 10 minutes, flipping half way through. It should still be soft and pliable, not crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Cut each slice in half.
Drain the juice from the DOLE Crushed Pineapple. In a large bowl, combine the crushed pineapple, brown sugar, grated shallot and ancho chile powder. Add the bacon to the bowl and toss with your hands to coat each strip.
Preheat the grill to high.
Using long metal skewers, thread one end of a piece of bacon on the skewer. Add a DOLE Whole Pitted Date (lengthwise). Wrapping the bacon slice half way around the date, thread the skewer through the middle of the bacon. Add another date. Wrap the bacon around the second date in the opposite direction, and thread the end of the bacon onto the skewer. The bacon should be shaped like an S. Push the bacon to the handle of the skewer and continue with more bacon and dates until your skewers are full.
Turn half of the grill burners to low, and place the skewers on the grill over the low heat. Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes. Flip and grill covered for 3-4 more minutes. Remove to a plate or pan and let cool slightly.
Gently remove the S-shaped strips from the metal skewers and thread each appetizer onto single wooden skewer for pretty presentation. Assemble on a platter.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, thyme, salt and olive oil. Drizzle over the skewers to add a bright finish.