Does your block party? Our block didn’t have one this year, probably because there aren’t that many young kids on our block. Or, because we would be the obvious ones to organize it (since most of the young kids on our block are ours) and we didn’t. I do, however, love a good block party and I’m glad that we live in an area where they exist.
Block parties weren’t a thing in any of the neighborhoods I lived in when I was growing up but I think they must be especially fun to experience as a child. From the simple pleasure of being able to actually run in the street (even if it is just one day a year), to having a bounce house, face painting and an excuse to run amok with all of the neighborhood kids while your parents are busy chatting and grilling burgers to notice what you are up to. It seems like a kid’s dream come true.
A couple of our good friends’ have an amazing block party every year. There are a ton of kids on their block and the parents are extremely organized when it comes to throwing their annual block party. They’ve got a schedule that includes a children’s lunch, a DJ, carnival games and raffle prizes, face painting, a bounce house, a talent show, a potluck dinner, a band, wine tasting and a bags tournament. They even have an ice cream truck. They also have really nice neighbors who are always welcoming when we crash their events.
When crashing events, I like to come prepared with some kind of offering. As I was brainstorming ideas for a dish to bring to the block party I kept thinking that I wanted to bring something that :
- feeds a crowd,
- is easy to transport, hold and eat,
- is good at room temperature, and
- keeps well.
I knew that slab pie or tart of some kind would do the trick, but I was having such a hard time deciding on what to put in or on it.
So I started to make a list of crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvres and appetizers. You know, the stuff that everyone seems to like when it’s served at a party or event. The stuff you end up ordering at restaurants when you have a big group who can’t seem to agree on anything. My list went something like this: caprese salad (too difficult to eat, doesn’t really keep well or look pretty after a while); hummus (too boring, although I do love hummus); jalapeno poppers (best eaten when hot and not very kid-friendly); spanakopita (a possibility) and then I came up with this one...bacon-wrapped dates. I love bacon-wrapped dates, especially when they are stuffed with goat cheese. Does anyone not like bacon-wrapped dates? I knew I had a winner.
One of the benefits of this choice was ease of execution, which, let’s face it, I am all about. The older I get and the more experience I have cooking for others, the less daunted I am by recipes with multiple steps or a lot of ingredients. Still, I’m a big believer in simplicity and that a lot of times, simple is not just simple, but also superior in taste. So, once I made a decision, it was beyond easy for this little tart to come together.
Bacon Wrapped Date Inspired Tart
- 1 sheet puff pastry (10” by 15”)
- 8 oz goat cheese (chevre)
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water (egg wash)
- 12 dates, roughly chopped
- 6 slices of bacon
- ½ cup chopped pistachios
- Honey or balsamic reduction for drizzling on top
Preheat oven to 375F. Cook bacon for 8-13 minutes until a lot of the fat has rendered but bacon is not yet crispy. The time this step takes will depend on thickness of your bacon.
Set bacon aside to cool in between two paper towels to collect any extra fat.
Turn oven temperature up to 400F.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the goat cheese, parmesan, thyme, garlic and lemon zest and whip until texture is a smooth and spreadable consistency. Add a little cream or milk if necessary to make the goat cheese mixture easy to spread.
Roughly chop bacon.
Unfold one sheet of puff pastry and crimp edges like you would a pie to form a border. Spread goat cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry all the way to the border.
Top with bacon and dates.
Brush edges of the tart with egg wash.
Bake on a rack set in the center of the oven for 20-30 minutes or until tart is evenly browned all over.
Set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Top with pistachios and drizzle with honey or balsamic reduction before serving.