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Dates and Bacon

A simple, but sophisticated, appetizer for the holiday season

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One problem with the upcoming holiday season: You're sometimes obliged to have "friends" and "loved ones" visit your home, where they will expect food. That's a challenge in a household like mine. We accept each other's cooking the way we do, say, spousal snoring -- with forbearance and hard-won affection. But we try to avoid inflicting such idiosyncrasies on hapless visitors.

So this year, when company comes over, we're offering bacon-wrapped dates, a grown-up appetizer so easy that even we can make it. 

Simply, buy some regular-cut bacon and pitted dates. Cut the bacon in half, and wrap each piece around a date. Put the wrappings seam-side down in a baking pan, and bake at 400 degrees until crisp -- 10 to 12 minutes -- turning once. Let cool, and get out of the way: The bacon's salty crunch contrasts with the sweet softness of the fruit, creating a surprisingly sophisticated taste and texture. 

Further elaboration is possible, depending on your expertise and closeness to the "friends" and "loved ones" in question. Filling the dates with a bit of soft cheese -- ricotta and goat cheese are popular -- adds creaminess to the texture; an almond sliver slipped inside yields a final, satisfying crunch. (Wraps may be secured with a toothpick, if necessary.)

Try it once and you'll wonder -- in true holiday-season fashion -- "Why am I sharing these with ‘friends' and ‘loved ones'?"

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