This Rich Bacon Date Salad with a Roasted Red Pepper Dressing brings the beloved Tapas style Bacon Wrapped Date to a whole new level! Get ready to impress!
I love bacon wrapped dates! I know, it’s the most pedestrian thing on every tapas menu (aside from papas bravas), but they’re so good! This fantastic salad brings all that deliciousness, and maybe more, right into your home! It’s the perfect salad in the form of tapas (or vice-versa).
Balancing the Flavors of Rich Bacon Date Salad with a Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
It was obvious from the beginning where I intended to go with this recipe – I could taste it in my mind. The biggest issue, which wasn’t much of one at all, was the balance. A well known fact, there are 5 key elements of taste and a perfectly executed dish will incorporate most, if not all of them. If you’re interested, Le Cordon Bleu has a wonderful article further conceptualizing the 5 key elements called, How to Balance the Five Flavour Elements.
The five elements are as follows:
Which comes from your fruits, syrups, honey, reductions, and sugars. Sweetness is your flavor enhancer, but too much can easily overpower. This example of overpowering is exemplified in a ripe banana versus an overly ripe banana. As the carbohydrates degrade into sugar, the flavor and sweetness become quite intense. The sweet highlight in this salad is brought in by the dates.
This comes from natural salinity in food such as shellfish, meats, dairy, and some vegetables. These foods tend to have the highest sodium content. Primarily though, the saltiness we reference is from processed/preserved foods such as olives and pickles or as a direct ingredient. Salt is a flavor catalyst which is far too complex to explain here. In a sense, in a balanced quantity salt engages the neurotransmitters of your taste buds making your brain think “Yum.” It also helps counter balance sweetness. If you really want to geek out, here’s VERY in depth publication from the NIH: Taste and Flavor Roles of Sodium in Food
This element I feel is most often overlooked and left out. Bitterness can easily ruin a meal and destroy its flavor (just ask my toddler!), but it’s also beneficial in cutting rich foods. This bitterness is why sautéed greens pair well with a braised short rib or why collared greens go so well with BBQ. Bitterness comes from greens, citrus, and fermented products such as beer. The reason bitterness can easily ruin a meal comes from our hunter gather days. Our brain instinctually asserts overtly bitter with poisonous.
We all know this element of flavor! If you don’t, take a bite out of a lime and you’ll know it well! Sourness counteracts sweetness and it balances fattiness such as oils. In the process, sourness brightens the flavor our dish. Sourness primarily comes from either a vinegar or citrus – which is added by the Roasted Red Pepper Dressing.
Umami is still very undefined. The best way to describe umami, in my opinion and it seems that of Le Cordon Bleu, is savoriness. It’s the rich, earthy flavor you get from mushrooms, meat, oysters, or soy sauce. It’s difficult to describe, because I believe umami to be more of an interaction between scent and flavor.
Thank you all for paying attention. This weeks assignment will be to create a dish balancing all 5 elements, class dismissed!
What is interesting is that an ingredient can fulfill multiple roles or multiple ingredients can fulfill one element. In developing this recipe, I wanted a beautifully balanced dish. We have bacon, pepitas, and roasted red pepper for umami. Our saltiness comes from goat cheese and again bacon. Sweetness from pickled red onions, dates, roasted red peppers, and the dressing. The sourness is sourced from the pickled red onions and lemon juice in the dressing. And finally, the bitterness simply comes from the greens! Once you familiarize yourself with the 5 Elements of Flavor, you can make it a game or challenge while cooking.
This Rich Bacon Date Salad with a Roasted Red Pepper Dressing Has More To Offer
Remember when I said class dismissed? I was just kidding. I’ll make it quick! Now that you understand taste, you also need to incorporate scent, sight, and feeling! Who’d of thought there was so much to eating!? Did you know that 80-90% of a perceived flavor is actually scent? And beyond that, your brain could be ringing off the charts in perceived flavor, but if it looks funny or has the texture of slime chances are you’ll turn away.
When creating this salad, I wanted something beautiful to look at. Which is why I used different greens, shapes, and colors. Pickled red onions are a favorite of mine with their vibrant pink, especially with the bright orange roasted red pepper dressing! And of course, you don’t want your mouth to get bored, so we’ve got some crunch, some crisps, along with a bit of chewiness! Take a bite, look at the salad and think about all the senses that make food desirable. This Spanish Bacon Date Salad with a Roasted Red Pepper Dressing kind of nailed it, right?
Easy as Pie: Making Rich Bacon Date Salad with a Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
Don’t let my above lecture scare you. This salad is pretty darn simple! You can cook the bacon and whole red peppers in the oven simultaneously (or used store-bough roasted red peppers to keep it easy). While you wait for those all you need to do is chop some veggies, boil some vinegar and sugar, and grab your blender for the dressing. Actually, for the best flavor you’ll want to boil the vinegar and sugar in advance so your onions will be better pickled. If you haven’t planned this in advance, don’t worry. Let the onions steep for 20 minutes after boiling and that should do the trick.
In my humble opinion, you want herbs! Primarily mint and cilantro… The trick, its herbing to the right ratio. Too much mint and you feel like you’re in an organic toothpaste ad, too much cilantro and you might as well be eating salsa! But having just a little bit of both gives the salad vibrance and a refreshing flavor. With that said, my wife thinks the mint and cilantro are too much in this already rich bacon date salad. Which I immediately responded with, “No salad for you! Next!” In fairness, she ate my model salad, which purposely had larger pieces of cilantro and mint. As per her suggestion, use the herbs as garnish to properly adjust the quantity to your taste profile. And the next time you see Barbara, you can tell her she’s wrong! 🙂