A Kosher Bacon Substitute: Smoked Salt

I love to cook, both for myself and for others.  It’s a way for me to relax and to express my creativity.  With friends who run the gamut from omnivore to kosher to vegetarian to celiac to just plain picky, I’ve become pretty good at adapting recipes (or creating my own) to meet a range of dietary needs.  In this column, I’ll help come up with adaptations for those treif recipes some of you stare at so longingly.  Sometimes I’ll take out of the meat; sometimes I’ll take out the dairy.  It might not be the original, but I hope to get pretty close.  So, please send me the dishes you wish you could eat, and I’ll do my thing.

For my first column, I wanted to take on what many consider the last taboo of kashrut: bacon.  A lot of Jews I know who will happily eat a cheeseburger or lobster still stay away from bacon.  It just seems…different to them.  Setting aside the psychology behind that, turkey bacon is the obvious alternative that stays within the kosher lines.  But if you want to try something else, smoked salt, especially when combined with some sort of fat, brings in some of the key elements of bacon.  I’ve adapted two recipes to kick things off: green beans with bacon and bacon-wrapped dates.  Note that different kinds of smoked salt pack a different kind of smoky punch, so make sure to taste and adjust accordingly.

Smoky Braised Green Beans

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

If you’ve ever spent much time in the South, you’ll know that bacon seems to find its way in to a lot of the vegetables.  Green beans with bacon is a popular Southern side dish.  I turned to Emeril for a base recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/bacon-braised-green-beans-recipe/index.html).

Total time: approx. 30 min.

Yield: 6 servings

Level: Easy

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked salt
  • 2 pounds green beans, rinsed, ends trimmed
  • 1 cup chicken stock, canned low-sodium chicken broth, chicken-flavored stock or water
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add the olive oil to a dutch oven or wide, heavy pot and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and smoked salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the green beans and toss to combine with the onions and garlic.

Increase the heat to medium high and add the chicken stock. As soon as the stock begins to boil, place the lid on the pan and cook the beans for about 6 minutes. Remove the lid, season the beans with the pepper.  Taste and, if necessary, add a bit more smoked salt or regular salt (particularly if you are not using stock).  Toss well.  Re-cover the pot and cook until the beans are tender, 1 or 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and serve.

Smoky Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

This recipe is a cocktail party and restaurant favorite.  You lose the crispy outside, but the saltiness, the sweetness, and creaminess are all still there.   I based my version off of this one: http://www.yankeemagazine.com/recipes/search/onerecipe.php?number=2843.

Total time: 20-25 minutes

Yield: about 38 pieces

Level: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce tub pitted dates, about 38 dates
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt

Directions

Combine cheese and smoked salt in a small bowl with a spoon.  Using a paring knife, make a length-wise slice to open each date.  Using a small spoon or your fingers, stuff each date with about ½ teaspoon of the cheese mixture then pinch it closed.  You can stop here and serve the stuffed dates cold.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve warm, preheat the oven to 350º.  Arrange stuffed dated seam-side up on a non-stick or foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 5 minutes and serve warm.