Not One to Remain Dateless

IMG_4370Been married for almost 18 years but I still love a good date.

The fruit, that is (thank you for putting up with that opening sentence-I just had to do it).

I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have too, that there are some unsung foods out there. Ones that really are so good, but for some reason just haven’t really hit the mainstream, or at least, hit it here in the U.S. If we were in Morocco, dates would be up there with our Apples and have a seat at the throne as King of Fruits. Prunes are another one of these fruits. They really are much tastier than you care to admit, but ask someone if they want a prune, and you might as well be asking them if they’d like a root canal. My favorite was when the prune industry tried to re-market them as Dried Plums. I’m sorry, but that should have been their name the first time someone slipped them into a bag and tried to sell them. There ain’t no going back now. Prunes it is and prunes…you have a long, solitary road ahead of you.

As I kid, I remember eating those date-things-rolled-in-coconut-with-the-slivered-almond-sitting-on-top (see, I don’t think they even have a name) and really liking them, as un-glamorous as they might have been. Or actually, I think that WAS the glamorous version of a date. A very 70s version of them. They generally took a place right next to the red-dyed pistachios, the ones that left you with red stained fingers for the rest of the holiday dinner. Remember those? The coconut-rolled date things have survived the decades (I actually bought some recently and again thought “hey these are good…in a somewhat weird way”) but the hyper-red pistachios have not.

Poor dates. All alone on a Saturday night.

Dates have had a bit of a resurgence in my house, only because a few years ago, I latched onto that dreamy, winner of a recipe for Bacon-rolled Dates. It has made many of our subsequent holidays and dinner parties all the better and I’m giving those dates their time in the sun, or under the broiler (really hot sun) as the case may be.

IMG_4368I’ve been trying to eat more salads at lunch (how stereotypical-girl does that sound? blech) because I seem to have had a string of days of late where the day ends and I realized that I’ve barely touched a vegetable to my lips. And I’m not even sure how this has happened. I eat well, and healthily, but where have the veggies gone? Maybe it’s due to all the good summer fruits that have been out there in the past few months…and now we are in apple season. Meh.

So, the salads. I made one the other day that, as I was eating it, I was wishing that it was 5x bigger. Picture this: Crunchy kale, pumpkin seeds, Valdeon blue cheese, cut up DATES, a little good olive oil and a smidge of salt.


However they did, those simple ingredients mingled and tangled just the right way and turned it into an uber-salad. I’ve had it three times since (!). It has also put me on the hunt for date recipes, because I’ll tell you, it was the dates in that salad that really threw it over the top. They have a strange consistency-kind of sugary and firm-but they hold up in a salad and pair with the crunchy kale and sharp blue cheese perfectly. I’m drooling as I write this, and it’s only 8:39 in the morning. Lunch can’t come quick enough. Try this salad…it’s stupidly easy and you’ll see. And go for the Valdeon, it’s worth it.

For the other end of  a meal, I found this recipe and it will jazz up those *meh* apples that are everywhere now…it’s also cozy, you can feel good about eating a fruit-based dessert and will warm the cockles of your heart on these cool, September days…

Go on a date. You’ll like it.

Baked Apples with Dates and Sticky Toffee Sauce, courtesy of Long Night and Log Fires cookbook but amended slightly

*prepare the apples in the morning, stick them in the fridge and cook them while you are eating dinner. Perfect timing!

Sticky Toffee Sauce
5 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
5 Tb. heavy cream

Stuffed Apples

1/3 cup dried dates, roughly chopped
1 oz. crystallized ginger, chopped
2 Tb. walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
4 large cooking apples, such as Granny Smith or Courtland, cored
light cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. To make sticky toffee sauce (oooo, just the name!), put the butter, sugar, and cream in a saucepan and set over low heat until melted. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Mix together the dates, ginger, and nuts if using. Stuff half this mixture into the cored apples (slice a small layer off bottom of apples to make them stand better) and stir the remainder into the toffee sauce. Arrange the stuffed apples in an ovenproof dish or roasting pan so that they fit tightly. Pour the toffee sauce over the apples and cover the entire dish or pan with foil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, basting the apples with the sauce occasionally. Remove dish from oven and let stand to let the apples cool for a few minutes (unless you like serving molten lava). While still warm, top with a bit of cream or a dollop of ice cream.

Holy cow.

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