Stuffed Dates

prev
next

A law school classmate once visited England, and after a fine dinner, intended to compliment the chef. “I’m stuffed!” she beamed, leaning back to pat her belly.

Let’s just say. . . it means something different across the pond.

To me, being stuffed is a good thing. Take a piñata, a plastic Easter egg, a Russian doll - and the happy surprise within. With food it’s the same thing. You’re eating a piece of fish, and all of a sudden it turns into crabmeat. Or that chocolate cake becomes molten lava.

But perhaps no food is as versatile as being stuffed as the classic Medjool date. On its own, it’s tasty enough. Cleaved and stuffed, it makes an amazing harmony, no matter what it’s paired with. Like the syncopated jazz line from Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way,” or how the cast of “Pulp Fiction” manages to make sense together.

Only the imagination limits what a Medjool date can hold. From a spoonful of vanilla ice cream, dusted with pistachios; to a spicy sausage and a slice of bacon. There’s something about the earthiness, subtle sweetness, and complex texture of the date that just gets along with everything. That’s why I was able to take this chorizo stuffed date recipe from the New York Times, and make it work with lamb sausage, as well as walnuts and feta. What really makes this Brunhilda sing is the red pepper sauce.

I adapted this Times’ recipe, substituted lamb marguez for chorizo, and toned down the garlic and shallots with no ill effect. It was a big hit with everyone who tried it. The vegetarian versions were just about as good.

Ingredients

1 TBS olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 shallots, thinly sliced

8 ounces (about 1 cup) roasted piquillo peppers with any juices (or use any roasted red     peppers) *I used Divina brand

2  cups whole peeled canned tomatoes *I used a good San Marzano

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste *Not a lot

16 Medjool dates (pitted)

8 ounces of fresh merguez or chorizo (not cured), casings removed *I used homemade     merguez from     Sparrow Market in Ann Arbor

8 slices bacon

Preparation

1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add whole peppers and tomatoes and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the liquid in the sauce has mostly evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Let sauce cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Thin with warm water to reach desired consistency if necessary. You want a thick sauce but not so thick that it mounds on the plate.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stuff dates with sausage, using about 1/2 tablespoon of chorizo per date. Cut bacon slices in half lengthwise and wrap a slice around each date.

Place stuffed dates on a small baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, or until chorizo is cooked through. Turn broiler to high and broil for 2 to 4 minutes, or until bacon is dark brown and crisp.

4. Spread sauce on each plate and place 3 dates on top. Serve warm.

Vegetarian Version

Stuff dates with various combinations of feta or goat cheese, walnuts and/or pistachios. Mix and match. Bake 15-20 minutes; no need to broil. Spread sauce on each plate and serve as above.

You will learn to appreciate being stuffed with this stuff.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »