Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Have you ever wondered what a fresh date is like? I have, not that infrequently, actually. So when I saw dates still affixed to their stem at the Chelsea Market the other week, I grabbed them right up. Fresh dates ripen in stages, with a slightly different flavor and texture in each stage. Right from the palm, they're supposed to be pale, plump, even slightly astringent, ripening, sweetening and darkening until they reach the state in which you're most likely to find them: dark and sticky and sweet.
And although I know there's symbolism behind so many fruits, the date really was a sustainer of life in ancient Egypt, sacred to Ra, the sun god. Symbolic of life over death. Its syrup is still used to sweeten and bind, which sounds pretty good to me. I wish I had found my little dates a bit closer to the first stage of ripeness, during which they're supposed to have "the crunch and juiciness of a Granny Smith apple" but remain sweet as honey. If you happen to live in California, where I believe the majority of dates are grown in the US, you may have better luck than I. As it was, my dates were not that far from the ordinary dried ones, but I still plucked them off the stalk, split them down the middle to get out the pit, and stuffed them full.
These were good, but I have a feeling they would have been better with my coveted truly fresh dates that I swear to you right now, I will eventually find. The filling is quite sweet, and as dates ripen they become sweeter, so there's that. If any of you have experience with the truly fresh date, feel free to make me jealous.
Fresh Dates Stuffed with Orange-Scented Pistachios
Adopted from ABC of Western Australia
100 grams shelled pistachio nuts, unsalted
40 grams confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar, or icing sugar depending on where you live)
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
Zest of 1 medium orange
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
16 fresh (or fresh-ish) dates
In the bowl of a food processor (you can use a mini one if you have it) grind the pistachios until quite fine. Transfer them to a small bowl and add the sugar, orange blossom water, orange zest and orange juice. Kneed with your hands until it becomes the consistency of a paste.
With a small paring knife, slit each date down the side and remove the pit. Use a small spoon to stuff some of the pistachio mixture into each date and reform the date around the mixture.
Posted by Andrea at 4:14 AM