Have a date with me

Have a Date ( or two) with Ric Orlando
 Winter is Date season and it is on the way. The chill in the air kinds sucks for some things, but for winter fruit it rocks!
When I consulted for HITS in the California dessert, the date palms were everywhere, dropping dates like turds from a trotting pony. Once I realized what they were, I began gathering, washing and consuming them with abandon. If you haven't experienced date lust, you should. They are richly textured with a sweet, meaty fruit. Along with figs and apricots, they are the offal of fruit. Deeper flavored, more exotically textured and more mysterious than any plain old winter fruit.
 Dates lend themselves to savory applications well because of their inherent meatiness.
Cook some dates for  the holidays!

Devils on Horseback, my way

Serves 4 as an appetizer

16 large pitted dates
¼ cup soft goat cheese
8 strips smokey bacon, cut in half legnthwise
1tsp ground coriander
4 tbls honey
4 tbsl Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
12 toothpicks or stiff rosemary sprigs, soaked in water to prevent burning

Whisk the cheese until soft, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Put in pastry bag with small tip
Carefully pipe the goat cheese into each date from the end to fill, but not overfill.
Wrap bacon around each date twice and secure with a toothpick or spring.
Cook under broiler or on griddle pan slowly on both sides until bacon is caramelized and crisp.
Whisk together any accumulated bacon drippings, the coriander, honey and mustard. Serve on the side as a dip.

Marinated Dates Tapas
Serves 4 as an appetizer
16 large dates, pitted or not, your choice
1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
juice of ½ lemon
Put dates in a jar.
Add lemon, herbs and spices.
Cover with oil. Shake well and let stand at room temperature at least one hour before serving. Serve with grilled toast.

Andaluz Date and Garlic “Butter”
Makes 2 cups.
Great smeared on English muffins, as a side to grilled pork or as a spread with salty cold cuts like prosciutto or westphalian ham
2 cups packed pitted dates,
2 cup amontillado sherry
1/2 cup water
¼ cup sherry vinegar
4 cloves garlic, smashed
pinch salt

In a non reactive pot, simmer everything together for 45 minutes to one hour until it is all very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Puree in a food processor until smooth.  Store refrigerated or can in sterilized jars according to manufacturer’s instructions

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