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It's a date with locally grown delicacy
Medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in basil and prosciutto
Medjool Dates and cranberry paste on breaded goat cheese round
Mini Medjool date shake
Salad and Flat bread
Medjool dates apple salad with spinach
Medjool dates and caramelized onion flatbread
Blood orange sorbet
Medjool date- and nut-stuffed pork tenderloin
Ensalada de Nopalitos “Nopal Salad” (cactus paddles)
Local fresh vegetable
Dreamy Medjool date pudding cake
Medjool dates stuffed with pecans and mascarpone cheese
Drinks of prickly pear lemonade and date sweetened iced tea, lemon mint iced water
It was a DATE kind of day!
I was asked by Yuma's Heritage Festival and Datepac to put on a date luncheon for visiting Canadians who were here to learn all about dates. They had been here for three days touring date farms, climbing date trees, learning all about Yuma. The last event of their time in Yuma was a visit to the Historic Yuma Theatre and lunch in the Yuma Art Center provided by Karla's Kreations.
This is truly the type of party I love to cook for: 20 people and total creative license to do what I wanted, as long as the majority of the food contained dates. A six-course luncheon was created and the recipe testing began.
Dates have been a staple food from ancient times. There is evidence of dates being cultivated since 7000 BC. The date is a portable energy source. It is easy to store, packed full of natural sweetness and a wonderful source of fiber. Dates have super antioxidants to aid in the fight against cancer, they are low in fat and cholesterol-free and score low on the Glycemic Index. The latter helps to keep your blood sugar stable and reduces the oxidation of bad cholesterol.
There are nine varieties of dates ranging from not-so-sweet Haynai to the very sweet “king of fruit” Medjool date. Dates ripen in four stages, known in the Arabic names kimri (unripe), khlal (full size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft) and tamr (ripe, sun-dried). Dates are perfectly paired with chocolate, cheese, meat, fruit or ice cream.
The Yuma/Bard area is a perfect place to grow Medjool dates. When I first learned that I was going to move to Yuma, my father-in-law began raving about the wonderful date shakes we would enjoy. I don't think I had ever seen a date tree before, especially one being prepared for harvest, so was so surprised to see all those “brown paper bags” hanging in the trees.
After settling in Yuma we did go to a date farm and enjoyed the date shake my father-in-law so fondly spoke of. While there, the farmers explained that those brown papers were actually coated, not only to protect the softening dates from the birds but from wind and rain, too.
Datepac, the Bard and Yuma Date Farmers and Yuma Heritage Festival will be putting on the first Date Festival on Nov. 17. There will be fun, games, chef contests and I can guarantee you — DATES. A few of the recipes I prepared for our Canadian friends are going to be entered in that cheffing contest, so I'm going to give you the recipes provided by the Date Council without my secret ingredients and adaptations. You will just have to come to the festival and taste the real deal!
Dates love cheese or cheese loves dates. Add a little salty meat and you have a winner.
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
12 large leaves of fresh basil chopped.
Pinch of salt and pepper
12 large Medjool dates, slice top to take out the pit (seed)
6 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses and basil and season with salt and pepper.
Stuff each date with about ½ teaspoon of cheese. Wrap with prosciutto and place tooth pick to hold in place.
Arrange the stuffed dates on a platter and serve.
The Date Caramelized Onion Flat Bread can either be done with a store-bought pizza bread shell or follow my very-easy-to-make flat bread. Once the bread has been baked, top it with onions, dates and cheese. Put it back in oven until cheese softens. You will enjoy this one.
Focaccia - Basic Dough for Flat Breads or Loaves
(Adapted from “No Need to Knead” by Suzanne Dunaway)
2 cups lukewarm water (85 to 95 F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
Measure the water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until dissolved. Stir in 2 cups flour and the salt, and stir briskly until smooth, about 2 minutes. With a long wooden spoon stir in the remaining 2 cups of flour for about 2 minutes longer, just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and the flour is incorporated. The dough will be fairly wet and tacky (sticky), but when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a loose ball, you'll know the dough has been stirred sufficiently. If it seems too sticky, stir in an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour (I did not add the extra flour).
Same-day method: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 30 to 40 minutes.
Proceed with the shaping instructions.
To shape into focaccia: Preheat the oven to 500 F. Oil one or two nonstick 13-by-18 baking sheets. Pour the dough onto the sheets, carefully scraping it from the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Brush the dough with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Stretch the dough into a 1-inch-thick oval. Brush the loaf with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the rosemary and sea salt. Let set for 15-20 minutes till it rises again.
To bake the focaccia: Place the pans in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 450 F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the focaccia has a nice, golden-brown color mixed with a little darker brown.
3/4 cup Medjool dates pitted and chopped
1 large red or yellow onion sliced into thin rings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (skim or part-skim)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Coat the bottom of a non-stick sauté pan with olive oil, and heat on medium high until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally.
After 10 minutes, sprinkle salt over the onions. Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour more, stirring every few minutes. Continue to cook and scrape until the onions are a rich, browned color. Preheat oven broiler.
Sprinkle the cheese over the four flat breads and place under the broiler just until cheese starts to melt (2 to 4 minutes). Then remove from oven and top with the onions, Medjool dates and rosemary, dividing evenly among the flat breads. Place back under the broiler for a couple more minutes until toppings are hot and bread browns slightly.
Date- and nut-stuffed pork tenderloin
The main entrée is a stuffed pork tenderloin. While experimenting with recipes and dates, I did make a few changes from this recipe and will most likely use that recipe to enter in the contest at the Date Festival. This recipe is from the Bard Valley Natural Delights Web page.
12 Medjool dates pitted and diced
1 pork tenderloin (1 pound)
2 ounces olive oil
1 apple, cored and diced
2 fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
1/2 red onion diced
2 ounces pistachio nuts chopped
2 ounces dry sherry
14 fresh spinach leaves, stemmed & cleaned
5 slices of prosciutto or parma ham
6 whole Medjool dates (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Cut pork lengthways being careful to cut only 2/3 way through. Place between two layers Saran wrap and pound until pork is thin and flat. Season with salt and pepper and line the inside of the pork with fresh spinach leaves.
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté onions until tender (about 5 minutes). Add diced apple, nuts, sherry, thyme and half of the pitted dates. Heat until apples are tender but not overcooked, sherry has evaporated and the mixture is a just dry (3-4 minutes).
Remove from heat and add the remaining chopped dates.
Line pork with spinach leaves. Place half of date and nut mix on closest third of pork tenderloin. Lay slices of prosciutto side by side on a fresh sheet of Saran wrap. Roll up the pork and place seam side down in the center of the prosciutto. Wrap the prosciutto around the pork roll overlapping the ends and tie with string.
Place pork on rack over roasting pan and bake for 30-40 minutes depending on thickness. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes.
Remove pits from whole dates and slice. Gently reheat remaining date and nut mixture.
Slice pork loin into 12 portions. Place a little date and nut mixture on a plate, top with 2 slices of pork and sliced reserved dates.
Serve immediately. Serves 6
Karla Billdt works in Yuma as a personal chef and owns Karla's Kreations.