Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A good place for a date

I had a coworker once who told new acquaintances that he worked with models. This made him seem sexy and exciting, until his listeners realized he was talking about models of the mathematical variety.

In the same vein, I like to talk about all the dates I have. Some people have never had a date, and that is very very sad. The dates I had as a child were among the most memorable. I've had dates at Spanish restaurants and I've had dates in my own kitchen. Any place can be a good place for a date.

Dates of the gastronomical variety are rather like models of the mathematical variety. Not as sexy on the surface, but elegant and surprisingly useful. When I was young, I ate chewy date bars from the supermarket, packaged and processed but tasting like they were homemade. My mom liked them too, and we bought them all the time until suddenly they were discontinued - which is something like making a best friend at work only to have them quit. (The fact that I equate food to a best friend speaks volumes about how highly I value my friends.) At many a tapas bar, you can find bacon wrapped dates simply broiled, and why we pay so much for them is beyond me but they're delicious. Something about dates is mysterious and fascinating, maybe because they're under utilized, the bench player of the fruit squad, and by no fault of their own, often confused with prunes or figs.

As I wandered around the fruit section of the supermarket the other day, a shopping list held firmly in my hand, I spotted a little basket of dates. I was compelled to purchase them, with no particular recipe in mind, but a taste for chewy, sweet bars or bread in my mouth. But a week later those dates were still sitting on my counter making me feel guilty for buying them under false pretenses. So I hussled over to the computer and dug up a date bread recipe. Now the key to this recipe is not anything complicated in the ingredients of the bread itself, but the recommendation that you eat it with cream cheese. If you've had a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese, you know what I'm getting at. The cream cheese cuts the sweetness of the bread perfectly. Use reduced fat cream cheese if you must, but put a thick layer on the bread. This is no time to skimp and ration. The cream cheese needs to be toothmark thick - which means it's thick enough that when you take a bite, you can see your toothmarks on the cheese.

I'm hoping for more dates in my life, of any variety. But this is a good place to start.

Date Nut Bread (Gourmet)

3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups chopped dates
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, pour hot water over dates and butter. Stir and let the mix sit until lukewarm. In a food processor, puree 1/3 of the mix to make a paste. Stir it back into the bowl full of date mix. Add the brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, and eggs. Stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the date mixture. Mix. Pour the batter into a butter-greased loaf pan.

Bake for 60 minutes or so; loaf is done when the top has risen. Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.


  1. Haha! Shalaka, only you can make food this FUNNY and yummy too. Thank you for helping me get back on my cooking-horse. :)