Gourmet dates from Dateland.com. From
left to right, counterclockwise: Medjool
dates, Khadrawy dates, Halawi dates and
Honey dates. Photo courtesy Dateland.com.
For quick hors d’ouevre that are also perfect for tea parties, after-dinner petit four plates or a little something with a cup of coffee instead of a cookie, fill dried dates with rich, creamy mascarpone cheese and dip the cheese end into chopped pistachio nuts.
If there are any leftovers (not likely), they make great breakfast treats and midday snacks. Kids love them, too (they’ll also enjoy them stuffed with peanut butter).
Dates are the oldest fruit cultivated crop by man. Dates are mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible. In Biblical times, the fruit was considered sacred.
More than 30 varieties are grown today. The most famous to Americans is the Medjool date, considered to be the finest variety grown. In ancient times, they were grown exclusively for royalty. Succulent and velvety, Medjool dates are fragile in nature and must be harvested by hand. They can cost 50% more than other varieties, so most people enjoy them for eating only, not for cooking or baking.
Other familiar varieties include:
Halawi dates, medium sized and soft golden brown, are originally from Iraq. They have a rich, creamy sweet flavor and a caramel-like texture. “Halawi” means sweet in Arabic.
Honey dates are a soft, creamy-textured and sweet-tasting variety that “melt in your mouth.” They are used for snacking and cooking.
Khadrawy dates are small and dark-mahogany-colored with a dry, flaky skin. Originally from Iraq, they have a high moisture content and less sugar, with a mild flavor.
Thoori dates, originally from Algeria, are dry with a hard flesh and a chewy, nutty flavor. They are used for snacking, baking and cooking.
Today, we know that dates are a healthy sweet snack alternative: low in fat and sodium, high in fiber and magnesium, more potassium then bananas, rich in iron and cholesterol-free. Yes, they have sugar, but it’s natural sugar (sucrose and its natural derivatives, glucose and fructose), not refined sugar.
Dates are grown in the U.S. The Arizona climate is similar to many areas of the Middle East where dates are cultivated; and southern California also has a welcoming climate.
You can buy quality domestic dates from Dateland.com. Stuff them with our favorite mascarpone, from Mozzarella Fresca.
Find more ideas in the Hors D’Oeuvre Section and Gourmet Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE.