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Archive for Healthier Options

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biotta Organic Juices & More Good-For-You Foods

Biotta Organic Juice

[1] Biotta, king of bottled organic juices, is available in 10 flavors (photo courtesy Biotta).

Pete & Gerry's Organic Hard Boiled Eggs
[2] An egg-cellent grab-and-go snack from Pete & Gerry’s.

Tsamma Watermelon Juices

[3] Tasty, hydrating watermelon juice Photo courtesy Tsamma Juice | AJC.

 

This edition of Top Pick Of The Week contains the tastiest good-for-you products. Our Top Pick, Biotta Organic Juices, is joined by two other favorites-of-the-week.

1. BIOTTA ORGANIC JUICES

Juicing is hot, but you don’t have to go to a juice bar for a satisfying, healthful glass of vegetable or fruit juice.

Biotta Juices, imported from Switzerland, raise the juice bar about as high as it can go. An early organic producer—since 1957—they make juices that are beyond delicious. They’re exciting, vibrant and organic to boot.

How do they get those delicious flavors?

  • Field-ripened produce is carefully harvested, and minimal processing ensures that the juices’ natural minerals and vitamins are left intact.
  • Biotta goes to great measures in the crushing of the fruit and vegetables to ensure that the most nutrients go into the juices.
  • And, of course, the juices are 100% pure juice, “from field to bottle.”
  •  
    Each of the juices offers different health and nutrition benefits. The line includes:

  • Apple Ginger Beet Juice
  • Beet Juice
  • Breuss, a blend of beet, carrot, celery root, potato and radish juices, recommended by The Breuss Cancer Cure
  • Carrot Juice
  • Celery Root Juice
  • Elderberry Juice
  • Mountain Cranberry Juice
  • Sauerkraut Juice
  • Tart Cherry Juice
  • Vegetable Juice
  •  
    These juices are more than just sippers. You can cook with them, make ice cream and sorbet, turn them into kickin’ cocktails, use them as gazpacho or fruit soup bases.

    Beetroot Martini? You can keep it organic with the fine organic gin and vodka from the Organic Spirits Company.

    Frozen yogurt pops? Yes, and you won’t believe how good beet and carrot yogurt pops are.

    The line is certified USDA organic, vegan and Non-GMO Project Verified. It is available at retailers nationwide and online. See more at BiottaJuices.com.
     
     
    2. PETE & GERRY’S ORGANIC HARD-BOILED EGGS

    Should your eggs come from small family farms, or from faceless factory farms, asks Pete & Gerry’s.

    These fourth-generation family farmers have been selling high-quality organic eggs for more than 60 years. As pioneers of humane and environmentally sustainable egg production, Pete & Gerry’s produced many of the first organic and free-range eggs available in supermarkets. They were the first Certified Humane egg farm in the country.

     
    The hens, and their eggs, are free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, GMO feed or animal byproducts. So these eggs not only taste good: They make you feel good. No hens were mistreated, crammed into cages or onto barn floors so crowded that they can’t move.

    To make their quality eggs available more widely, Pete & Gerry’s joined with some 45 other independent, small family farms that produce eggs to their specifications. The network of farms span seven states, with more to come. The commitment is to stay small.

    Products include dozens and half dozens cartons of eggs, liquid egg whites, and the latest: Hard Boiled, Peeled and Ready to Eat packs.

    The latter are great grab-and-go snacks, halved or quartered into salads, sliced onto sandwiches or chopped into egg salad.

    Learn more at PeteAndGerrys.com.
     
     
    3. TSAMMA WATERMELON JUICE

    Some 12 years ago, we were madly in love with Sundia Watermelon Juice, liquid watermelon in a bottle. When the line was discontinued, we scoured markets for a replacement.

    That’s because it takes a pound of watermelon to make 12 ounces of watermelon juice. Our small kitchen has no space for a juicer.

    But other brands didn’t taste pure, like Sundia. They tasted like Jolly Rancher. Some brands include the bottom white portion and rind, which are nutritious but add unwanted flavor components. Heartbroken, we couldn’t even finish the bottles.

    A new entry has cheered us: Tsamma Watermelon Juice. The name pays homage to the Tsamma melon, a variety was first cultivated in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, “the ancient ancestor of all watermelon varieties.” Tsamma juices are made of good old American watermelons, but the name stands out.

    The brand offers pure watermelon juice and a watermelon-coconut water blend.

    Watermelon juice is packed with nutrition:

  • Lycopene for the heart, skin and cancer prevention.
  • Other flavonoids and carotenoids that fight inflammation.
  • Citrulline for better blood flow.
  • Lots of vitamin C, plus beta-carotene (that is converted into vitamin A).
  •  
    As with Biotta juices, you can use Tsamma in cocktails and other recipes, and freeze it into ice pops. Discover more at TsammaJuice.com.

    The line is certified kosher by Star K.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: If You Buy, Buy Healthy (i.e., Buy This, Not That)

    Healthy Appetizer Platter

    Tempting, delicious, good for you (photo courtesy Botanica | LA).

     

    Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, we popped into a friend’s party.

    There was plenty to drink, and in an hour, salmon and steaks would start to sizzle.

    But the nibbles available prior to then were strictly “fraternity party”: cheese corn, potato chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream onion dip.

    As we surveyed the table, trying to choose, the host read our mind and apologized: “Sorry, I had to race in and out of the supermarket.”

    That’s perfectly understandable, and thanks for inviting us.

    But next time, grab this, not that. Your guests will like the foods just as much, and will feel better for it—literally and figuratively.

    BETTER “CHIPS & DIPS”

  • Crudités
  • Rice crackers (they’re gluten-free)
  • Vegetable Chips
  • Whole wheat pretzels (we prefer them!)
  • Served With

  • Bean dip
  • Hummus
  • Pesto
  • Salsa
  •  
    COOKED OR BRINED VEGETABLES

  • Artisan pickles: dill spears, dilly beans
  • Beets, plain or pickled
  • Olives
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Whatever vegetable(s) looks good
  •  
    Grab some fresh herbs on the way to the cash register, and scatter them on plates, trays, etc.

    And please do invite us. If we have to use any examples in THE NIBBLE, no identifying characteristics will be revealed.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Seafood Appetizer

    Raw Scallop Appetizer

    Scallop Crudo

    Scallop Crudo With Gold Leaf

    Seared Scallops With Figs

    Asian Scallop Crudo

    [1] A “flower” presentation from C Chicago (now Ocean Cut Chicago). [2] Scallop crudo with pistachio oil, pomegranate arils and fresh herbs, from La Pecora Bianca | NYC. [3] Arugula pesto and pink peppercorns plus gold leaf, at Sushi Roku | Katana. [4] Briefly seared with fresh figs at Sushi Roku | Scottsdale. [5] Asian-style with cucumber, red bell pepper sauce, cilantro and fresh lychee from Nobu | Los Angeles.

     

    We love sashimi, we love scallops, we love scallop ceviche, and we love how easy it is to make a beautiful raw scallop appetizer (or lightly seared, if you insist).

    If your family or guests don’t like the idea of “sashimi,” use the Italian word, for raw fish: crudo.

    Our very favorite is to slice sea scallops in half and plate them a bit of EVOO, a splash of yuzu, a garnish of salmon caviar or tobiko, and if we have them, a sprinkle of microgreens or minced chives.

    For a dinner party, with all the other demands of the kitchen, we like to start the meal with a flavorful appetizer that takes very little time to prepare.

    It’s a great dish for warm or cold weather.

    You can serve the scallops family-style on a platter, or individually plated. Either way, check out the garnishes below.

    For wine: Sauvignon blanc is a favorite of ours; but also look at gewürtztraminer, grüner veltliner, pinot blanc or riesling. Big, oaky chardonnays need not apply.

    SERVING SUGGESTIONS FOR RAW SCALLOPS

    First, add some color. Pale scallops on a pale plate need some visual excitement. Think red and green accents. When trolling the produce aisles, look for bright colors.

  • Caviar: salmon, sturgeon, tobiko or flavored whitefish caviar (the different types of caviar).
  • Heat: chile-infused olive oil, thin-sliced jalapeño, Thai or other red chile
  • Japanese accents: edamame, grated ginger, julienne of nori (seaweed sheets), nori komi furikake (seasoned seaweed flakes), seaweed salad, toasted sesame seeds, togarashi (spice mix).
  • Microgreens, sprouts, leafy herbs (basil, cilantro, mint, parsley) or minced chives.
  • Peppery vegetables: arugula, radish, watercress.
  • Red: diced red bell pepper, pink peppercorns, pomegranate arils, red chile flakes or finely minced red jalapeño.
  • Salad course: dress mesclun and red onion salad with olive oil and lemon; top with raw scallops and optional kalamata olives. Or, make a beet, cucumber or red cabbage salad, carefully flavoring with herbs and citrus zest. Place it in the center of the plate and surround it with the scallops.
  • Seasonal: ramps, red grapefruit, spring peas and pea shoots, raw corn kernels, rhubarb, etc.
  • Surf and turf: with cooked bacon, Chinese sausage (but nothing too spicy that will overwhelm the delicate scallop flavor).
  • Sweet: with mango, strawberries and an orange juice-sherry vinegar-olive oil dressing.
  • Three ways: sliced raw scallop, scallop tartare, ceviche or a grilled scallop.
  • More: black olives, capers, diced or sliced fruit, flavored sea salt, snow peas, sugar snap peas, wildcard (anything you like!).
  •  
    Next, pick your dressing:

    We like to put the dressing on the plate, and lay the scallops on top of it.

  • Dabs of puréed vegetable or pesto (think seasonal, e.g. pea or rhubarb purée in spring)
  • Basil or rosemary infused olive oil
  • Lemon vinaigrette or rice wine vinaigrette
  • Salsa cruda/pico de gallo or other favorite
  • EVOO, the more flavorful, the better
  • Infused olive oil (basil, garlic, rosemary, etc.)
  • Nut oil (hazelnut, pistachio, etc.)
  •  
    Depending on what you use, consider an optional lemon or lime wedge.

    Onto our featured recipe. Because it’s winter as we write this, we’re going seasonal with beautiful citrus.

    Any citrus works, but we especially like red grapefruit, blood orange and cara cara orange. How about a medley of all three?

     
    RECIPE: RAW SCALLOPS WITH CITRUS

    Ingredients

  • Sea scallops, the largest you can find
  • Citrus of choice
  • Sea salt
  • Seasoning of choice: chili flakes or fresh-ground pepper, fresh dill, other favorite
  • Optional condiment: extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional garnish: dill sprig or citrus zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL the citrus and remove the pith. Slice the fruit into widths that will match the scallops (to the extent possible).

    2. RINSE the scallops and slice horizontally. Your can choose how thick or thin to slice them, but aim for four slices per scallop.

    3. PLATE the fruit and scallops. Depending on their comparative sizes, you can plate them as shown in the photo, or place the scallops atop the sliced fruit.

    4. DRIZZLE a small amount of the optional olive oil over the food, or in a circle or droplets around it. Sprinkle with sea salt and optional chili flakes. Garnish as desired (you can grate citrus zest over the dish, or sprinkle it around the rim of the plate) and serve.

     

    KNOW YOUR SCALLOPS

    Parts Of The Scallop

    Scallops are bivalves, a class under the family Mollusca. Bivalvia is a group of sea or fresh water creatures that also includes clams, cockles, mussels and oysters. They have no head, but consist of two shells attached by a hinge.

    There are three edible parts inside: the creamy-white muscle meat, the orange coral/roe, and the frilly membrane that encloses the muscle.

    Unless you buy live fresh scallops, you won’t see the coral or the membrane.

    If you do see live scallops (typically at the coast), buy them to experience the other two parts that, sadly, get thrown away when the meat is removed (because they can’t be sold for more money than it costs in labor).

    HOW TO BUY SCALLOPS

    It’s always best to buy seafood the day you plan to use it. When you buy fresh scallops, they should have a clean scent, no “fishy” aroma.

    The scallop meat also should be beige, not white.
     
    Watch Out For STP

    White scallops indicate treatment with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). STP is a safe food additive that is used to prevent the scallops from drying out. A little STP is okay.

    But if the scallops look artificially white and/or are oozing a milky liquid, they’ve been over-treated with STP. This is deliberate, because it increases the weight of the scallops by causing them to absorb excess water.

    You want to pay for scallop meat, not water. Plus, if you cook them, over-treated scallops won’t brown when seared; and the delightful fresh flavor will be impacted. Another scallop-buying tip:

    Watch Out For “Jumbo” Scallops

    Avoid jumbo “scallops,” which are not scallops but less expensive skate wings. When scallops are in short supply (or for other unscrupulous reasons), fishmongers can punch round “scallops” from skate.

    In addition to their large size, another giveaway is that the scallops look like they’re falling apart.

    We like skate, but when you’re paying for scallops, be sure that’s what you get.

    Scallop Nutrition

    Scallops are low in calories: 31 calories per ounce, or just 93 calories for a three-ounce starter portion, which delivers 6 grams of protein.

    Scallops are a very good source of phosphorus and selenium, and a good source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12 and zinc.

     

    Live Sea Scallops

    Removing The Scallop From The Shell

    Scallop Coral

    [1] Fresh from the ocean: live sea scallops. Note that different environments produce different shells: smooth or ridged, and a variety of colors. [2] Removing the scallop from the shell (the membrane and coral have already been removed; photo courtesy AP | Robert F. Bukaty). [3] Scallop with its coral (but with the membrane removed; photo courtesy Fish On Friday.

     
    Seafood does have a bit of cholesterol (15 mg/ounce), but no saturated fat. Enjoy!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Black Currant Juice & Ways To Use It

    Black currants have twice the antioxidants of blueberries, hitherto the uber-antioxidant fruit. They have four times the vitamin C of oranges and significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and riboflavin.

    Should you be drinking currant juice? Of course, especially when it tastes so good, whether straight, in spritzers or as a mixer. You can also add a splash to herbal tea.

    The flavor is a bit grape-like, but currant juice is distinctive, bold, pleasantly tart and sophisticated. It’s the kind of juice wine drinkers would choose if they couldn’t drink wine anymore

    Why aren’t we all drinking currant juice? Growing black currants was banned for 100 years in the U.S. (more about that below); but now there is juice aplenty.

    NUTRITION CURRENCY FROM CURRANT C

    Currant C and Knudsen’s both sell black currant juice.

    Currant C’s all-natural product, sold in 16-ounce bottles, is not pasteurized and needs to be refrigerated. The juice is made from concentrate with filtered water, and a bit of pure cane sugar is added to offset the tartness. Each 16-ounce bottle of Currant C contains two servings, at 130 calories each.

    If you prefer a noncaloric sweetener or otherwise don’t want added sweetness, you can buy the concentrate. Knudsen’s 32-ounce bottle is unsweetened and shelf-stable.

    Currant C, a pioneer grower in New York State, sells individual bottles of black currant juice and the concentrate to make your own; plus dried currants, currant vinegar and currant seed oil, gift packages and more. Check out the full line of currant products.

    If you have a black currant bush at hand, it’s easy to make your own juice concentrate.

     
    WHAT ARE CURRANTS?

    Currants are berries that grow on a vine, The genus Ribes includes the edible currants (black currant, red currant, white currant), the gooseberry, and several hybrid varieties.

    The genus comprises some 150 known species of flowering plants that are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The black currant genus and species is Ribes nigrum.

    Currants Versus Zante Currants/Raisins

    Since currants only began to be grown recently in the U.S., what are those things we’ve been calling currants?

    They are the so-called Zante Currants, which are actually raisins (dried grapes) that are not related to real currants.

    They diverge at the botanical order: they’re not even cousins.

  • Currants: order Saxifragaceae, family Grossulariaceae, Genus Ribes.
  • Grapes: order Vitales, family Vitaceae, Genus Vitis.
  • Grapes grow on vines and are sweet. Currants grow on bushes and are quite tart.
  • More importantly, raisins have little or none of the black currant antioxidants studied in the research.
  •  
    Zante currants are the dried form of an ancient Greek grape variety properly called the Black Corinth, Vitis vinifera, the smallest of the seedless grapes.

    They come from the third largest Ionian Island called Zakýnthos, which is often called Zante. The variety is named for Corinth, the Greek city where they were grown more than 2,000 years ago.

    The Cause Of The Confusion

    After the commercial cultivation of currants was outlawed in 1911, currants dropped off the culinary radar screen. In the 1920s, Greece began to export small dried seedless grapes, one-fourth the size of the average raisin, from the area of Corinth.

    On the arrival of the first shipment to the U.S., the Greek writing for the word “Corinth” was mistakenly translated at the pier into “currant.”

    Since the growing of real currants had been banned for quite a few years at that point, the name stuck. Generations of Americans have become accustomed to cooking and baking with “currants” (often labeled “Zante currants”) that are really tiny raisins.

    What About Red Currants?

    Red currants are true currants. They are more tart than black currants, so are less desirable for juice.

    But for baking and recipes where sugar is added, the two are interchangeable.

    Fresh red currants are popular garnishes, adding a touch of scarlet to everything from cocktails to desserts.

       

    Fresh Black Currants

    Red Currants

    Currant C Black Currant Juice

    Blackcurrant Jelly Recipe

    Zante Currants

    [1] Fresh-picked black currants (photo courtesy Currant C). [2] Red currants are more tart than black, so less desirable for juice. (photo courtesy Rose Vita | Morguefile). [3] Currant C, delicious black currant juice, needs no added sweetener. It can be bought as bulk concentrate, much more affordable per serving (photo courtesy Currant C). [4] Homemade blackcurrant jelly made from hand-picked wild currants (here’s the recipe from Made by Jayne). [5] Zante currants are not currants (photo courtesy Sun-Maid).

     

    Blackcurrant Jelly Recipe

    Blackcurrant Sorbet

    Blackcurrant Pavlova

    [6] Duck with blackcurrant sauce (here’s the recipe) from Table Of Zekki. [7] Blackcurrant sorbet (photo courtesy Salcombe Dairy). [8] Blackcurrant Pavlova (photo courtesy Kwestia Smaku; the recipe is in Polish).

     

    Forbidden In The U.S. For 100+ Years

    Black currants are extremely popular in Europe and, prior to 1911, were big in the U.S.

    In 1911, the commercial cultivation of currants in the U.S. was outlawed by an act of Congress—for its alleged part in spreading the disease, white pine blister rust, which threatened the U.S. timber industry.

    The ban was based on incomplete scientific knowledge of the disease. At the behest of New York State farmers in this century, scientists from Cornell University revisited the white pine disease issue and concluded that currants didn’t pose the threat to white pines that was once believed.

    Finally, it was shown that white pine blister rust did not jump from white pine to white pine, but from white pine to black currant bush to white pine.

    Until April 2003, black currants were “forbidden fruit” in the U.S. Then, following the Cornell studies, New York State* overturned the black currant farming ban, opening the door for New York Currants™—for eating, juice, jam, yogurt, tea and other applications.

    It’s also a boon for family farms, which now have an in-demand, non-commodity crop to revive sagging revenue. *The ban still stands today in several states.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO USE CURRANT JUICE

  • Alcohol: Infuse into vodka, make liqueur.
  • Cocktails and cocktails.
  • Currant jam and jelly, available commercially and easy to make at home).
  • Desserts: compotes, crumbles, pies, puddings, saucess, sorbet and a general substitute for blueberries.
  • Dessert sauces.
  • Meat sauces for duck, game, goose, pâté, pork and sausages (red currants are a key ingredient in Cumberland Sauce but you can substitute black currants). For beef, check out this black currant sauce recipe. Coffee lovers: take a look at this coffee and black currant sauce Pork chop with black currant-coffee sauce (here’s the recipe from Splendid Table).
  • Raisin substitute. Substitute dried black currants for raisins or sultanas in any recipe.
  •  
    EDITOR’S NOTE: BLACK CURRANT VS. BLACKCURRANT

    You will find black currant and red currant spelled as blackcurrant and redcurrant. But white currant is always spelled white currant.

    In the interest of consistency, we use the two words.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Dates

    The first man-made candy was a taffy-like sweet made by cave men, who dried honey into chewy pieces.

    But nature’s first ready-to-eat candy was the date. Figs may have been the first cultivated food (more about that below), but dates, which followed them, became the go-to candy.

    Wild dates are not edible, but early farmers discovered how to make the date palm bear sweet, succulent fruit. Honey, dates, figs and honey-coated nuts satisfied the sweet tooth for millennia.
     
    DATE NUTRITION

    A premium date has the sweetness of honey crossed with sugar syrup. The flesh is soft and easily digestible. Its simple sugars—fructose and dextrose—replenish energy quickly (dates have been called “the world’s first energy snack”).

    Dates are as sweet as any dessert—but the sweetness is natural sugar (largely glucose and fructose), not refined sugar.

    With only 24 calories per date (248 calories per 3.5 ounce/100 gram serving), nutritious dates are as satisfying as empty-calorie candy and baked goods. They are high in dietary fiber and contain more potassium than bananas. They are virtually fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free. And they contain an impressive number of vitamins.

    The science behind dates is also impressive. The fruit is loaded with different antioxidants that help with cholesterol, inflammation, eyesight and various cancers.

    As with any food, quality makes a big difference. There are luscious dates that are “food for the gods,” and sad, dried-out dates that at best should only be used for cooking and baking. If you can’t find good dates locally (we have this problem), you can buy them online. Nuts Online is a good source.

    You don’t need to mourn the sweet fruits of summer when you have a supply of good dates.

    And, as we’re close to Valentine’s Day, you have a good reason to make it a date.

    As with everything, there are different grades of quality. Go for the best. If your grocer doesn’t have the best, buy online.

    TYPES OF DATES

    Different date varieties ripen at different types during the season. The peak season for harvesting dates is mid-autumn through mid-winter (October through January in the U.S.). That means that a good variety is available now.

    Some varieties are chewier than others, some varieties are sweeter than others. But whatever the variety, look for plump, shiny dates and steer clear of those that are too sticky or covered with crystallized sugar.

    Most dates are sold with the pits in. To pit them for cooking, dust the blade of a paring knife with flour to minimize sticking.

    California’s Bard Valley, on California’s southeast border, is our nation’s date-growing capital.

    BARHI DATES: A small to medium size, barhi dates are nature’s caramel. The skin turns from amber to golden brown when the dates are cured. Sensual, velvety and syrupy-soft, a hint of vanilla gives them a caramel-like flavor. Add some mascarpone and you’ll have a dessert with flavor and texture extraordinaire.

    DAYRI DATES: A medium to large size, with a soft (as opposed to chewy) texture. Of all the date varieties, Dayri dates have one of the strongest, most quintessentially “date-like” flavors. They’re generally not as sweet as Medjool, so are an alternative for those who want a less sweet date. When fully ripe, the skin is brown to dark brown.

       

    Barhi Dates

    Dayri Dates

    Khadrawi Dates

    Medjool Dates

    Dates On Tree

    [1] Barhi dates. [2] Dayri dates. [3] Khadrawi dates. [4] Medjool dates (date photos courtesy Good Eggs). [5] Dates grow in clusters at the top of the date palm tree (photo courtesy Dates Are Great).

     

    DEGLET NOOR DATES: Deglet Noor dates are chewy, medium-sweet, and substantial. They have a brown sugar sweetness, with rich, nutty overtones. They’re considered a dry date, giving them a longer shelf life and a more meaty texture great for tossing into salads. The variety is not sticky, so they’re good grab-and-go snacks. Those who generally don’t like dates should try them.

    HALAWI/HALAWY DATES: A small to medium date with bright golden brown skin and tender flesh, these soft dates are appropriately named: Halawy means sweet in Arabic.

    KHADRAWI/KHAWDRY DATES: Khadrawi dates have been called pudding-like. They would fit right in on a plate of chocolates. The medium to large fruits are not overly sweet. The skin is orange-brown to light-brown. These dates do not keep well, so need to be eaten fresh.

    MEDJOOL DATES: Medjool dates have a meaty, chewy texture with a strong, quite sweet flavor. The most common date variety grown commercially in California, a top-quality Medjool is large and pillowy.

    THOORY DATE: This sweet, nutty date is in the dry style. It is known as the “bread date” because it is qwll suited to baking. The medium to large fruit has golden-brown flesh.

    ZAHIDI DATES: Zahidis are a medium-size fruit with smooth, glossy, golden-yellow skin. It has a meaty, semi-dry texture that makes it good for snacking or baking.

     

    Bacon Wrapped Dates

    Fish-Crusted Dates

    Date Pilaf

    Date Cake

    Figs With Honey & Nuts

    [6] Bacon-wrapped dates. [7] Fish with a date crust. [8] Dates in a grain dish (photos 6-8 courtesy Medjool Dates). [9] Date cake (photo courtesy Bestia LA). [10] Dates with honey syrup (photo courtesy Melissas).

     

    HOW TO ENJOY DATES

    Just look for “date recipes” and you’ll find hundreds of ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

     
    BREAKFAST

    Serve chopped dates with breakfast foods to start the day with more energy. They’re delicious on hot or cold cereal and you can refrain from adding refined sugar. Or serve as a garnish for pancakes or eggs. More ideas:

  • Date nut bread and cream cheese.
  • Date and walnut muffins.
  • Have a few dates with yogurt or cottage cheese.
  •  
    APPETIZERS & WITH COCKTAILS

  • Stuff dates with tangy soft goat cheese.
  • Bacon-wrapped dates.
  • Chop and add to a cheese ball.
  • Great appetizer: Feta Date Walnut Cigars.
  •  
    MEALS

  • Chop them and add to salads (try a green salad with red onion, orange segments; radicchio, arugula, hazelnuts and feta; kale with parmesan and almonds; string bean salad).
  • Braise with chicken and olives.
  • Add whole dates to stews.
  • Stuff a pork roast.
  •  
    SNACKS

  • Grab a handful.
  • Make snack skewers, alternating dates and cheese cubes with grapes or other fruits.
  • Instead of cookies or other sweets, serve dates with coffee or tea.
  • Add to smoothies.
  • Make date nut bars (coconut is a good partner).
  •  
    DESSERT

  • Add dates to rice pudding and other puddings, bread puddings, etc., in addition to or instead of raisins.
  • Garnish ice cream (even better: soak in rum or liqueur first).
  • Toss into a bundt.
  • Serve with cheese.
  • For a seductively good dessert, stuff pitted dates with mascarpone and dip the open ends in chopped pistachios.
  •  
     
    THE HISTORY OF DATES

    Archaeobotanists found evidence that the dawn of agriculture may have come with the domestication of fig trees in the Near East some 11,400 years ago—around 9400 B.C.E.

    This is roughly 1000 years before the domestication of the dietary staples wheat, barley and legumes. The discovery makes the fruit trees the oldest known domesticated crop (source).

    The date palm tree is believed to have originated in northern Africa. It was cultivated along the banks of the Nile River and throughout the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of the otherwise arid and semi-arid lands of Western Asia*, the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta.

    Also known as the “cradle of civilization,” this area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers comprised the lands we now know as Iraq, small portions of Iran and Turkey, the Levantine coast of the eastern Mediterranean (Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank) and Egypt’s Nile Valley.

    Here’s more on the first domesticated plants and animals.

     
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    *Western Asian comprises Anatolia, the Arabian peninsula, Armenian Highlands, Iran, the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Sinai Peninsula and the South Caucasus.

      

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