So, not sure when or why this happened (though I suspect it was from my recent “vacation” to Williams-Sonoma), but I have been slightly obsessed with recipes for dates and figs. This was also helped along by a GORGEOUS selection of figs on sale at the Chevy Chase Whole Foods yesterday. So, naturally, I am taking to my blog to bring you some of my faves, both old and new. I have gathered a small collection of such recipes that I intend to share over the next few posts.

These are easy to make and a fun alternative for game-time finger food. You probably don’t want to test this out on your man’s friends, as they are a bit on the dainty side, but they are packed with flavor, so hey, you never know what might happen! I will be posting a recipe shortly that features a bacon wrapping, and those are a sure-fire crowd pleaser, no matter what audience you are serving.

I will note that when purchasing the ingredients for these, it is key to purchase Medjool dates for a more flavorful result. What the heck is a Medjool I hear you ask? Well let me drop a little knowledge on you for today. Dates have a storied past, considered the oldest cultivated fruit in the world: Fossils show date palm trees thrived 50 million years ago. The fruit of the date palm (called the ‘tree of life’) was eaten as far back as 5,000-6,000 B.C.E., and they’ve been cultivated for about 6,000 years in the Middle East.

Dates have been in California since the 18th century, when Spanish missionaries planted date palms around their missions. It wasn’t until 1927, however, that Medjools arrived. That year, disease was destroying Morocco’s Medjool crop. Walter Swingle, an American horticulturalist, brought 11 Medjool offshoots back to California from Morocco. Nine of the eleven survived and have become the source of the millions of Medjool dates grown today.

Among the Medjool’s many nicknames, “king of dates” is most fitting. Once reserved for Moroccan royalty and their guests, they were a precious confection and remain so today. Like many delicacies, Medjools are pricey because their cultivation is a complex and labor-intensive process. Susan Russo wrote a lovely article on the history and beauty of the Medjool date for NPR (from which I grabbed these tidbits of facts…thanks Susan!).

I also suggest adding toasted almond slivers to this recipe if you are so inclined for more flavor and crunch when added to the cheese filling. You might also try an herbed goat cheese as an alternative to add a little extra zing. I surmise that a nice balsamic reduction drizzled over the top would be a nice addition also, as well as a garnish or side serving of chopped cantaloupe. And remember, the softer the goat cheese is, the less natural fat it will have, if you happen to be counting calories.

So without further adieu, Bon Appetit!

Recipe: Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates with Creamy Goat Cheese Filling

Summary: Tender, sweet dates filled with flavorful, piquant goat cheese and wrapped in a thin veil of crisp prosciutto, giving them the perfect balance between saltiness and sweetness.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup soft herbed goat cheese
  • 16 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 16 large basil leaves
  • 4 wide, thin slices prosciutto di Parma, each cut into 4 long strips
  • 16 toothpicks, soaked in water 10 minutes

Instructions

  1. Heat broiler to low.
  2. Spoon 1 teaspoon cheese into each date; wrap with a basil leaf, then a prosciutto strip. Secure with a toothpick.
  3. Broil until cheese bubbles, about 3 minutes. Serve warm.


Nutritional analysis per serving: 187 calories per 2 dates, 3 g fat (1.9 g saturated), 36 g carbs, 3.3 g fiber, 6 g protein

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 16

Culinary tradition: Moroccan

Recipe and nutritional analysis courtesy of Self Magazine.

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