I’m not generally given to superlatives, but dates are pretty much a perfect base for bite-sized appetizers or desserts. A great dish for a pot luck or party, stuffed dates are delicious as well as pretty. Plus they don’t require implements to eat, and work as well on a cool evening as on a hot summer afternoon. These tips for stuffing dates will show you how to make these delectable morsels and give you ideas for sweet and savory fillings too.
Dates are the original survival food. They are what dessert peoples lived on when nothing else would grow in the arid land they inhabited. In fact, the syrup made from dates cooked in water is believed to be one of the seven original fruits and grains of Israel named in Deuteronomy, “A land of wheat, and barley, and vines; of fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey.” (That last reference is typically palm date honey.)
While dates are a great ingredient in many dishes, they do well on their own too. Try them plain or stuffed with a filling to contrast with the chewy sweetness of the date fruit itself. The two most common types of dates I’ve seen on the East Coast of the U.S are the Deglet Noor and the Medjool varieties. The Medjool date is the better choice for stuffing as it is typically sweeter, moister, and larger than the Deglet Noor.
Now that you’re enthusiastic about these delectable fruits, here are tips for stuffing dates and ideas for what to use as fillings.
Sweet and Savory Fillings for Stuffed Dates
There are hundreds, and maybe thousands, of potential fillings. (Like charoset, there is no end to the combinations.) Here are a few:
- Nuts – almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts
- Cheeses – blue cheese, cream cheese, goat cheese, parmesan
- Herbs – chives and parsley, as well as many others
- Meat – bacon is my favorite, but other pork products such as prosciutto work well too
- Sweets – chocolate, coconut, combinations of sugar and cinnamon with nuts, crystallized or candied ginger, and orange blossom water
How to Pit a Date
You can do it by slitting the date down the side vertically to remove the pit or you can open the top and remove the pit with a tweezer. Guess which way is easier?
Tips for Stuffing Dates
- Test out combinations that you think sound interesting. The Flavor Bible, a book that lists complimentary ingredients and pairings, is a great place to start. Otherwise, eat a date, then imagine what would work well. Or check out recipes in which dates are an ingredient and work with some of the ingredient combinations you see in those recipes. consider both taste and texture. Dates are sweet and moist, so crunchy ingredients are especially nice. You can even put a stuffing inside, then wrap another ingredient such as bacon and cook the date. Or wrap it in prosciutto and secure it with a toothpick.
- Mix the ingredients for the stuffing separately. Once you have the stuffing just the way you want it, fill the dates with a clean spoon or knife.
- If you’re pitting the dates by splitting them open, decide whether you want to leave them open or push them back together; of course, stuffing them open uses more filling.
Experiment away – and do tell us what you do (or contemplate doing) with dates!