Sunday, September 4, 2011

experimenting with fresh dates

i've been continuing my experimenting with the fresh dates that i purchased at the heart of the city farmers' market last week. my fresh date experiments have included using salt, chili, honey, and a couple of techniques to see what different sort of flavors would emerge.

splitting them and eating them with a teeny bit of salt and ground chili is good. the salt helps counter and balance some of the bitterness from the skin. it is also good without the skin. i was inspired to try this as a snack i remember having growing up was eating green papaya with salt and chili.

i also decided experiment more with salt and the fresh dates. i submerged a few in salt to see what happens.

as of today they are still submerged. i also added more salt so that you can't actually see the dates. i think i'll leave those for a few days to see what happens. i also split a couple and heavily seasoned them with salt and ground chili. i left those over night and tried them today.

leaving the salt and chili on them was too incredibly salty. yet, when i washed them off, it left a salty slightly spicy fresh date with a slightly different texture. the skin was also easy to remove. it was still firm with a slight crisp...yet slightly soft. almost like the crisp i would expect from a slightly cooked apple or slightly poached fruit. interesting. i could also see doing tiny cubes of this as a final accent to a dish for a end flavor of salty sweetness. perhaps on crostini with some mild creamy cheese. i could also see pureeing them as well.

i also roasted a few of the fresh dates. i seasoned them with a bit of kosher salt and used mcevoy extra virgin olive oil.

i prepped them for roasting ....spit side up, split side down, and whole with the seeds.

when they were done roasting, i tried them all to see what the differences were.

the whole roasted fresh dates with the seeds still had a trace of bitterness to it. the texture consistency reminded me of a cooked potato. it also wasn't sweet. interesting.

then i tried the ones that were split with cut side up....again, a consistency that reminded me of potato yet, the sweetness was there. i also think the salt was there (but not salty) to help counter the slight bitterness of the skin.

then i tried the roasted fresh date halves that were split side up. these were among the fave of the roasted bunch. i could see myself snacking on these as is. the caramelizing of the skin really made a difference. i think these would be quite nice as an addition to green or grain salad, paired with roasted meats, or perhaps an addition to a cheese course.

another experimenting option that i did with the fresh dates was my version of "poaching" them in a honey water liquid.
i didn't want to use a pan to poach them...because i only wanted to experiment "poaching" a few if them and didn't want to waste a large amount of honey. so i warmed up some local buckwheat honey with some water and poured it over 4 of the whole fresh dates in a ramkin.

then i put the ramkin in the oven for about 20 minutes. this turned out quite well.

the honey definitely brought out the date sweetness and there was zero trace of bitterness from the skin or the pit.

i could definitely see having these with desserts...still warm...or chilling them to add to desserts. i could see how making an ice cream out of these would be quite nice....or creating a paste out of it and having it be a layer in a goat cheese terrine.

this may not be the last words that you read from me regarding fresh dates. not only do i still have a few submerged in salt...i also have a few steeping in some black tea. also, sus gave me a jar of fresh dates that she put in a simple syrup and recommended that i let it steep for a couple of more days. she also indicated to me that the other varietals of fresh dates she's eaten before did not taste like the varietal that we have (i dropped some off for her last week after i bought them). i tweeted about this earlier, but i'll also mention it here. having the opportunity to play with california grown dates is definitely one reasons why i love living here.

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