Must have been some brilliant god, sensual and loving, who bestowed upon us the Medjool date. Luscious and plump little orbs of tender, honey brown flesh. Caramel incarnate. These precious fruits of a palm tree are otherworldly, obliging us to indulge in them with a sort of reverence reserved for few other fruits on Earth. Only the fig comes to mind. Multiple Biblical and Koranic references as well as fossil records prove their ancient presence, a further suggestion of their likely celestial beginnings.
Though there are other varieties of the date, the Medjool is the best. At least for the purpose of eating it unadorned, either straight from the tree if we were so lucky or packaged and shipped months after harvest from its’ desert home. The Medjool needs nothing to interfere with its’ majesty and succulence.
But of course we will embellish whatever we can. The Medjool is often seen pitted and stuffed with various types of nuts and cheese, which is what the recipe here suggests. It shouldn’t be seen as an improvement to the date, as much as a function of the human ego, trying to one up God. But it makes for a great party dish, either as an appetizer or for dessert.
The recipe gives options. The cashew cheese would render this dish completely raw and vegan; the soft goat cheese makes it vegetarian and super simple. If you’re making the cashew cheese, make it first, as the cashews need to soak for at least 2 hours. Frankly, the bourbon glaze could be omitted for a quick snack. But it’s that extra little flourish that will push it over the top, into heavenly.
24 Medjool Dates
8 ounces Kentucky pecans, whole and raw
8 ounces goat cheese or cashew cheese (see recipe below)
Bourbon Cinnamon Glaze
Half cup bourbon
Half cup raw agave or maple syrup
Half teaspoon cinnamon
One eighth teaspoon cayenne
One eighth teaspoon sea salt
Make the bourbon cinnamon glaze: In a small saucepan on medium heat, reduce the bourbon until it is half its’ original volume and all alcohol is burned off. Beware of potential flare-ups during this process.
Let the reduced bourbon cool off for about 10 minutes and then transfer it to a mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Whisk vigorously, to smooth out the cinnamon.
Cut a small slit in the top of each date and squeeze it gently to open it up so you can remove the pit inside. Slide or pipe half a teaspoon of the softened goat cheese or cashew cheese into the opening of each date. Prop one or two whole pecans on top and drizzle the bourbon cinnamon glaze on top. If cinnamon settles in the glaze before use, shake or stir it up first.
For goat cheese that’s silky, let the cheese stand at room temperature for an hour or so. Then either by hand or in a mixer, whisk the cheese until it has yielded into a mousse like texture, all lumps smoothed away. A tablespoon of heavy cream or milk will help the process.
You can easily slide the goat or cashew cheese into the open dates using a spoon, but to make your life easier, try piping it from a Ziploc bag. Fill a large plastic storage bag with the cheese and squeeze it into one corner. With a sharp knife or scissors, cut a small edge of the corner. Other advantages of this method: great storage and no messy fingers.
RAW CASHEW CHEESE
8 ounces organic whole raw cashews, soaked in water for at least four hours and up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Discard the soaking water, and rinse the cashews briefly.
In a food processor, process the cashews with:
Half tablespoon white miso or nutritional yeast
Half teaspoon salt
Half teaspoon grated nutmeg
Zest of one lemon
One clove of garlic
One tablespoon olive oil
The cashew cheese will keep refrigerated for 7 days or so.