Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stuffed Dates -- The "No Kitchen" Challenge

The kitchen remodel is moving along well:  the new cabinetry is in along with the improved LED lighting.  All that is needed now is the counter top, touch up paint, some tiling, and the electrical outlets and light switches.

So my challenge for this post was to make something that didn't require an oven or stove, although using the microwave was acceptable.  The problem was lack of preparation space and keeping the number of dirty dishes to a minimum.  (I'm still washing dishes in the bathroom sink.)

After due consideration (honest, it wasn't a total panic!) I realized that I could make something I have made in my historical cooking demonstrations in the past.  Stuffed dates have always been a hit -- sweet, creamy, and with cinnamon.

Normally I make this with the green cheese I posted earlier on this blog.  You should try it, too!  I think it makes a better product.  For my challenge, though, I used cream cheese.

I know this recipe is medieval or Renaissance English.  If I can find it in a book some time, I'll post the reference.  Right now I'm working from memory.

Stuffed Dates

Pitted dates (I used about 1 pound)
Cream cheese (8 ounces was more than enough)
A plain sweet bread or cake (I used a purchased, frozen pound cake)
Cinnamon, ground (I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
Pepper, ground (I used about 1/8 teaspoon)

Soften the cream cheese (10 seconds in the microwave was just right).  Mix in the cinnamon and pepper.

Crumble 6 to 8 ounces of the pound cake and mix the crumbs into the cream cheese mixture.  The idea is to make the mixture stiffer and drier than plain cream cheese.  *I had better results with the green cheese.  That turned into a dough-like consistency and the spices stayed as distinct specks. Very attractive.*  The cream cheese remained a bit sticky and the spices turned it light brown.  Still, I'm not complaining!

Taste the cheese mixture:  It should have the slight tang of cream cheese but the cinnamon should be dominant.  If not, add more cinnamon.  The pepper should not be obvious.  It just adds a depth of flavor to the cinnamon.

The cheese filling, complete
Put the cheese into the refrigerator for a little while.  In the mean time, slice the pitted dates lengthwise on one side into the pit opening.  Don't cut them in half!

Using a spoon, put some of the cheese mixture into the date.  Put in enough to have some of it poke out through the slit.  I tried to make mine decorative but was only partially successful.

Once the dates were all filled, I dusted them with an extra bit of cinnamon to give them a visual as well as a flavor boost.

The Verdict

Very tasty, as usual! The dates are certainly sweet enough and the cheese mixture adds a creamy, cinnamon-spicy counterflavor to make them special.  The size is just right for two bites or so.  That keeps it from being overwhelmingly sweet.  It is a good finger food, too, although somewhat sticky.  They could be served at a buffet as a curiosity.  People who like dates tend to enjoy them!

I had some cheese mixture left over, so I spread some on the left over pound cake.  Tasty but too soft for me.  I wanted some chopped nuts with it.  My guest taste tester and assistant preparer, who doesn't like chopped nuts, thought it was good as it was.

In the past when I have had left over cheese mixture, I added chopped raisins and rolled them into little balls.  That is another handy way to serve them.  They might be even more attractive with a dusting of cinnamon, too.

If I were to do this over again, I would probably use ricotta cheese and drain it first.  I like the tang of the cream cheese but mixture was stickier than I really like.

By the way, you can probably cut the dates in half and stuff each half.  There is nothing wrong with that!

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