Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An Amazing Date …And Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Winter Squash Butter

A few nights ago, I dreamt that I had an amazing date…

It was super sweet and chewy with hints of caramel, and it was almost the size of a tennis ball!  Oh wait, you thought I meant the other kind of date, didn't you?  No, sorry to disappoint you, but those are few and far between… Anyway, in the dream I was very much enjoying this yummy date, and I even narrated my experience of the complex flavors and delicate textures to myself…alone...with no one around.  Okay, that's pretty embarrassing.  Actually, what's more embarrassing is how much more enthusiastic I am about an edible date versus a date with another person.

As if my geek isn't showing enough already, another thing that blows me away is how many definitions and meanings there are for the word "date," both as a noun and verb.  And don't even get me started on synonyms!

There is the date referred to in the movie Miss Congeniality by Cheryl, one of the beauty pageant contestants, who describes her perfect "date" as April 25th (which happens to be my birthday), because "it's not too hot, not too cold, and all you need is a light jacket."  (We understand Cheryl, it's a confusing word!)

You can eat the fruit, go on a date, or ask someone what the date is.  You can be "dating" someone (who knows what THAT one even means anymore), date something by making it seem old, date a piece of paper.  You can date something by assigning a period of time to it, and then there are phrases like "up to date" and "out of date." This single word has dozens of different meanings depending on the context.  No wonder why foreigners say English is a difficult language!

But whether you've been on a lot of dates or not enough…whether you feel dated when you refer to your favorite band…whether you thought you were dating someone, but they had a slightly looser definition of what "dating" really means...whether you can never remember what date to write on your checks after the new year…or whether your style is out of date… One thing will always remain the same:  that sweet little fruit we all know as the "date."

And because I didn't say it enough times in this post…date.

Bacon-wrapped Dates Stuffed with Winter Squash Butter


For the Squash Butter (inspired by Food52):
• 1 cup roasted squash of choice (I used a butternut squash)
• ¼ cup coconut sugar
• 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• a pinch of kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon Seville Sour orange juice (or lemon juice)
• 3 Tablespoons of water (or more to reach the right consistency)

For the Dates:
• 8 medjool dates (or another preferred variety)
• 4 strips of bacon
• about 4 Tbsp winter squash butter

Directions for the Squash Butter:

1. To roast the squash, preheat the oven to 425ºF, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle the inside with some coconut or olive oil.  Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and scoopable.

2. Blend the flesh of the squash in a food processor until smooth, then add to a saucepan along with the sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, orange or lemon juice, and water.

3. Bring it to a simmer and sir for 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens. (You can use it to stuff the dates now or allow it to cool, then transfer it to an airtight jar and store in the fridge for up to a week or two.)

Directions for the Dates:

1. Make sure the oven is set to 425ºF.  Remove the pits from the dates by making a slit along one side of the date (the long way) creating a pocket in the middle.

2. Fill the dates with about 2 teaspoons of the squash butter.

3. Microwave the strips of bacon for about 3 minutes to slightly pre-cook them (otherwise they won't crisp up after they are wrapped around the dates. You can also do this for a few minutes in the oven if you don't like microwaves.)

4. Cut each strip of bacon in half (this way:  ––|––) and wrap each date with a half strip of bacon, securing it with a toothpick.

5. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until the bacon is brown and crispy.

Dates are so versatile and taste great with many different flavors.  What is your favorite stuffed date recipe?  Leave a comment below!