When I was a kid, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my grandma, stuffing pecans into dates and rolling them in sugar (I have no idea where she got the recipe from, because we’re not Middle Eastern, we’re from Mississippi). They were heavenly delicious, and such a simple snack to make. This holiday season, as my granparents get older and I have less opportunity to fly down to see them, I find myself remembering, thinking of them often, and wanting to hold them closer to my heart. So I just really needed to make them again. But I didn’t want to eat a whole box of dates covered in sugar by myself, so I decided to make them two ways, savory and sweet, to satisfy any craving. I also think this would be an excellent way to make two kinds of appetizers for a party that compliment each other well, and it doesn’t require but 5 ingredients! (I’m also not sure how the idea of making them two ways makes it better for me to eat them all by myself, but let’s just roll with that logic for now.)
This recipe breaks my cheap rule, but sometimes you just have a craving, you know? (It also breaks my dairy rule, blue cheese does terrible things to my tummy, but to hell with it, it’s the holidays. And besides, I’ll only eat a couple…) I was quite taken aback at the market: $8.03 for 15 dates!!! And never mind the fancy bacon I bought, but I had no choice. It was New Year’s Day and this market was the only one open. At least I’m helping a small business, I tell myself as I fork over wads of dough.
Ingredients for Sweet Dates:
Granulated Sugar, in a small bowl for rolling the dates
Pecan Halves, for as many dates as you are making
Ingredients for Savory Dates:
Blue Cheese, crumbled or in a wedge
Bacon, as many slices as you have dates
Preheat oven to 350 and line a rimmed sheetpan with parchment paper (you don’t have to use parchment paper if you’ve got a good nonstick pan, I just prefer to be overly cautious about sticking).
For sweet dates: Using a paring knife, make a slit in the center of each date, enough to pull out the seed (it’s really simple, the seeds come out very easily and as long as you’re fairly gentle you won’t rip apart the date). Replace the seed with a pecan half and press the cut ends back together. Roll the date in a bowl with granulated sugar, pressing down to coat all sides. Place on a tray or in a bowl and repeat with all the dates. Store in an air-tight container for a couple of days on the counter, longer in the fridge. They’ll gradually absorb the sugar and get a little sticky, so you should eat them fast. 🙂
For savory dates: Using a paring knife, make a slit in the center of each date, enough to pull out the seed, in the same way as above. Replace the seed with a small spoonful of crumbled blue cheese, or a sliver from the blue cheese wedge. Press the cut ends back together to seal the date, and wrap it in bacon, anyway you choose. I sort of folded mine around into a little bacon packet. Place seam-side down on the parchment paper or directly on the sheetpan, and repeat with all the dates. Bake for about 20 minutes, to desired bacon crunchiness. If you manage to not eat them all, store in an air-tight container in the fridge for a couple of days. To reheat, I would use the oven or a toaster oven, the microwave will make the bacon a bit soggy.
And watch out for kitchen thieves!