With gift-giving season around the corner, I’m sure the pressure to find something ‘perfect’ for everyone on your list without breaking the bank is on your mind. Hello Black Friday shopping!!! But as I’ve gotten older, I seem to have lost the pleasure in giving & receiving store bought gifts; I mean, doesn’t everybody have enough ‘stuff’ already? In the last 2-3 years, unless I find something that I am pretty certain the recipient will love. I would rather give flowers or home-made edibles or even an experience (movie/dinner/museum out together) than another candle/bowl/you-name-it item that’s pretty but will probably be re-gifted or sit in the basement. This drives my family crazy!! Gift-giving occasions are a pain-in-the-*** for them because they really need to think about it :)). For me, it’s not how much the gift is worth in $$ but how much thought went into it. Along these lines, when I had a certain (ahem!) milestone birthday a few years ago, I was treated to a fantastic trip to Morocco – one of my ‘places to visit before I die’. What an experience!!! The scenic beauty, the people, the food, the history & culture is definitely one I will never forget. I will do a small post on our trip soon and share photos, but I wanted to share this recipe for yummy Stuffed Dates that we were offered with mint tea in some of the places we stayed. While it probably isn’t authentic Moroccan, my recipe below has blended several recipes I’ve come across, with a touch of Indian. Hope you enjoy it.
You can find Orange-Blossom water in any International or Middle Eastern grocery store for around $2-$3. If it is not readily available, you may substitute Rosewater (more readily available at any of the above or Indian grocers). Please read the bottom of this post for how to make Rosewater flavored stuffed dates.
Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates
(About 25-30 dates)
- 3/4 cup almonds
- 1 cup fine confectioners sugar
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
- 25-30 (soft) dates – NOT the dry dehydrated ones
- 2-3 tsp + 1 Tbsp orange-blossom water
- zest of one orange (Optional)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (approx. 1 large orange)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- pinch of cardamom powder
1) Boil 2 cups of water in a small bowl and remove from stove. Drop the almonds in the hot water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
2) In another small saucepan, bring the orange juice, honey, 1 Tbsp orange-blossom water, orange zest (if using) & cardamom to boil on medium heat, then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool completely.
(Oops – didn’t realize how messy the saucepan looks 😦 )
3) Meanwhile, toast the pistachio nuts in a pan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly to avoid browning – about 3-4 minutes. Pour into a wide plate in a single layer to cool completely.
4) Now drain the almonds and pinch between your thumb & forefinger to remove the skin – it should slide off easily. (Check this video if you’ve never blanched almonds before.) Drain well and cool completely on a plate.
5) Gently slit the dates down one side and remove the pit – do not cut all the way through into halves. Set aside on a flat plate. (I buy pitted dates from Costco).
6) Coarsely chop the pistachios in a small food processor jar and set aside in a bowl.
7) In the same jar, combine the blanched almonds, powdered sugar and 1 tsp of blossom water and process till the almonds are ground fine. You may need to add another teaspoon or two of blossom water to help the mixture come together like a ball, but add only as needed or the paste will become too sticky. (I needed 3 tsp). Do not over-process.
8) Take teaspoons full of almond paste and roll into small logs the size of the dates, keeping them slightly fatter in the center. (Keep the paste covered with plastic wrap or it will dry out.)
9) Stuff all the dates with the almonds and gently press into shape with your fingers. Set aside on the flat plate.
10) Brush the dates generously with the orange-honey mixture and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to soak up the juices. (You can wrap the plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate at this point for a day or two.)
11) Before serving, brush with the dates with the remaining syrup. Lift each date, and holding upside down, gently roll in the chopped pistachios and place on serving platter. Top with orange zest (optional) and serve at room temperature.
FOR ROSEWATER SUBSTITUTE:
1) Process the almonds, sugar and rose syrup to form a paste (step 7 above).
2) Roll into logs & stuff the dates with the paste.
3) Make the syrup with 1/4 cup water + 1-2 Tbsp honey + 1 Tbsp rosewater (step 2 above). Skip the cardamom is you feel it will overpower the delicate rose taste.
4) Brush the stuffed dates with the cooled syrup, roll in chopped pistachios and serve at room temperature.
5) If you serve each date in an edible rose petal, it should make for a spectacular presentation. Alternately, arrange some dry edible rose buds in the serving platter for some wow factor.