Some people absolutely love dates, while others find them way too intense. Those which fall in the “love them” category tend to restock their pantry each week, shuffling through the array of options to find their perfect specimens.
Dates are available throughout most of the year due to their ability for long-term storage, although they are harvested throughout the fall season. The largest concentration of dates is sourced from very arid parts of California, where temperatures average over 100 degrees through a solid portion of the summer and fall months. Areas such as the Indio Valley, Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley are some of the largest date-producing areas.
Dates are excellent when eaten as they come, but also can provide a great flavor and texture balance to many of your prepared meals.
With such a wide array available from your local farmers, make sure to ask them which would be best depending on the use. Some possess higher sugar levels with creamier textures that are ideal for adding to baked goods, or they can be used as a natural sugar additive to your morning oatmeal.
You will find other varieties that are firmer, perfect for dicing and incorporated into your stuffed peppers or mushrooms. They are also great with steamed rice.
If you are even remotely fond of dates, make sure to experiment with the many varieties your California date growers have to offer.
This week I prepared some simple bacon wrapped dates stuffed with chevre from the Drake family farm. You can also use blue cheese instead of chevre if preferred. You can also add some almond slivers and/or chopped fresh basil if desired. Sweet, savory and delicious, this one is as easy to prepare as they come.
Bacon Wrapped Chevre Stuffed Dates
20 dates (I used Medjool)
1 pound thinly sliced bacon, cut in half
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (Santa Barbara Cheese Company, Friday Montecito)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Remove the pit from each date and cut a small slit on one side. Stuff each with your chevre (and almonds and fresh basil if preferred) and wrap each date with a half piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Cook for about 16 minutes, turning dates halfway through so the bacon is cooked evenly. Cook until the bacon is cooked through and slightly crispy.
Yield: Serves 20 appetizer bites.