Monday, March 27, 2017

Brussels Sprouts with Dates and Walnuts


Except for the ubiquitous date nut bread, I've never cooked with dates, and usually eat them only whenever I receive a gift of dried fruits at Christmastime. But all that changed after I hit the date mother lode on vacation last week in Southern California.
I had told my husband I was on the lookout for a date farm, so as we left Palm Springs, we took the local road - route 111 - rather than heading straight for the highway to start our drive through the desert to Scottsdale, Arizona. In less than 20 minutes, we were driving through Indio, in the Coachella Valley, where dates are an important crop. 
 I wasn't disappointed when we came across this sight and my husband pulled to a quick stop:
 Shields Date Garden, a date farm with a gift shop selling all kinds of dates and other dried fruits. There's a cafe too with a 50s vibe, a garden out back, and a video you can watch entitled "Romance and Sex Life of the Date." Yes, you heard that right.
By Visitor7 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26340574
The store sells many different varieties of dates, and we tasted samples of at least half a dozen types. My favorite was the large, sweet and creamy medjool, considered by some to be the "Cadillac" of dates. 
Medjool dates were first grown in the California in the 1930s, from 11 offshoots of trees imported by the USDA from Morocco. The original trees in Morocco were destroyed by disease and all the Medjool dates grown in the world today are descended from the offshoots brought to the California desert.
You can have a meal at the Shields cafe, or just try a date shake, which we did. I must admit it was a bit too sweet and too rich for my taste, and we were able to drink only a small amount.
I was glad to stock up on some medjool and deglet noor dates though, to bring home. Deglet Noor, which means "date of light," are semi-dry dates originally from Algeria. Today they're the leading commercial variety grown in the U.S. They ship well because they're semi dry and are chewier, but they're not as rich as medjools.
Before I eat them all out of hand, I do plan to make some sort of dessert with some of these dates. 
But since I'm not eating any cakes, cookies or pastries until Easter, I made a recipe for a savory dish from the Lebanese cookbook author, Maureen Aboud. 
Her recipe uses brussels sprouts, walnuts and dates, and it's a winning combination of sweet and bitter flavors.
I started by toasting some walnuts lightly in a dry saucepan, then I removed them and wiped the pan clean.
Then I added a little butter and olive oil, placed the sprouts cut side down, seasoned them, and put a lid on top.
Check them in four or five minutes. If you let them cook too long, or at too high a heat, they might brown too quickly, or even burn. So keep an eye on them.
Add the rest of the ingredients according to the recipe and you'll have a quick, easy to prepare and delicious side dish.
Just a few more "nerd notes" about dates: 
They're the oldest known cultivated tree crop and one of the most expensive to produce. 
From the time a date palm is planted, it can be 8 to 10 years before the first commercial crop is harvested. Though the date palm is a desert plant, it requires as much water as a willow.
Each female tree produces 150 to 300 pounds of dates per year, depending on the variety.
The trees at Shields Date Garden are 15 to 90 years old. To harvest the dates, workers climb permanent ladders that are attached to each tree and moved higher every few years as the trees grow. 

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Brussels Sprouts with Dates and Walnuts
from Maureenaboud.com
printable recipe here

INGREDIENTS
  • 16 oz. brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (or substitute lemon juice)
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 6 medjool dates
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Trim and halve the brussels sprouts.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the brussels sprouts cut-side down, and season lightly with salt and pepper. I covered with a lid at this point, but keep an eye on them because they'll burn quickly if on high heat. Mine cooked in only four or five minutes. Cook until the brussels sprouts are golden brown, adding more olive oil if the pan gets too dry. Stir the brussels sprouts and add the wine or lemon juice to deglaze the pan for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook at medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the brussels sprouts are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a serving bowl, combine the brussels sprouts with the dates and walnuts. Serve immediately.
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10 comments:

Frank Fariello said...

Dates have always intrigued me. I really like their flavor but other than just enjoying them as is, I never knew what to do with them. Thanks for this lovely idea!

Rosa said...

A fantastic flavour combination!

Cheers,

Rosa

Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

What a great idea. We like dates but usually just save them for desserts. I think adding the hint of sweetness to the sprouts makes the flavor extra special. I'm pinning!!

Chiara Giglio said...

faccio spesso i cavoletti di Bruxelles con noci o mandorle ma adesso mi hai dato una nuova idea, aggiungere i datteri ! Un abbraccio

Stacey Snacks said...

I LOVE DATES.
I mail order them from California and as you know, make a ton of things w/ them.
Shields looks wonderful! I have only purchased dates at date farms in Arizona.

This side dish is a great idea. Will make it!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I love dates and wish I would have brought some home when we were in the same area of California in February! What a delicious way to prepare Brussels Sprouts!

Paola said...

A wonderful post about what should be our state fruit, plump Medjool dates are my favorite as well. Each Christmas cookie season I send a nice package to my Zia in NJ to bake one of her iconic cookies. Date syrup is also wonderful and can be used as a substitute for honey. As a matter of fact it is that syrup or honey which is referred to with regard to the expression “The Land of Milk & Honey - Israel” Thank you for sharing this recipe, the bitterness of the Brussel sprouts along with the rich sweet dates sound absolutely divine.

I would be happy to send dates to you as well Linda.

Janie said...

Hope you had a wonderful vacation! I have some dates in the cupboard waiting for a chicken and basmati dish that I saw on Food 52.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I like preparing Brussels sprouts with something sweet, and pairing them with dates is a wonderful idea! I never knew that Medjool dates originated in California.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Paola - That's so sweet of you but shipping is so expensive, not to mention the price of the dates. I appreciate the offer though. Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment.