Monday, February 8, 2010

Little Devils in the Fires of Heaven

I feel badly because there is one little treat that my husband adores that I don't buy him nearly often enough....dates. Especially the soft kind that are still squishy and yielding to the touch. The kind that smell faintly of raisins and brown sugar and something else that's dark and musky. The kind that taste like remarkably like candy.

Most dates in this country are grown in the Coachella Valley, east of Indio, in date farms which consist of miles and miles of tall palm trees swaying in the desert wind. They thrive in the heat and absolutely love those summer temperatures that sometimes top 110 degrees, though they need copious amounts of water too. There is an old Arabic saying...."A date palm must have its feet in water and its head in the fires of heaven." Fresh dates are harvested in August through November, but are available nearly year round as they store well, and depending on the variety may be soft, semi-dry or dry.

The other day, I bought a package of delightfully golden brown Medjool dates and fixed them as an appetizer for book which my husband wasn't invited. (Don't worry, I did share a small plate with him...) Called Devils on Horseback, these used to be quite fashionable some time ago and are making a comeback for good reason--the soft date, almost too sweet on its own, marries beautifully with the tangy melted Gorgonzola and the salty crunch of smoked bacon. It tastes, in a word, heavenly, which seems awfully appropriate for a fruit born in the fires of heaven, doesn't it?

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Yield: 2 dozen appetizers


5 ounces of soft dried dates, or approximately 24
4 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese
1 pound of apple wood smoked bacon


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Make a slice down the length of each date and remove the pit. Stuff with a small hunk (about 1 teaspoon) of cheese. Cut each slice of bacon in half crosswise and wrap around the dates. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down.

Bake for 6 minutes on one side, remove from the oven and carefully turn dates with tongs, securing any loose bacon with toothpicks if necessary. Return to the oven and continue to bake until the bacon is crisp, another 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately.

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