No. 109 & 110: Roasted Dates with Pancetta & Date Shakes

This is a Double Date post. Get it?

Sorry for that, but I couldn't resist. Just like I couldn't resist a big pack of fancy Medjool dates at Trader Joe's last weekend. They looked so fresh, so sweet, so tantalizing. I couldn't just walk away.

Dates & Bikes

If you ever go to Palm Springs, one of the things you must do is one of the bike tours that also takes you to one of the date gardens in the area. Nothing is better than a date shake at the end of a long, hot ride.

About a year ago, I gathered with a bunch of girlfriends in Palm Springs for a bachelorette weekend. Without a doubt, the bike ride/date shake experience was a serious highlight.

Palms

Love those date palms. And these gals.

Gals

Right after this we biked 20 more minutes and then did serious damage on some date shakes.

Roasted Dates with Pancetta, Almonds & Chile

This Michael Symon recipe features dates as the main attraction, but adds enough layers of flavor to make it a hearty side or first nibble.

Ingredients

2 cups pitted dates
3 ounces pancetta, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1/4 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To make

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pit dates.

Dates

Put the dates on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it is three-quarters crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds and continue cooking until they brown, a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the red pepper flakes and stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, stirring continuously until the butter is melted. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley.

Sauce

Add the dates to the pan and swirl and toss them in the sauce. Simmer a couple minutes to thicken sauce.

Final sauce

Divide the cooked dates among plates and spoon the sauce over them.

Date Shakes

This classic apparently started in Coachella Valley in the 1930s, and is still beloved today. Oasis Date Gardens makes 300+ shakes a day and they supplied their recipe to SAVEUR.

Ingredients

Serves 2
1 cup dates, such as deglet noor or medjool
1 cup milk
2 cups quality vanilla ice cream

To make

Pit and chop dates. Put dates and milk into blender and purée until smooth. Add ice cream.

Ice cream

Purée again. Divide shake between 2 tall glasses.

The results

Double Date success!

The roasted dates with pancetta were terrific, and make a wonderful sauce to spoon over grilled chicken.

Fig & Chicken

Surpringly, I liked the date shake less than the main date dish. It may have been that I used vanilla frozen yogurt instead of full cream ice cream. The consistency was a bit thin.

Date shake

I put the glass in the freezer for a few minutes and the shake froze up nicely.

We still have plenty of dates to use, so I'm anticipating a few more dishes this Easter weekend. Perhaps stuffed with chorizo or manchego? Both sound divine.

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