Here’s something you didn’t know about dates: when the date trees were dying of disease in Morocco, if it weren’t for the quick and effective work of Walter Swingle in 1927, the world would have no dates. Swingle made 11 cuttings and brought them back to California. Morocco’s trees were completely destroyed, and all today’s dates are descended from these few plants.
The date doesn’t get nearly enough love in culinary circles. But who am I to complain? I use them once a year, and I might not even do that if it weren’t for a happy accident I made at my first Thanksgiving.
As a newlywed, not knowing how to make Thanksgiving dinner, I turned to the only current authority on domestic matters, Martha Stewart. Her stuffing recipe called for dried pears and dried plums (“prunes” were being giving a new brand at the time). Of course, I knew well enough what dried plums were, and also that I didn’t want them in my stuffing. And so I reached for the dates, figuring that they had to be better. And they were spectacular.
My stuffing used to be a recipe, but it’s such a hodgepodge now that I don’t even know how to write it out. Here’s the rough outline:
- 10 oz sourdough, cubed
- 1 cornbread
- 1 onion
- several carrots
- 1 celery
- 12 dried pear halves
- 12 chopped dates
- handfull of fresh herbs, esp sage and parsley
- 2 C stock
- extra butter for any stuffing that doesn’t go into the bird
Leave the bread out overnight to dry out. Chop, then saute the veggies in a bit of butter. Cut the fruits up into small pieces. Mince the herbs. Mix it all together and top with the stock. Salt and pepper all of it. Bake as much as you can in the bird. Anything that is leftover can be baked with a bit of extra butter and some pan drippings for added unctuousness.
If you are faced with too many leftovers, mix whatever remains into meatloaf for a treat unlike any other.