I hate raisins. I really actually dislike most dried fruit - I'm not sure if it's the texture, or the cloying sweetness, but I can't stand them, particularly in savory dishes. BUT, my stance on the issue recently took a serious hit. If you'll remember, Mark and I had the pleasure of dining at Komi a couple of weeks ago, and one of our favorite little dishes was the mascarpone-stuffed Medjool date. It was this amazing bite, balancing the soft sweetness of the date, the richness of the mascarpone and the sea salt. I would have been happy had the rest of the meal been composed of a plate of those jewels.
Then, last week, we celebrated Mark's friend's birthday at Bodega in Georgetown, where we had delicious crispy fried dates wrapped in bacon. What was happening?! Did I have to reconsider my position on dried fruit?
After a little research, I think I'm okay sticking with my hatred. Medjool dates are an exception to the rule, not your run-of-the-mill dried fruit. Instead, these juicy, almost meaty treasures are considered the "king of dates" and were once reserved for Moroccan royalty and their guests. And through some miracle, I found them in the produce section yesterday at Safeway! I grabbed a couple dozen juicy dates, a package of mascarpone cheese, and some thinly sliced prosciutto, and headed home to try and recreate the Komi magic.
Click below for the recipe!
I used this recipe at foodandwine.com, which called for things I already had floating around my house (other than the dates, mascarpone and prosciutto).
First, I preheated the oven at 400 degrees, then mixed together 2 tablespoons of room temperature Mascarpone, 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 a teaspoon of honey, a very large pinch of lemon zest (I LOVE lemon zest), and a little bit of kosher salt and pepper.
I then de-pitted the dates, slitting each one down the side and popping the pit out.
Next, I filled the dates with the mascarpone mixture, using about a teaspoon for each.
Finally, I wrapped each date with half a slice of prosciutto (sliced lengthwise).
I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and seared the dates quickly, just to crisp up the prosciutto. I stuck the dates in the oven to heat through, just 3-4 minutes.
Holy crap, these are incredible. Mark even said that they were the best thing I'd ever made, which, I'm not going to lie, made me feel a little bad since they were so damned simple. The dates are so luscious, almost creamy and just the right amount of sweet. The mascarpone is very rich, but that richness is perfectly cut by the acidity and brightness of the lemon juice and zest. And the prosciutto...well, there is almost nothing that prosciutto can't improve. Here, it lends a great contrasting saltiness and crispness to the bite. But, I think if you wanted to keep it meat-less, you could leave off the prosciutto and just sprinkle each date with some nice sea salt. Either way, these babies will definitely be making a regular appearance at my house - I can't think of a more impressive appetizer to serve to hungry friends.