I love pistachios. They are by far the prettiest of nuts, and they are fun to eat in their little shells. During my macaron adventure I learned that pistachios plus rose water is a wonderful combination, and so when I saw this post from Beth over at One Hundred Eggs it immediately caught my eye. I filed it in my “next time I have a party” pile, and pulled it back out for a friend’s baby shower a few months later. I am so glad I did! The soft sticky dates, with the sweet honeyed nuts and just a hint of floral fragrance go so well together. The warm spices offset all that sweet nicely too, so it’s not tooth ache inducing.
Oh and, they were easy too! Yeah, it’s assembly work so it takes some time, but it’s the kind of thing you can do while watching TV and not mess up. (otherwise known as “couch cooking” in my house. I can often be found in front of the TV with my big cutting board in my lap and a pile of something to be chopped/peeled/stuffed/wrapped in a big bowl next to me.)
I also took Beth’s advice and wrapped about half of them in bacon and popped them into the oven to get crispy. Stroke of genius. The salty crispy meat against the sweet sticky date and the nutty-spiced filling – so much going on there and it’s all good. Sadly, they were pretty much the ugliest party food I’ve ever made, and it was reflected in the fact that nobody ate the darned things. Granted, we also had about 3 times as much food at the party as we needed, but still, I ended up taking almost all of them home again. I’m not sure why I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing though…it meant I got to eat them all myself! You can see a picture of them, looking sad compared to the rest of the party food, on my friend Dani’s blog here. Scroll down about halfway through her post and check out the bottom corner of the table. Ugly right? But totally delicious. The mama-to-be (who as of yesterday is a mama! Congrats Lisa!) described the non-baconed version as baklava wrapped in a date.
I made some changes from Beth’s recipe – I increased the amount of pistachios (of course) and took it easy on the rose water. I love rose water, but I do not like a heavy dose of it. It starts to make me feel like I’m eating a fancy floral soap. And I did the whole thing in the food processor since that seemed like an easier way to combine nuts with sticky honey.
Stuffed Dates adapted from One Hundred Eggs
1/2 cup almonds
3/4 cup pistachios (or other nut if you insist)
1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1 healthy pinch of salt
1-2 tsp rosewater
30 pitted dates
15 pieces of bacon, cut in half (Optional)
1. Toast your nuts. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 4-8 minutes. Keep an eye on them, burnt nuts are a horrible thing and cannot be salvaged.
2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the spices and sugar and pulse to combine. Add the honey (start with about half of it and see what happens) and the rosewater and pulse to combine.
3. Squeeze a pinch of the nut mix. If the clump holds together you are good to go. If not, add the rest of the honey (and feel free to consider adding more rose water as well. Taste it and see what you think) and pulse to combine. The resulting mixture reminded me of Floam, and started to climb the sides of the food processor.
4. Stuff the pitted dates with the nut mixture. Both the filling and the date are sticky enough that you shouldn’t have any problems getting the filling to stay put. Just put a spoonful in there and shape the date back into a football shape around the filling. You will get sticky; just go with it and remember not to lick your fingers until you are done. (to pit dates – cut a slit down one side of the date using a paring knife. Remove pit. Very easy)
5. (Optional) Wrap with bacon, using tooth picks if needed to hold the bacon in place. Bake on a broiling pan or rack above a cookie sheet at 375 degrees till the bacon is crispy. Let cool and eat. Tasty warm or at room temp.
The bacon-less version will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temp. The bacon-ed version needs to be refrigerated to store and should be reheated for a few minutes in a warm oven. And should you be without food processor, this could all be done with some diligent knife work on the nuts, maybe a little smashing in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin, and then just stirring in the spices and honey by hand.