Large, caramel-like Medjool dates are richly flavored with an irresistible sweetness — and they’re available in your fresh produce department. And Israel is a growing player in the date-export business.
The recycling of wastewater has been instrumental to the flourishing of Israeli date crops, allowing Israel to claim 60 percent of the global Medjool market today.
The Medjool, whose name means “unknown” in Arabic, came to Israel from California, where Americans were tending palms gifted by the king of Morocco in a bid to save his country’s date heritage after a blight in the 1950s.
Sweet as sugar, dates are an essential ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern side dishes, chicken specialties and other dishes. But here, we’re celebrating Medjool dates’ soft and nutritious sweetness for dessert and in baked goods.
Remove the pits from the dates by slitting them along the side.
Combine the nuts and chopped candied orange peel. Fill date cavities with nut mixture and roll in powdered sugar.
Preheat oven to 375˚. Spray an 8-inch pie pan with baking spray.
Cream the margarine until light and fluffy. Add the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar and egg and knead into smooth dough.
Put half the dough into the prepared pie pan. Top with half the chopped dates. Cover with rest of dough and arrange rest of dates atop.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour until pie looks done. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
In a saucepan, over low heat, combine the dates, apricots, sugar and water. Stir constantly until mixture becomes thick. Set aside and cool.
Preheat oven to 350˚. Cream the brown sugar and margarine. Mix in the rest of ingredients until mixture is crumbly.
Coat a 13x9-inch pan with baking spray. Press half of the crumb mixture into the pan. Carefully spread the date mixture over the crumbs. Top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until light brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars when cool.
Makes 2 dozen bars.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl, stir together the dates, thyme and garlic. Drizzle with honey and stir to combine; set aside.
Lay one sheet of phyllo pastry onto work surface and brush lightly with some of the butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo pastry and brush with some more of the butter.
Repeat layers with last two sheets of phyllo and butter. Place brie in center of phyllo pastry. Spoon date mixture on top of brie.
Using a sharp knife cut corners off phyllo pastry and discard.
Bring up edge of pastry up and over brie and continue all folding phyllo up around brie to cover. Brush with remaining butter and place on prepared sheet.
Bake in a preheated 400˚oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand about 5 minutes before cutting into and serving.
Tip: Prepare brie with phyllo, cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before baking. Brush lightly with butter before baking. May take a few minutes longer in oven to turn golden.
Preheat oven to 325˚. Line a 8x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Combine peanut butter, honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract in food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Add in the oats and process until thoroughly combined. Add in the nuts, seeds and dates.
Press the mixture into baking pan, distributing evenly and tightly packed.
Bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the freezer for at least an hour or until bars are firm.
Remove from pan with parchment paper and cut into bars (your choice of size).
Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.
Makes 8 to 12 bars.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 47 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .