The late summer heat has me dreaming of all things Moorish; exotic spices, grassy mint tea, souks with dark corners shrouded in silk -thread canopies, and gorgeous sweets like these. fresh dates have a pleasant albeit astringent taste. The longer they sit on your counter, the softer and sweeter they become. But, they are meant to be eaten as is. Dried dates are sweet and chewy and are great fodder for nuts, cheese and other salty bits. These fresh dates are really best left plain or poached to soft submission. The process is lengthy, but I promise the reward is a pot full of golden amber fruit, stuffed with nuts, in a pool of rich treacle heady with spice.
Sugar Poached Dates
this recipe takes 2 days to complete
100 fresh dates–peeled
water to cover
3 Tbs orange blossom water
100 non-pareil almonds
Place the dates in a pot large enough to hold the dates and water enough water to cover. You will want the water to come about 1 1/2 inches higher than the top of the dates. Add the orange blossom water. Cut the parchment paper to a round that will fit just inside of the pot, and then cut a small 1/2″ circle out of the middle of it. Place it on top of the water and simmer the dates, about an hour, until they are soft but not gushy. the parchment paper will keep the dates submerged in the water. drain and let cool–discard parchment. Using a small knife cut a slit in the date and remove the pit. do not cut completely in half, just enough to remove the pit. Replace the pit with an almond, and close the date around it.
3″ lemon peel-pith removed
3″ orange peel-pith removed
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods–lightly crushed
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs orange blossom water
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
Place all ingredients in a heavy pot. Cook to dissolve the sugar. Add back dates and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit 12 hours or overnight-covered–once cooled, place in the refrigerator.
Remove the dates from the syrup once again, reserving and measuring syrup. Add enough water to make 5 cups. However much water you added, add an equal amount of sugar. (example, if you needed to add 1 cup of water to equal 5 cups total syrup, then also add 1 cup of sugar). Stir
add back the dates and simmer, very gently, until the syrup is very thick and dates are a nice amber color. This may take 1 to 2 hours. Do not just let it boil away–keep a good eye on it. The syrup should not get any more dense than corn syrup.
Serve as is or sprinkle grated pistachio nuts and dress with gold leaf. Place a few over a bowl of plain yogurt or serve with a simple lemon tea cake. I can’t help but think these would make a delicious amuse bouche before a colorful Moroccan meal of cumin and carrot soup, lamb tagine and lemon couscous
Our family, adults and children alike, gather each August for a beach vacation. Without fail, as predictable as the tides, each of us slides into our expected role as if we never left it. It is instinctual. Although we are all competent cooks,
I am easily coaxed into cooking big family dinners. The kitchen is where I do my best work and my siblings lovingly recognize it. My sister-in-law, anxious to learn new things, was my willing sous chef. I am happy to report that she successfully duplicated this at a dinner party of her own. I love this recipe for its simplicity. It can be served cool or room temperature; artfully showcasing the beauty of eggplant.
1 large eggplant–cut into 1/4″ thick slices
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
3 Tbs finely chopped coriander
2 garlic cloves–finely chopped and smashed to a paste
generous pinch crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
generous pinch kosher salt (more or less to taste)
juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/2 -3/4 cup good olive oil
2 oz chevre
Layer the eggplant between paper towels to dry at least 4 hours but as long as overnight. Put the parsley, coriander, garlic, red pepper, and lemon juice in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to make a loose dressing.
Cook the Eggplant
Heat a skillet (it does not have to be non-stick) over medium heat. Let it get warm before placing slices of the eggplant directly on it. do not add oil, butter or spray. The eggplant will not stick. Watch it carefully and cook until it is lightly browned and softened. I tend to pay attention and flip each one 4 or 5 times before it is fully cooked through. Cook in batches and arrange the warm pieces on your serving platter. As each layer is placed on your platter…place a bit of dressing on each piece..use the back of a spoon to spread it. Do not saturate, you only want a tasting, not a drowning. Sprinkle a bit of salt on each layer as you go. Once you have cooked and layered all of the eggplant, sprinkle the chevre evenly over the top. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This can be made a full day in advance. I like to take it out of the refrigerator about a half of an hour before serving.
The leftover dressing is wonderful on steaks, chicken and shrimp..or just to dip your bread in.
While there is little chance of leftover eggplant, it is wonderful added it to sandwiches and morning omelets.
Honestly, I’m not sure if i have actually tasted the original lemon cooler cookie. I do know that I wanted to try them. But alas, they were in a box, on a shelf, in the grocery store. Lest you forgot, we have established that my mom didn’t do “store bought”. Odds are I only remember these cookies by how my friends, with better brown bag lunches than mine, described them. Which is why I believe my version is a perfect impostor. It packs a lemony punch with a sweet sugar chaser.
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter–room temp
2 cups powdered sugar-divided
2 heaping tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Stir together flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until evenly mixed. Beat in lemon zest and lemon juice. slowly stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Gather the dough and form into a flat ball. Divide dough into 4 pieces, rolling each into a log. The diameter of the log is to your own specifications, depending on your desired cookie size. My preference is about 2″ round. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. You may also freeze the log(s) at this time. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Remove the log from plastic wrap and slice in 1/4″ rounds. Tt is helpful to twist the log clockwise each time you cut, so as to avoid a flattened bottom. Place cookies 1″ apart on the cookie sheet and bake approximately 10-12 minutes. Cookies are done when they are just turning golden on the bottom. While cookies are baking, place the remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. As you remove the cookies from the oven, they will be too delicate to handle. Once they are cooled a bit (not fully cool, still slightly warm), carefully turn them in the powdered sugar, and place back onto same cookie sheet. The sugar will melt slightly and be a bit like frosting. Once the cookies are fully cooled, toss them in the powdered sugar a second time.