Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stuffed dates -- A delicious test of patience

If you've never been to Cascal restaurant in Mountain View, California, you should make an effort to go.

Sit outside on a sunny afternoon and order the Tapas, specifically the stuffed dates.

These single bites of joy are comprised of dates, stuffed with cabrales cheese and wrapped with serrano ham.

While we've obviously been to Cascal and had the real thing, it's not always so easy to figure out how to make it at home. For one thing the real item is described as "grilled," but it's hard to imagine how they're grilling these tiny things (especially while it's snowing).

Next, I'm not driving all over town for this item and that item: I'm looking to make a similar dish with ingredients from the local grocery.

After a few tries we came up with what we're presenting today: It's easy and tasty and will impress the hell out of your friends. I promise.

We bought our dates at Costco (yes, we have enough freakin' dates to last a year). But we've also used the dates from Sun-Maid and they were great, too.

Cut each date on one side lengthwise, creating a sort of date butterfly -- similar to the way you would cut and open a baked potato.

Fill each date butterfly with crumbled feta cheese. Set aside your stuffed dates and prepare the prosciutto for wrapping.

If you haven't worked with prosciutto begin with a Valium or cocktail or whatever helps you relax -- this stuff is stuck together like pieces of delicate, greasy plastic wrap (you can have prosciutto hand cut in front of you, separated by little wax sheets, but the cost might be prohibitive for you as it is around our house).

Alright, after you've had your cocktail, count out half as many slices of prosciutto as you have butterfly dates. Cut the prosciutto slices in half and separate from one another (allowing the prosciutto to reach room temperature before trying to separate helps a tiny bit).

After you calm down from this frustrating activity, fold each piece of sliced, separated prosciutto so you have pieces roughly one-inch wide by three- to four-inches long.

Wrap each date with prosciutto holding the date closed and spike with a toothpick.

At this point we can suggest two final cooking techniques (use whichever you like or let us know what works for you).

Either throw the spiked nibbles onto your favorite cast iron griddle and brown them before putting into a 350 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes; or put them straight away into the oven for 20 minutes, doing a final "brown" under the broiler until the prosciutto edges are crisp.

Someday we'll try the "real" recipe with serrano ham and that cabrales cheese. Until then these little devils are easy (enough) to prep and cook and easiest of all to inhale in record-breaking, never-seen-food before time.

The final bonus? Dates are amazingly good for you. Good for you in that way appreciated by women of-a-certain-age (me and everyone I know).

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