April 3, 2005
A few days later, I am still thrilled with this. It's red wine-poached dates with spiced red wine reduction, served with mascarpone cheese. This was, arguably, the best thing I have tasted for a long time. And I don't even like dates.
The recipe is from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.) from which I have so far made and enjoyed quite a few stuff, but this particular recipe called Apician Spiced Dates, adopted from the author's local NY Italian restaurant named Lupa, didn't come to my attention for a while because, like I have just said, I don't normally care for dates among other dried fruits.
And just recently, it finally sort of happened; I was re-reading the book on the train and it somehow caught my notice, probably because it involves spicing wine - I love mulled (spiced) hot wine (I even made mulled wine cake !).
I was a bit tempted to substitute figs for dates, but eventually stuck to the recipe this time around, just to see how it would turn out. It was pretty easy to make - you just need a bunch of whole spices. First I poached dates in red wine and skinned them, then replaced the pits with roasted whole almonds (it was fun!).
While working on the dates, I boiled down the wine with honey and spices - whole black peppercorns, allspice, clove, cinnamon, and a bay leaf, along with grated zest of orange. It was smelling lovely.
Now I had some idea as to what this would taste like. I knew I like mulled wine, I also like mascarpone cheese, and I didn't particularly like dates but I at least knew what they taste like. There seemed nothing special about the spiced wine, except maybe for bay leaf. I knew I would - and I should - enjoy what I was about to have.
What I didn't know was how beautifully this set of ingredients would work together. The dates somehow lost their typical stickiness and chewiness and turned soft-to-bite, sweet but not overly so. The spiced wine sauce was incredibly aromatic, highly nuanced thanks to the mixture of spices, and made a great match to the soft dates and creamy mascarpone. I didn't know dates and mascarpone would be such an Italian treat.
I was blown away at the first bite, and couldn't help but wishing I had made more (I only prepared three dates!). I will most definitely make this again, and I can't wait to try black figs in this.
posted by chika at: 4/03/2005 02:07:00 PM