Dates are loaded with natural sweetness, but it is challenging to actually taste their flavor. To bring out the underlying flavor of dates, I like to cook them in a slightly sweet Madeira, a Portuguese fortified wine.
The dates in this recipe are just barely infused with Madeira and vanilla, preserving the dates’ intrinsic and delectable creamy texture. The candied citrus is a necessary extra step, but candied fruit will last in the refrigerator for months. The filling, with its candied Meyer lemon and kumquats, currants, and cashews, provides an acidic, fruity, crunchy, and nutty counterweight to the richness and sweetness of the dates.
- 12 to 14 Medjool dates (12 ounces) (see Notes)
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup Madeira, medium sweetness
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup (2½ ounces) roasted, unsalted cashews
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) packed currants
- 1 teaspoon dark rum
- 1 tablespoon chopped candied kumquat (or candied orange)
- 1 tablespoon chopped candied Meyer lemon
- 1 tablespoon candied Meyer lemon syrup
- Small glass or metal baking dish large enough to hold the dates in one layer
- Food processor or coffee grinder
Prepare the dates:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. With a paring knife, make a slit down the long side of each date. Gently pry open the date and remove the pit. Place the dates, cut side down, in a baking dish.
Run a paring knife down the center of 1 vanilla bean. Split it open with your fingers and use the knife to scrape out the tiny black seeds into a small saucepan. Add the vanilla pod (or vanilla extract), Madeira, and sugar and simmer over medium heat for 4 minutes. Pour the hot syrup over the dates and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the dates from the oven, flip them over so that the cut side faces up, cover, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover, and allow the dates to cool. Remove the vanilla bean, dry it, and save it for another use.
Prepare the filling:
Grind the cashews in a food processor or coffee grinder. Place the currants in a bowl and sprinkle the rum over them. Add the cashews, candied citrus, and cadied citrus syrup and mix together to form a paste.
Stuff the dates:
Remove the dates from the syrup and arrange them on a tray, cut side up. Stuff a small portion of filling into the cavity of the date, allowing some filling to mound on the top. Press the 2 halves of the date together a round the filling.
Serve these dates warm, with the Madeira cooking syrup drizzled on the plate. A small dollop of crème fraîche will complement these sweet dates perfectly. At Chanterelle we serve these dates with the Goat Cheesecake.