Make it a 'date' night

Enjoy healthy eating with date palm fruit

lauradates image

Date night is every night when you can enjoy the caramel goodness and health benefits of dates. Date palm trees originate in the Middle East. The fruit of the tree, dates, is grown in large bunches, and trees can produce as many as 1,000 dates a year.

Dates are indeed a super food. High in fiber, potassium, flavonoids (which can help reduce risk of cancer, inflammation, Alzheimer's), brain boosting properties, and more, dates are a powerhouse. As a natural sweetener, dates have a lower glycemic impact on our bodies than honey. Dates are also easier on the environment and bees.

Dates are versatile and while they are certainly delicious eaten out of hand, they are used in both savory and sweet recipes. Medjool dates are the king of dates. Plump, large, and boasting a syrupy flavor, Medjool dates are the most commonly grown date and easiest to find in a grocery store. 

Deglet Noor dates have a subtle flavor and hold their shape when cooked. I love these dates for savory dishes like my Lamb Tagine or Braised Chicken with Dates. Barhi, Halawi, and Khadrawi are super sweet, a bit fragile, and very delicious. These dates are best used for baking and smoothies. 

Date and Olive Relish with Roasted Feta

Hot summer date nights call for quick and easy tapas-style meals. Keep your cool with this Mediterranean inspired dish. Serve as a first course or as a light dinner with a salad.

Serves 4+ as a light dinner and 6+ as a tapa. 

4 ounces pitted kalamata olives, lightly chopped

4 ounces pitted cracked green olives, lightly chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Pinch of crushed red chilies (optional)

½ cup pitted dates, lightly chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup toasted almonds, lightly chopped

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 small shallots, minced

16 ounces feta cheese in 1 chunk

1 baguette or rustic bread

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

  1. Combine olives, lemon zest and juice, crushed chilies, dates, olive oil, almonds, parsley, and shallots. Stir to combine.
  2. Place feta in an oven-proof dish. Drizzle cheese with olive oil and roast in oven for about 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly browned and toasty and the cheese is soft.
  3. Transfer cheese to a serving dish. Pile relish on top of cheese.
  4. Serve with sliced bread or grill sliced bread and serve. 

Date Smoothies

Serves 2

2 bananas, frozen

½ cup yogurt

2 cups almond milk (or your favorite alt. milk)

1/3 cup pitted dates

½ cup ice cubes

Splash of vanilla extract

Dash of cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt 

  1. Process bananas, yogurt, almond milk, dates, ice, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a blender until creamy and smooth. 

All-Purpose Date Sauce

Delicious on tacos, gorgeous brushed on grilled chicken or fish, and zesty drizzled over grilled veggies, this sauce is your summer and year-round, next-level sauce. 

Make a double batch and keep covered in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months. With no corn syrup or added sugars (other than the dates), this sauce is complex, tangy, sweet, and versatile.

Yield 2 cups 

1 red onion, cut into quarters

1 medium ripe tomato, cut into quarters

1 medium red pepper, seeded and cut in half

4 cloves garlic

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and soaked for 20 minutes in hot water

2 teaspoons chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (canned)

¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup pitted dates (Medjool dates)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of ground cloves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper 

  1. Place onion, tomato, pepper, and garlic on lined sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 3-5 minutes until charred on one side (this goes fast so don't walk away). Turn and broil on the other side. Remove garlic if it is getting too dark.
  2. Place pepper in a bowl and cover with foil to steam. Place onion, garlic, and tomato in blender or food processor. Add soaked ancho chilies, chipotle, orange, and lime juices, cider vinegar, dates, oregano, cumin, cloves, olive oil, salt, and pepper to blender. Process until smooth.
  3. Peel red pepper and add to blender. Process until smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Store sauce, covered, in fridge, for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months. 

Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.

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