Are you ready for your hot date tonight? Medjool or deglet?
Oh yes, I am indeed talking about the sweet and energy-dense fruit from the date palm tree. Dates are ubiquitous in plant-based recipes, and you've likely noticed them popping up in a chocolate mousse, raw cookie or brownie or even savory recipe near you. They're packed with fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and K. They’re packed with carbohydrates and natural sugars. Sure, they are filled with sugar, so don’t go overboard, but dates are also nutrient-dense powerhouses that add both sweetness and richness to many dishes.
1. How to get a date.
Looking for a nice date? Medjool dates are typically larger, softer and sweeter than other dates, so they're the ones to buy if you're using them to make date paste, purée into a chocolate mousse or chia pudding, or adding to warm, savory dishes. Medjool dates taste like a sweet mix of caramel, cinnamon and honey. Try to buy organic when possible, or if it’s not possible, look for dates that haven’t been treated with sulfur (many date sellers add it to preserve the color). Medjool dates have wrinkly skin and softer interiors.
Deglet dates are chewier and drier and usually a bit smaller — they're great to snack on, add to muesli or granola and are dry enough to hold up in baking recipes. You’ll also see more moist dates like khadrawy, halawy, barhi or drier varieties like zahidi or thoory, but the Medjool and deglet are the most common here in the United States. And make sure you look into your date’s family history. Most dates in the U.S. come from California, but fresh Medjools from Morocco or Algeria are absolutely divine if you can get your hands on some.
2. Speed dating.
Think you have no time for dating? In an ideal world, we’d be picking fresh dates from the garden under the California sun, but that’s typically not possible. Even Medjool dates tend to be dried out a great deal for longer shelf lives at a supermarket near you. So here's a quick speed-dating tip!
Pour some hot water over the date and let sit for 1-5 minutes (depending on how hard/dry the date is to start) or until the date softens. The skin will naturally peel off (I know, I know, there are lots of nutrients in the skin, but the rest of the date is still packed with nutrients and, come on, your silky smooth avocado mousse depends on this!) After you peel the skin, remove the pit and, voilà! Your date is ready for you!
3. What to do with a date.
The possibilities are endless! Blend your date with avocado, cacao powder, some nut milk and spices for a delectable chocolate mousse, blend (in a Vitamix — your date, like you, should only be treated to the finest) with almonds or hemp seeds, some sea salt and vanilla for a creamy nut milk or blend with a bit of water to form a date paste and store in the fridge to use as a natural sweetener in recipes all week long. Dates are also wonderful in savory dishes like raw tomato sauce, salad dressings or nut pâtés. Blend a date with some grated carrots, tahini or almond butter, miso paste and lemon juice for a delicious “pâté” to eat on crackers, (gluten-free) bread or wrapped up in a nori roll.
And try this sweet and savory sauce to pour over salad, veggies, grains, noodles … or even just lick out of the bowl (yes, it’s that good):