This post is sponsored by Heinen's and I am giving away 2 more gift certificates for cooking classes at The Viking Cooking School. Details on how to enter are at the end of this post.
While in Michigan recently on a business trip, I made a few stops in Ann Arbor to visit the Zingerman's establishments. For those unfamiliar with Zingerman's, it is small group of food related companies in the Ann Arbor area. A few examples of their businesses include:
- Zingerman's Deli - Featuring huge corned beef sandwiches, an exceptional array of farmhouse cheeses, estate-bottled olive oils, varietal vinegars, smoked fish, salami, coffee, tea and much, much more.,
- Zingerman's Bakehouse - Handmade, artisan breads & pastries. Located inside the deli.
- Zingerman's Creamery - hand-crafted cheese and gelato
- Zingerman's Roadhouse - Chef Alex Young, two time James Beard award finalist, serves up, "really good American food." Young's menu features seasonal, heirloom products, with much of the food coming a farm owned by the Zingerman's a few miles away.
The roasted dates are definitely the easiest dish I've made from Live to Cook, and they were pretty tasty too. Michael describes this dish as the, "perfect balance of the taste elements I love," sweet, savory, salty, nutty, & spicy.
Dates & Wine
In this picture you may notice there are two different kinds of dates. Heinen's had two different kinds of dates so I decided to buy them both and do a side by side test. On the left are California whole pitted dates by Dole ($2 for 8oz); on the right were Medjool dates, with pits ($5.99 for 10oz).
The wine pictured above is not for the dish, it's the wine Laurie at the Avon Heinen's recommended I serve with the roasted dates. She thought a food friendly, lighter red wine would pair nicely with the dates, as well as the rest of the food I was planning to serve. After considering a couple Pinot Noirs & Barbera's, she decided on this 2006 Dolcetto D'Alba. As always, she was spot on. This wine was a great choice!
Dates ready to go in the oven
The first step in the recipe calls for the dates to be roasted until heated through. Because the Medjool dates were not pitted, I had to slice them open and remove the pits. This was pretty easy to do, although the dates were pretty sticky.
Prior to baking the dates, I tasted each variety. I thought the Medjool dates tasted much better. They had more sweetness to them and I preferred their texture. Would the same thing hold true when the final dish came together? Read on...
Pancetta & almonds browning
While the dates were warming, I browned the pancetta, almonds & garlic in a sauce pan. Once they were browned I added some homemade chicken stock to the pan, along with some crushed Thai chili's from Spicehound. I was out of crushed red pepper but thought the Thai chili's would work well.
I brought this mixture to a simmer, making sure to scrap up any of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan, and let it reduce down a little before removing it from the heat and mixing in some butter, lemon juice, & parsley. All of this took less than 10 minutes.
After the sauce was mixed well, I mixed in the warm dates, making sure to toss them around to get the sauce inside the pitted dates.
The dates tasted A LOT better than this picture looks!
I was very surprised by the results of my test comparing the two different dates. I thought the larger, plumper Medjool dates tasted better alone, but everyone preferred the smaller Dole dates in this dish.
The real star of the dish was the sauce though. Like Michael says in the book, it was the perfect combination of sweet, savory, salty, nutty, & spicy. We all thought the sauce could be used in many different preparations. For example, on top of a grilled piece of fish or chicken.
Dates are a very easy, delicious, healthy snack to prepare for a party. Michael's rendition is very good, although the best I've ever had were the chorizo stuffed dates at Avec in Chicago. Michelle at Cleveland Foodie tried her best to recreate them here. I suggest giving them both a try next time you need a quick, easy appetizer.
By the way, if you are interested in trying Michael Symon's version, they can be found on the menu at Lolita.
CostI will provide the approximate cost for each recipe in the book, as well as the source of the products used.
It cost about $8 to make these delicious Roasted Dates with Pancetta, Almonds, and Chile.
Dates - $1
Pancetta - $4.99
Almonds - $1
Miscellaneous (garlic, crushed thai chilies, homemade chicken stock, butter, lemon juice, flat leaf parsley) - $1
WIN A GIFT CERTIFICATE FOR YOU AND A GUEST TO ATTEND A COOKING CLASS OF YOUR CHOICE AT THE VIKING COOKING SCHOOL
Heinen's has once again been kind enough to give two lucky readers a gift certificate good for two people to attend the class of their choice at the Viking Cooking School - for those of you outside of Cleveland, sorry but the passes are only good at the school at Legacy Village in the Cleveland area. There are multiple ways you can enter:
- Leave a comment on this post describing your favorite appetizer to make
- Tweet this post on Twitter
- Mention this post on Facebook
You can enter one time per day so feel free to come back every day to add another comment, tweet, etc. Be sure to leave a comment for each entry and make sure to leave an email address where I can contact you in case you win. Last time I had no way to contact the first two winners I picked so I had to re-pick. I will pick the lucky winners next week via www.random.org/. Good luck!