Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates

March 26, 2014

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A citrus salad to tide you over until spring really comes -- and the stuffed dates you'll want to eat always.

Shop the Story

3 AM. My eyes fly open. I'm not sure who or what is to blame -- my coughing son, my snoring dog, my hormones, the loud drunken dude passing by our house, the mini earthquake -- but here I am, at 3 AM, staring at the ceiling, electrically awake. I am a vibrating blob of neuroses. I am slowly slipping over to the dark side. 

First I go through the minor stuff. Compost must go out tomorrow. Need more floss. Don't forget to make crêpes for the school party.

Then I jog through the annoyances. What in the world is that smell in the living room? Do I need to report those neighbors with the crazy dog? Where is my favorite potato peeler?

Then I get to the rants. The short-short denim shorts being sold in every single store that I can't wear because, well, they're just too short. Eleven-year-old kids glued to their iPods. Those new Jacked Doritos -- I mean what's wrong with original nacho cheese? And why didn't someone protect Justin Bieber from the perils of fame?

And then I drop into a full-scale tailspin about pesticides and antibiotics and too many cars and global warming. I breathe for my sick grandmother. I ache for my friend whose father just died. I worry about foster kids everywhere, the passengers on that missing Malaysian airliner, and the drama unfolding in Ukraine. 

I want to wake up my kids and kiss them. I want my husband to come home from his business trip so that I can hold his hand and hear his breath. I want to pull myself out of this ugly quicksand and find my way back to my dreams. 

I roll out of bed, walk down the hall, and enter the kitchen. 

I consider a shot of vodka. 

I reconsider. 

I stare at the daffodils and the platter of citrus on my kitchen table. I smile at the explosion of yellows and oranges glowing in the moonlight.

I feel recalibrated.

I return to bed and drift off to sleep assembling over and over again a salad of sliced navel oranges, broiled dates stuffed with goat cheese, and toasted almonds. I make the salad for lunch the next day. And the next. Until all of the citrus is gone and the daffodils are wilted.

Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates

Serves 1, generously 

1 shallot, diced
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 pitted dates
1/4 cup goat cheese (fresh and creamy, not aged)
A splash good balsamic 
2 navel oranges (or Cara Cara or juice oranges)
1 seedless tangerine
Coarse salt
1 tablespoon slivered blanched almonds, lightly toaste
Lemon zest (preferably made with a zester, but a Microplane is fine)
8 parsley leaves

See full recipe (and save it and print it) here.  

Photos by Phyllis Grant 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • linda
  • mommychef
  • SeattleDee
  • michelle
  • Colleen Rogers
    Colleen Rogers
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


linda April 23, 2015
I never realized I could save these on my Food52 site...jeez. When I ran across this, I remember making it two days before a major surgery, and savoring every single nibble. I wanted it to last forever. Thank you.
mommychef March 29, 2014
so delicious! I made it for my supper at work and then I was late because I ate it and had to make it again, totally worth it.
SeattleDee March 27, 2014
Food therapy that's delicious and gorgeous! Still smiling at your electric awake rants - you brightened my day.
michelle March 27, 2014
Ah, your writing. Amazingness squared.
Colleen R. March 27, 2014
Well done, and so true (you rock!). Can't wait to add this to the mix. Thanks!
Melina H. March 26, 2014
Ah, you. So good. The broiled dates pique my intrigue…. and I just happen to have some. From a friend who brought them back from Iran! Do you think taleggio would work? I have some leftover from a job, and well, it has to go someplace….
Kenzi W. March 26, 2014
I made this last night and it was sublime. I want it again tonight.
Kate March 26, 2014
This was really touching — thank you. I love stories about food helping people cope emotionally, though they are almost always sad. The touch of hope at the end of your essay is just beautiful.