Why are stuffed (or wrapped) dates so delicious? For me, eaten alone, dates are almost too decadent – chewy with a cloying sweetness that likes to linger. Wrap dates in a cured pork or fill them with tangy goat cheese and it is a match made in heaven! I first had something like this years ago at a potluck and have been making variations of it ever since. I think this particular candied pecan recipe achieves the perfect balance of savory, sweet, spice and crunch. Whenever I make these, I get looks of pleasant surprise from the uninitiated and knowing smiles from those familiar with them. I especially like making these during the holiday season. Note: This recipe makes more pecans than stuffed dates; store extra pecans in an airtight container and they will keep for about a week. - gingerroot —gingerroot
Test Kitchen Notes
Yes, gingerroot just entered these beauties in our Open House contest but we've long had our eye on them. The thyme-spiked chevre and crackly spiced pecans are perfect foils for sticky sweet Medjool dates. Amanda called them "thirsty-making" and therefore ideal for an open house. Notes: We liked ours packed with goat cheese, and advise doubling the filling amounts (if you're chevre devils like us). You might also want to go scant on the 1/4 cup of agave, to avoid runoff and concentrate the spice. - A&M —The Editors
24 stuffed dates (easily doubled)
for the candied pecans
Chinese five-spice powder
cayenne (up to 1/2 teaspoon, depending on heat preference)
for the dates
orange or tangerine zest
soft goat cheese (such as Montrachet), set in a bowl at room temperature to soften a bit
Medjool dates, pitted by making a slit down the center and removing the pit, keeping the date as intact as possible
Prepare baking sheet by lining with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine spices in a small bowl and stir to mix.
Pour agave into small metal bowl or pie pan. Set bowl or pan over saucepan with small amount of boiling water for about a minute. This will make the agave easier to work with. Remove bowl or pan from heat.
Add pecans to agave and toss to coat.
Add spices to pecans and toss to coat.
Spread pecans on prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, checking and stirring (agave should be bubbling) once or twice with a wooden spoon. Pecans should be fragrant and golden brown. Be careful not to burn the pecans.
Remove pan from oven. As they cool, sprinkle pecans with a pinch of sea salt. Slowly begin separate the pecans from the parchment. If the pecans seem sticky, let them cool a little longer. When finished they should have a hard shell and a nice crunch.
Mix thyme and orange zest into softened goat cheese, stirring to combine evenly.
Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the top of each date and carefully remove the pit. Stuff dates with about 1/2 teaspoon of goat cheese, give or take some to fill the date.
Top each stuffed date with a candied pecan. Arrange on serving platter and watch them disappear!
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.