Gorgonzola Dates

April 13, 2010

There are many dates in a year that stick out for one reason or another.  Birthdays, anniversaries, days that mark a momentous occasion just to name a few.  One of the most recent of these dates to remember would be Super Bowl Sunday 2010, the day I tasted my first Gorgonzola Date.

Until that fateful day I had not even tasted a date before, let alone consider it crave-worthy.  That all changed with just one bite.  We were at the house of a close friend’s father to watch the big game when he pulled these beauties out of the oven, placed them on a bed of lemon butter sauce and asked me if I wanted one.  They smelled wonderful, and who can resist anything with gourmet cheese and bacon?  Certainly not I!  The minute I placed that date in my mouth I was hooked.  Even more so when I was encouraged to pair this new delectable with a glass of bold red wine.  I think I controlled myself at consuming no more than 3 that night, but the memory would not leave.

I’ve secretly been looking for an occasion, any occasion really, to try my hand at this recipe.  That occasion came Saturday night as we hosted some friends for dinner.  This group was perfect to test my recipe on: they love good cheese, fine wine and adventure.  And it did not disappoint.  It was good to have my new friend back on my plate as I enjoyed good conversation and a glass of bold, red wine. 

This recipe is perfect for any social occasion when you want an impressive hors d’oeuvre that takes minimal effort for maximum results.

 Gorgonzola Dates

Ingredients
Medjool Dates
Applewood Smoked Bacon (1 slice per 3 dates)
Wedge of firm aged gorgonzola cheese
2 medium lemons
White Pepper
Kosher salt
1 stick of butter chilled, cut into 8 pieces
Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Cut slices of bacon into three even pieces and set aside.  With a small paring knife cut a slit length wise in each date and remove seed within.  Cut a small piece of gorgonzola from the cheese wedge and fill date with gorgonzola so that date is fully stuffed.    Take a piece of bacon and wrap around the stuffed date, securing with a toothpick.  Place date seam side down on a greased rimmed baking sheet.  Once you have all your dates stuffed and wrapped, bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until bacon is browned and slightly crispy.

While the dates are cooking in the oven squeeze the juice of 2 medium lemons into a small medium-bottomed saucepan.  Add a pinch of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper to the juice and boil until reduced to 1 tablespoon.  Remove from heat and immediately whisk in 2 pieces of butter until melted.  Place pan over very low heat and whisk in butter one piece at a time until all pieces are incorporated into a creamy sauce.  Remove from heat and set aside until dates are done cooking.

When dates are ready, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Cover the bottom of your serving plate with lemon butter sauce, it should have thickened some as it cooled and drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top of the sauce.  Place the dates on the sauce and serve.

Adapted from: family friend recipe; Mastering the Art of French Cooking

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It’s Easter Sunday, 2010, Robert and  I have just arrived back in town from visiting my grandparents in Texarkana.  We head to Central Market to purchase our groceries for the week only to find that our beloved store is closed for the holiday.  Where can we go?  We remember that a new Whole Foods just opened up just up Greenville Ave, so we head that direction, hoping it is not also closed.

We pull into the parking lot and are excited, it’s new and shiny.  Ooh, they have all sorts of flowers and planting items for sale, how fun!  We are confident this will be a fun and exciting new place.  We walk into the produce section and it’s chaos.  I pick up a tomato, see the organic sticker on it, put it down and can’t find a normal tomato.  Surely they have the organics in one location and the normal in another right?  WRONG!  Everything is mixed up, hodge podge.  It’s ok, we can do this.  I pick up a lemon, see the organic label again, put it down.  Hunt for a new lemon…3 minutes later I find the normal lemons.  They’re HUGE!  Is Whole Foods is intentionally buying GMO lemons to force me to buy organic?  The nerve!  I send Robert on the hunt for fresh basil and I go look for normal, non-organic leafy green vegetables.  I walk up and down the aisle, they only have organic leafy greens!  Are you kidding me??  I give up and bag my organic cilantro and lettuce, defeated.  Robert walks up empty bag in hand, there’s no basil.  What kind of grocery store doesn’t have fresh basil?!?  Even the tiny Tom Thumb by our condo always has fresh basil! Frustration has clearly set in, we finish up in the produce section and move on.

We make our way to the butcher section.  We only have two items on our list in this section, should be in and out in no time, right?  Ha!  First, I go to select my package of chicken breasts only to discover there is not an option for chicken breast halves, only whole breasts.  This really isn’t a problem, but given all the change that’s been foisted upon me, I’m annoyed anyways.  I walk up to the butcher counter looking for the “Take a Number” dispenser.  There is none.  I wonder how they manage crowds at the counter on busy days.  I wait for a while before I’m helped; I get my pork tenderloin and move on.

Time for the dry goods and miscellaneous sections on the list.  We’re encouraged to be almost done, until we realize we have no idea where anything is.  Confusion begins to set in again as we think about our game plan.  We take a break for a wine sample and a deep breath.  We can do this.  We can conquer the beast.  We’re on the hunt for some spices, we finally find the right aisle, only to find four salesman restocking the spices completely in the way.  I stand there for a minute, looking the spices over, thinking that surely they will notice me and step aside.  They do not.  I find the cumin seeds and move on.  Where is the commitment to customer service that I’ve come to expect??

It’s time to find the deli.  We wander aimlessly, pass several salesmen, none of which ask us if we need help.  We finally find the deli, again no take a number option.  We wait and are helped by a rather grumpy lady.  I miss the jovial deli counter employees at Central Market.  They’re always entertaining; this lady makes her work look like laborious work.  We get all we need and are finally ready to check out and get out.

We make our way to the check out area only to find that there are only 2 non express lanes open.  Are you kidding me?? It’s a Sunday for crying out loud, the busiest day for grocery stores!  Why wouldn’t you have at least 5 lanes open.  We finally get to the head of the line and the process takes forever.  It’s amazing how Central Market’s expectation on the customer to weigh and label produce with PLU codes really saves time.  We have a perky teenager as our checkout girl; it’s obvious she’s still learning the process.  She asks about our experience, we try to explain some frustrations only to be met with an empty gaze.  We’re finally done, exhausted and ready to be home.  We think our Whole Foods frustrations are over, that is until I open my bags and find the eggs haphazardly tossed into the bag and no separation between the chicken and fresh produce.

At this point it is clear to us that we will no longer shop at Whole Foods for any reason.  And so I make this my solemn vow: I, Staci Thetford, promise on this leafy green vegetable, never to allow impatience or inconvenience deter me from my grocery store home, Central Market, ever again.  Furthermore, I swear to remain loyal to Central Market and all that it stands for, shunning competing so-called grocery stores and other “pretenders” to the CM throne.  Finally and specifically, I solemnly swear to evangelize and proselytize to those poor, wretched souls who have come under the misguided belief that Whole Foods provides them an experience better than or equal to that of Kroger.

Central Market, I’m sorry.  Will you take me back?