Stuffed dates, date-nut bread, date shakes, Waldorf salad with dates--you would expect to find these old-timers in a collection of recipes dealing with the sweet fruit of the date palm. But times have changed considerably, and contemporary chefs are using the date in innovative ways.
Chef Antonio Jimenez of Cafe Cafe in Westwood adds dates to peanut sauce for linguine and spices the unusual mixture with Thai red curry paste. Hugo Molina of the Parkway Grill in Pasadena simmers dates with raspberry vinegar, Port, cream and shallots to make a rosy sauce for sliced duck breast.
Roger Pigozzi, executive chef of the Biltmore Hotel, has a couple of ideas that will come in handy for future holiday seasons as well as for special occasions now. Individual molded souffles that blend wild rice, dates and celery root make a dressy addition to a dinner plate. The date and apricot stuffing that Pigozzi suggests for pork chops and game should also work well with poultry.
The only note of tradition is Georgian chicken with dates, a family recipe from Fred Powers, the proprietor of Gorky's Cafe and Russian Brewery. The chicken simmers with vegetables, wine and other ingredients in a sauce that is lightly sweetened with sugar and dates.
LINGUINE WITH PEANUT SAUCE AND DATES Antonio Jimenez, Cafe Cafe
2 to 3 tablespoons half and half
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup dates, slivered
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
4 ounces cooked linguine
Heat 2 tablespoons half and half and sesame oil in small skillet. Add curry paste, sugar, salt and dates. Heat, blending well. Stir in peanut butter. If sauce is too thick, add remaining 1 tablespoon half and half. Mix with cooked pasta. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in skillet. Add pasta and saute lightly 1 minute. Serve garnished with parsley. Makes 1 serving.
BAKED DUCK BREAST WITH DATE AND PORT WINE SAUCE Hugo Molina, Parkway Grill
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dark beer
1/2 cup Coca Cola
3 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (oregano, tarragon, basil)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 bay leaves
4 (8-ounce) duck breasts
Date and Port Wine Sauce
Combine orange juice, beer, Coca Cola, herbs, mustard, peppercorns, garlic and bay leaves in non-aluminum container and mix well. Add duck breasts, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Meanwhile, make Date and Port Wine Sauce. Remove duck breasts from marinade and pat dry. Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes. Cut breasts crosswise into thin slices and place on plate in fan shape. Spoon sauce over. Makes 4 servings.
Date and Port Wine Sauce
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup Port wine
8 to 10 pitted dates, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup duck or chicken stock
5 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
Saute shallots in 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Add Port wine and dates and cook 2 minutes over high heat. Add stock and vinegar and cook 3 minutes. Add cream, lower heat to medium and reduce sauce by half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut remaining 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and add 1 at time, swirling pan to incorporate. Remove sauce from heat, strain through medium colander and keep warm. Makes 1 3/4 cups.
WILD RICE AND DATES SOUFFLE Roger Pigozzi, Biltmore Hotel
3 ounces wild rice (about 2/3 cup)
1 ounce celery root, peeled and cut in fine dice
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup pitted dates, diced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter
Clean, wash and cook rice. There will be about 2 cups. Cook celery root, onion and dates in chicken stock until soft, about 15 minutes. Add rice and cool slightly. Combine rice mixture, eggs and cream and season to taste with salt and nutmeg. Place half of mixture in blender and blend 30 seconds. Remove and repeat with remaining mixture. Combine blended ingredients.
Butter individual molds large enough to hold 1/4 cup mixture. If desired, larger molds holding 1/2 cup mixture may be used. Spoon mixture into molds and set in pan of hot water. Bake at 325 degrees 30 minutes for 1/4 cup souffles and 45 minutes for 1/2 cup souffles or until knife inserted in souffle comes out clean. Remove from hot water bath. Run knife around edge of each mold, invert on plate and serve hot. Makes 10 (1/2 cup) servings.
DATE AND APRICOT STUFFING Roger Pigozzi, Biltmore Hotel
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white wine
1/2 pound pitted dates, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 pound unsweetened dried apricots, chopped
1 (1-pound) loaf bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon crushed rosemary, or to taste