Caesar would have liked my date muffins. I think you will, too.Breads and Muffins / March 2, 2016
When I travel to Europe for the very first time, I’m not sure I will opt for the obvious choices of Italy and France. I believe I will want to immerse myself in cultures that are far less familiar. Perhaps in the Middle East or Africa, where food is exotic and mysterious and history literally bulges from every grain of sand. And while there, I might request a taste of something transcendent; something that has been around for millennia. And that would be the Medjool date.
There’s so much to learn about dates. They are known to be more than 6,000 years old, which is why I implied the Roman Emporer might have considered these a great power snack between battles. And as the story goes, the first Medjool date trees were planted in America in the Coachella Valley in the 1920’s. Today 75 percent of the Medjool dates are grown in this region. And still you may say you’e never had one!? (Want to buy some direct? Here’s the link!)
Growing up in Southern California, with a father who was raised in the desert city of Indio, which is right smack dab in the middle of the Coachella Valley, afforded me the chance to grow up enjoying this rare treat on a very regular basis. When you bite into a date it explodes in your mouth with velvety sweetness. The grainy sugars are so smooth and they sensually impart their flavors of honey, cinnamon, and caramel without begging or ceremony.
As a teenager my maternal grandmother used to make date preserves to create her famous stuffed date cookies. I devoured them as fast as they came out of the oven. Even now I can smell them and recall exactly what it’s like to bit into one.
Today, my father still orders his dates, with the seeds, from the Coachella Valley. He says they’re better unseeded and in reality, the seeds pop right out so de-seeding is a no-labor proposition. When he does buy a huge pack on the internet, he always offers me a bag of them to enjoy as treats or to use in my cooking.
Such was the case this weekend when I created my fresh date muffins with toasted almonds. I found that just a hint of cardamom made them so amazing that you found yourself swooning with every bite. It seems to change where you taste them, transporting the sweetness up into the top of your palette and out through your eyes and nose. It is just an amazing experience. And they’re easy to make.
Caesar would be so proud…or jealous?