Stuffed Dates, Sicilian Style


Stuffed Dates, Sicilian Style



Dates stuffed with walnuts, pine nuts and honey go back to ancient Rome, as a sweet snack, and presumably as an appetizer.


Here’s a more modern version, in the southern Italian, particularly Sicilian, manner. Almonds are used instead of walnuts or pine nuts, and a soft cheese and a bit of grated orange zest are added to make the stuffed dates richer and creamier. The more common fresh cheese in Sicilian cooking is ricotta. But Mascarpone and goat cheese are also suitable. Goat cheese makes a more savory stuffing, so I would leave out honey. Mascarpone has the practical advantage over ricotta. It can be bought in small quantities, whereas ricotta comes in larger containers, requiring that the rest be used for something else if making stuffed dates for a small number of people.


Medjool dates are larger and creamier in texture than the Deglet Noor variety. For stuffing it’s best to get dates that still have their pits, which you remove just before stuffing. Two large Medjools, fully stuffed, make a substantial appetizer for a diner, especially if there are other appetizers offered.


This recipe makes enough filling to stuff 12 large Medjool dates, or more smaller dates. That should be enough appetizer for four to six people.


12 large Medjool dates, or 16-18 smaller dates, with pits

6 tablespoons roasted, salted whole almonds

4 ounces (1/2 cup) Mascarpone or ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon of grated zest from an orange (organic preferred)


Using a small, sharp knife, slit one side of each date from end to end, and carefully remove the pit. Gently spread open the cut dates to make room for the stuffing. 


On a cutting board, using a chef’s knife, chop the almonds fairly finely. Put 4 tablespoons of them into a small mixing bowl and set aside 2 tablespoons for finishing the dates.


Add the cheese, honey, and grated orange zest to the bowl containing the main portion of the chopped almonds. Mix these four ingredients together well. Smooth the surface of the stuffing mixture, then lightly mark the surface with the knife into half, then quarters. Then mark each quarter into three sections, for a total of 12 if using 12 dates, or into whatever number of dates used.


Using a small teaspoon to pick up a marked portion of the filling, carefully stuff the dates, smoothing the surface of the filling with the back of the spoon or your finger. Turn each stuffed date onto the reserved chopped almonds, and press them in very lightly.


Arrange the stuffed dates on a serving dish. They can be stored, refrigerated, lightly covered with plastic wrap. When serving, if desired, you can garnish the dish with some small flowers or decorative leaves.




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