Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Good Snack

One of the things that got me thinking recently about all those GMO products is snacking. How does one enjoy a snack without indulging in a GMO product? It is near impossible if you buy processed foods. Especially in the snack arena. So what to do?

I turned to my favorite foods. When I was but a wee girl my grandmother made the best cookies on the planet. They were sugar cookies. But not your ordinary sugar cookies. She took the regular sugar cookie dough, cut a round, place a dab of a date mixture on the round and then topped it with another round of dough. She pierced it with a fork in five places and baked it off. Once out of the oven, she would dust it with granulated sugar and be done. They were delicious.

I was out shopping a couple of Saturdays ago and could not resist the Medjools at the farmers market. They were plump and ripe.

The biggest misconception with dates is that they are a dried fruit. Actually dates ripen on the tree, are harvested and go to market. No drying involved. However, Deglet Noors, and other varieties, do stiffen up a bit when stored. The sugars solidify and give the date a drier texture. So when you purchase California grown Deglet Noor dates they are usually hydrated.

Hydrated is the process wherein the date is passed through a steam tunnel. No more, no less. Other dates can be hydrated but usually aren't unless they've "sugared". The hydration process melts the sugars and the dates are softer to use.

Okay. So now you have your dates. Split them open and remove the pit. The pits are like rocks, you don't want to bite on one! Also when you're pitting the dates, check for organic material. Organic material??? Yes, bugs. Dates, just like any other fruit, grow on trees which attract bugs and occasionally one eats more than his fair share. The growers try to catch this type of problem before it goes to the store but hey, you can't win them all. Also, if you do find a bug, don't get all bothered by it; It's not mouse droppings!

So now you have your dates pitted, grab a handful of walnuts and get out your food processor. You can choose to use pecans if walnuts are not your thing.
Medjools and walnuts

Oooo! Doesn't that look good. Now you're going to put the dates in the food processor and macerate them. That's a fancy word for beating them to a pulp, turn them into a paste or whatever you want to call it.

macerating the dates

A few quick pulses should have them looking like this:


Now add your walnuts. Give them a whirl, a good few pulses should get the walnuts chopped up and mixed with the dates.

Medjools and walnuts

They won't completely mix together. Just dump them out on the cutting board and mix them up by hand.

all together now

Now roll them into a log and wrap it in plastic. Let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours or even up to a week.

date walnut salami

Once it has chilled well. You have what I like to call a date and walnut salami. ;-) What do you do with it now? Well, my husband (and I have to admit myself) love to slice it off and eat it just as it is.

Slice it up

But here is another idea.

Make up a quick shortbread recipe: 1 stick of butter, a 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of all purpose flour. Three simple ingredients. Cream the butter until smooth, add the sugar and whip up. When blended, add the flour until it is just combined. Roll it in a log and chill well for at least two hours.

Put on top of cookie

Slice it and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Add a slice of the date log to the top. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until the cookie is done. Cool down and eat up!

All done!

Notice that there is very little difference between the baked cookie and the non-baked. The use of dates is key. Dates have a high tolerance for heat and do not begin to separate like other fruits do in the oven. That is why using dates as a base for other baked items is a good thing. You can add dates to another fruit without changing the mouth-feel or flavor and give it less opportunity to run out of your pastry.

Why I go to the effort. Because in less than thirty minutes I can everything mixed up and in the refrigerator. And, this is the most important part, I use ingredients that are natural, organic and real. I use only cane sugar. I use only non-GMO flour. I use organic dates, and unsalted butter. So rather than take thirty minutes and run to buy a treat that I either don't know what the ingredients are or can't pronounce half of them, I'll will continue to make treats like these. You can even add a drizzle of your favorite chocolate if you'd like. They really are good! Oh yes, if you don't gobble them all up right away they need to be stored in an airtight container!

serving suggestion

With chocolate drizzle