TND – Curiosity Killed the Cat

August 16, 2013

fresh dates

I sometimes buy things just because I’m curious (okay, mildly curious – not like buy frozen durian fruit curious). Sometimes this works out for me – amchoor (sour mango) powder is amazing. Sometimes it doesn’t – I have yet to do anything with the dried pomegranate seeds I bought at the same time I got the amchoor powder. And sometimes it falls somewhere in between.

I stopped by one of the many area Indian/Pakistani/Bangledeshi grocery stores on Sunday in search of pomegranates. They didn’t have any pomegranates, but they did have lychees for $3/lb which I eagerly sorted through. This was not the product I bought just because. I grew up eating lychees, and love them (not everyone at Dinner agreed with me). They also had a box full of strange yellow fruit on a branch. I stared at it as I picked lychees, trying to decide what it was. I finally gave up and asked, and was told that they were fresh dates. I was fascinated, I have always wondered what fresh dates taste like.

Weird fact – dates are not actually a dried fruit the way that prunes are dried plums, or raisins are dried grapes. They taste like they ought to be – they share the same kind of concentrated sweetness of a dried fruit, and the sticky consistency – but actually they are just the mature fruits of the date palm that have been allowed to ripen on the stalk until they are densely sticky and sweet. The pale yellow dates that I got are essentially somewhat immature fruits – like picking a peach before it has fully ripened, or using a green tomato (to make fried green tomatoes, obviously).

I’ve run across references to eating young dates, but never seen one up close and personal until now. Final verdict . . . . I think they’re possibly more interesting than something I need to buy again. They aren’t bad per se, they have something of the texture of an apple – a little crisp and crunchy – and the flavor of a date, albeit in a much milder form. They also have an odd dessicatory mouth feel. They aren’t bitter or tart, but they do kind of suck the moisture out of your mouth. We all kept eating them more to try and figure out what we thought about them, than because we’d fallen in love with them.

Fresh dates have a fairly short season, and I believe that in countries where dates grow natively (which is to say, places far far away from the North East Coast of the US) fresh dates are a kind of seasonal delicacy the way that local cherries are here. I think my final verdict is that, they’re interesting, but I don’t need to go out of my way to find them again.


Turkey-Zucchini Sliders with Sumac Yogurt Sauce
Shepherd’s Salad
Corn on the Cob
Persian Watermelon Salad
Radishes, Lychees, Fresh Dates


Turkey-Zucchini Sliders with Sumac Yogurt Sauce
(serves 4)

I thought after two weeks Dinners that consecutively featured all the chocolate on the planet (or at least in the grocery store), and then 3lb of bacon, we could all use something a little lighter and simpler.

Also, if you’re one of those people who grow zucchini and have now entered the stage of the year in which you’re desperately trying to figure out something to do with the overwhelming bounty of your garden, well this will use up some of it (although, granted, not all that much, but every zucchini helps).

sliders in progress

1 lb ground turkey
7 oz/200 grams coarsely grated zucchini
3 scallions, minced
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp chopped mint
2 Tbsp chopped basil (or cilantro)
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne

Grate the zucchini and lay it out on a paper towel to drain a little while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the zucchini. Mix well – I find using my hands the easiest way to do this.

Either form into 4 large hamburger size patties, or make small (1 ¼ oz) sliders. If you have time I recommend refrigerating them for about 15-20 minutes – these are very sticky and loose, and chilling them makes them easier to handle.

Heat a grill pan or non-stick skillet with a little olive oil and cook the patties over medium high heat – about 2-3 minutes/side for sliders, about 4-5 minutes/side for hamburger sized patties.

Serve with Sumac-Yogurt Sauce.

Sumac-Yogurt Sauce
1 cup greek yogurt
2 Tbsp milk/half-and-half/heavy cream/sour cream (whatever you have in your fridge)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sumac
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Whisk all together. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Shepherd’s Salad

Recipe previously given: Around the World in 80 Breakfasts: The Middle East

shepherd's salad

Persian Watermelon Salad
This is really just a slightly fancier thing to do with watermelon than just slicing it.

watermelon salad - close up

½ normal sized watermelon, cut into smallish cubes (or if you have more patience than I do, shaped into balls with a melon baller)
Handful pistachios, roughly chopped
4-6 dates, roughly chopped
1-2 Tbsp rose water

Toss the watermelon with the rose water (start with less – it’s strong, and add more as you like). Layer the watermelon in a bowl with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and dates in between each layer.

Serve immediately.

Corn on the Cob


Radishes, Lychees & Fresh Dates

radishes + lychees + dates


One comment

  1. […] Recipe previously given: Curiosity Killed the Cat […]

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