The fruit of the palm tree, varieties range from 1-2 inches long and are oval with one long narrow seed, thin papery skin and cloyingly sweet flesh. They are generally picked green and ripen off the tree to a variety of colors depending on variety.
Season: September - December
How to select: Look for plump, shiny fruit that is soft, slightly wrinkled and unbruised.
How to store: Since fresh dates have already traveled from afar, they should be consumed soon after they are purchased. They may be held for up to two weeks if kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Dried dates can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months or the refrigerator for up to a year.
How to prepare: Dates were a common hors d'oeuvres, typically either stuffed with almonds or cream cheese or wrapped with bacon and then broiled. The sweet, chewy texture of dates make partner to thin slices of crisp, sweet-tart fruits or salted nuts, preferably almonds. Or for the dessert course pair them with dried apricots and serve the duo with a drizzle of brandy or caramel. Prior to mincing, dust the knife blade with flour to prevent the fruit from sticking to the knife. Toss them with salads dressed with a vinaigrette and topped with goat cheese. Basically, you can substitute dates for raisins or apricots, especially as called for in roasts and braised dishes, or in quick breads and fillings for cinnamon rolls.
Matches well with: almonds, apricots, bacon, brandy, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, cream, cream cheese, ginger, nuts, orange, pecans, rum, vanilla, walnuts