How to puree dates …and why you should!
Don’t we eat with our eyes first? When I was a little girl, I remember being so puzzled by what my Mom considered an indulgent little “treat”. In my mind, Mom ate bugs! For example, she loved lobster… yes, I know that lobster has buttery sweet delicious meat, but, come on! Does it not just look like a giant bug to anybody else? (They are, you know) Especially when you see them first in a tank at eye level, with antennae, legs, and beady little eyes… As a little girl, I was not going for this. Give me shrimp, heads off and fried, so I never know them in their insect-like form.
When it came to sweets, Mom loved chocolate covered cherries, eclairs, and… you guessed it… dates. And I am only thinking… again, with the bugs! Yes, I knew they were supposed to be fruit, but they didn’t look like fruit to me. Give me an orange! But she so loved those sweet chewy dates. There should probably never be mention of bugs on a food blog; I am sure I am committing a faux pas of epic proportion, so if you are easily nauseated, please simply stop reading now and scroll down to the nutrition and how-to portion of this blog. I will give you a minute…
Okay… so whoever is left reading, you steely stomached adventurous people… here goes. In the South we have these vile creatures which are referred to as Palmetto bugs. This is really just a polite southern way of saying giant roaches! Upon moving here, I was horrified by these things! You do not have to be unsanitary to see them, even in your home! Especially if you are fortunate enough to live in a log cabin in the woods. But as a little girl (and to be honest, sometimes the squeamish little girl in me) I could see dates, this wonder fruit, as nothing other than big red bugs. Eww! How could Mom eat those things? And like them? Well, turns out, she was on to something. In any event, my solution to my own pathology (seeing food as insects), is to puree them until they become a decadent sweet creamy ingredient.
…now with grown-up eyes
Let’s do the food science first…
According to Dr. Michael Greger, M.D., even though dates are 80% sugar, studies by Israeli scientists show that they do not raise blood sugar. And they lower triglycerides! They are also beneficial for stress levels and contain antioxidants. Some consider them an almost ideal food! For a short video, click here.
In addition, dates are a great source of potassium and magnesium, as well as dietary fiber and vitamin B6. They constitute a whole food and provide a great replacement for detrimental refined sugars. Per TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), dates are a warming food. And as a naturally sweet food, they build strength.
There really is no end to what you can do with dates in cooking. Obviously, they are sweet. A little date puree in a recipe, instead of sugar will satisfy a sweet tooth. They also work as a binder for foods, such as nutrition bars. They are brilliant in raw foods. Flavor and manipulate them into raw cheesecake, truffles, fruit toppings, you name it! They deserve their own special post, and I will be referring to this puree method many times in future blogs.
Sources and Types
There are many varieties of dates. Usually, I choose what I can get for a good price. Organic is preferable; organic is just pretty much always preferable. You can buy whole dates in the bulk section of natural foods store. They are readily available in most grocery stores. Of course, you can also order online. They even come already pureed and packaged. But you can do this yourself. Your choice.
A word about Medjools. For flavor and texture, medjool is king of dates. They have a delicious carmel-like flavor and texture. I can understand eating these dates straight out of the package; they taste like a natural candy. Using medjools in your recipes will make them so delicious that nobody will believe they are “good for you”… they make all your recipes at least 62% more delicious! – in my opinion.
It is worth the added expense to buy medjools, but if you like to save your money, no worries! I tend to alternate between indulgence and money-saving. It is a torturous inner struggle, so I compromise by taking turns. You are free to do whatever you like!
Below: Medjool dates on the right. Plump, dark, sweet, caramel-like. mmm
How to Puree Dates
If you have a powerful food processor or blender. all you have to do is throw your pitted dates in and process till smooth. That’s it!
If you do not have a powerful processor, you can soak pitted dates in water overnight (at least 8 hours). This will soften them up so that they process much more easily. Simply remove from water and process.
Also, you can roughly chop your pitted dates first so the processor does not have to work quite so hard. You can always add liquid if you want a looser puree. Because I use date paste and puree for a variety of recipes, I prefer to keep this product as dry as possible. It can always be loosened when a recipe calls for it.
When your paste or puree is as smooth as you desire, store it in a sealed container and refrigerate. Now you have wonderful creamy, sweet, versatile ingredient all ready to go for any number of recipes!
Dates in a food processor…
Option: When dates are only partially processed, with some chunks remaining, they can be used to add texture to cookies and nutrition bars.
If you puree a little longer, they look something like this…
When pureed further, they become lighter in color and creamy.
And watch for recipes on this blog which will utilize this delightful ingredient.
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