Occasionally I come across ingredients that I think deserve the spotlight all on their own, not as part of a recipe. It may be something completely new, fascinating, surprising, or just plain delicious. Hence the idea for a series of of short blog posts highlighting such food I come across. Sometimes a small unexpected nudge can be a big help in keeping things fresh and inspiring in the kitchen, especially when you feel a little tired of your everyday repertoire.
So, today, I present… the date.
Not entirely ground-breaking, but I have recently discovered new and insanely delicious forms of this “fruit of paradise” which I need to share. Most people are familiar with the common dried dates widely available today, and probably have also come across different varieties such as the delectable Medjool. Several years ago I also discovered packages of “fresh” dates in speciality Middle Eastern stores, and loved their softer, creamy texture. But the other day at the Turkish Market on Maybachufer in Berlin, I saw for the first time for sale, completely fresh, bright yellow dates on the vine.
I was curious, grabbed a bunch, and bit into one. The texture is crunchy, and the flavour much less sweet and more astringent, sort of like an under-ripe banana. Not entirely unpleasant but not amazing either. So I left them on the counter, and after a week or two, they slowly start to wrinkle and darken, soften and sweeten… and at this one point of perfect ripeness, when they are a creamy shade of beige (lighter than the store-bought “fresh” dates), they live up to their divine designation. The flavour has an understated depth of sweetness which does not overwhelm, the texture luxuriously soft and creamy, perfectly moist but not juicy, with a thin, tender skin. It is the Lolita of the lifecycle of the edible date: this elusive, thin slice of paradise between the under-ripe, bright crunch and the familiar, dark, bold, wrinkled sweetness. And like poor Humbert, you may become obsessed.