roasted stuffed dates

every family has their own special holiday foods. the staple menu items that cannot be forgotten. for my family, those items are my dad's smoked turkey, which leaves him smelling like smoke for several days to follow. his whiskyed yams, smothered in equally heavy portions of maple syrup, butter and whisky. and then there is a cherry chutney recipe, that came from my first grade teacher who we had invited to our thanksgiving meal. that recipe has been repeated every year since and is expected to appear on the table just as much as they turkey and the yams. a few years ago, my contribution to thanksgiving dinner was an appetizer that are now (happily) expected of me each year. the point being, there is a reward for branching out of the traditional foods we've come to expect. some of the greatest contributions are adapted from the guests we invite to join us for the holidays over the years. you never know what dish will become the latest family "tradition." 

my annual thanksgiving contribution are these roasted stuffed dates. simple, elegant, and oh so delicious. 

roasted stuffed dates with balsamic reduction: 

for the reduction ~ makes more than enough:
1 small bottle balsamic vinegar

buy a small inexpensive bottle of balsamic and empty the entire contents into a small sauce pan. bring to a simmer, and then continue to gently simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the volume is reduced by at least half. if you want more of a syrupy consistency, continue until the volume reduces to a quarter. try to maintain a very low simmer - you should see steam rising off, but just a few gentle bubbles, to keep the balsamic from burning. poor the balsamic into a small jar to let cool. remember that the consistency will thicken, once cooled to room temperature. you will likely have an excess of reduction, which will store perfectly in the fridge for several weeks - drizzle over salads, roasted vegetables, meats, bread and oil... everything! 

for the roasted dates ~ makes a dozen: 
(note: this recipe is easy to scale up or down. i like to make 2-3 dates for every person)
12 medjool dates, with or without pits
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup walnuts 
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh rosemary 
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch sea salt 

preheat oven to 375. fillet each date, making one cut on the length of the date and scooping out the pit. roughly chop 1/2 cup of the walnuts and finely chop a few sprigs of rosemary. reserve the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts. in a small mixing bowl, combing goat cheese, chopped walnuts, rosemary and salt and stir to combine in a crumbly mixture. using your fingers, press about 1 teaspoon or more into the cavity of each date. you may have extra mixture, depending on the size of the dates. feel free to pit more dates and make more! 
ideally, find a small baking dish that won't have too much extra space surrounding the dates. goat the bottom of the dish with a tablespoon of olive oil, and pack the dates close together to prevent them from tumbling over. use the final 1/2 cup of walnuts to fill spaces around the dates. roast in the oven until the walnuts are lightly toasted, and the goat cheese is softened and a touch browned ~ about 20-30 minutes. 
to serve right from the roasting dish, just drizzle with balsamic reduction. or for a slightly more elegant presentation, drizzle balsamic reduction directly onto a serving platter and then place dates on top with extra roasted walnuts and a few sprigs of rosemary. 

these dates are excellent with thanksgiving leftovers. or chopped up and tossed on top of a greens salad! 

happy holidays everyone! - aubrey