What’s in the bag? … Guess!
- First hint: it’s not a sheep that will eat baobab tree shrubs.
- Another hint: it’s edible. At least, it’s supposed to be.
- Third and final hint: it’s in the bag for a purpose and not as an idle loafer.
So! Any ideas? What in the world do you think is in the bag?
Ready or not …
here it comes
Now that you see what’s in the bag, do you know what it is?
If you do, you have one on me. Because until last week when I traipsed over to Sahadi’s (to buy chickpea flour, I’ll tell you another time why) I had never laid eyes on such a thing. I thought maybe they were plums at first.The nice dude working there joked that they were olives (I believed him!) but then confessed they were dates. Dates! Young fresh dates – grown in California and imported to Brooklyn.
He invited me to sample a taste and I happily took him up on it and bit into one and it was … not good! Raw and sour and that astringent type of taste that makes your mouth pucker, just like an unripe persimmon might. Still, how could I go home without my very own super-cute twine of dates? As a garden-deprived urban dweller, any hint or simulation of proximity to nature and our mother earth is a beguiling prospect. Plus, the guy told me I could put the dates in a paper bag and let them ripen, just like you would with a banana.
This is how the dates look after hanging out in their paper bag cocoon (tight dark quarters but rent stabilized) for 7 days:
a little bit wrinkly,
a little bit softer,
and frankly (but sssh, don’t tell them I’m saying this) a little bit worse for the wear;
Even though dates are used in Iranian cooking, I’m stomped as how to use these tart young ones. We do have a yummy lentil rice called adas polo that can be layered with sauteed raisins and dates; and there are these Kermanshahi soft-cakes called “kooloocheh” (isn’t that the cutest word?) that have a date paste filling (God do I miss eating those; when my father’s family visited Tehran they’d sometimes bring some as soghati aka gift ); and of course there’s a delicious and simple Persian sandwich or loghmeh called noon va panir va khorma that’s made by pairing dates and feta and a soft lavash type bread that goes oh so nicely with hot tea and is a perfect winter time lunch fare; and there is an almsgiving tradition of donating trays filled with pitted dates stuffed with almonds; and awhile ago I found a very interesting Iranian recipe for a date torshi (alas it entailed a deal-breaking step so thank you but no thank you) but I can’t think of any Persian recipes for fresh dates.
Internet to the rescue! I Googled “what to do with young dates” — a search query that seems rather perversive and suspect, ha ha — and landed on a cool Taste Spotting blog post with a recipe for candied dates with cardamom, which actually sounds quite awesome but more suitable for winter and also I’ve been making a ton of moraba and sharbat recently for an upcoming non-profit event and I am kind of over making syrupy things for the moment and instead would vastly prefer to make this fabulous-sounding Asian pear, fresh date and pomegranate salad - that is if my dates play along and go ahead and ripen. I’ll give it a few more days.
So, as of now, the dates go back to their paper bag residency and their future is in limbo. Any tips or tricks for encouraging the dates to mature and grow up already and/or recipe suggestions are most welcome.
Meanwhile, dates do their daily cardio.
ps My mom tells me that in the olden days people would give these yellow dates to babies as a teething toy! Were they trying to kill the poor babies with the astringent puckery taste? I wonder out loud. My mom gives me a negaheh aghel ander safih (the look one gives when dealing with a particularly foolish person) and says: “Azita ‘ye azizam (which means ‘my dearAzita’ and oops, I’m in trouble when she calls me that) ours tasted very good and was soft and sweet.” OK! This fool stands corrected! But California dates can learn a lot from their Persian cousins is all I’m going to say.