Monday, June 21, 2010

Dates. No, I Mean the Food Kind.

As a kid, I was a very picky eater. My mother would cook amazing Iraqi food, delicious salmon dishes, and flavorful, creative recipes of all kinds, and I'd eat fishsticks. On my birthdays when I got to choose where we went out to dinner, I'd choose Chili's or Applebees. For real, I would. Gross, eh? I think my father is still regretful about those meals, even 15 - 20 years later. Whoops a daisy!

I was always extremely resistant to Arabic food, or what I perceived to be Arabic food. My mother would make kibbeh, or "rice and gravy," which was basically white rice and red tomato gravy with meat and/or vegetables, and I'd pout and whine about it like a little baby. I was not a bratty kid, but this was one place where I really did it up. In addition to the beautiful cooking on which I missed out, there were lovely individual items that I hated on as well. My father always had a love for figs and dates, and believe it or not, I wouldn't even try either until well into my teenage years. What a fool I was...I cannot believe I missed out for all those years.

Now when I see dates, I feel like I'm home. My father speaks about the date palms in Baghdad and how they grew everywhere, and the fruit trees in the backyard of his parents' house, and my heart swells with love and pride and sadness, all at once. To be able to reach up and pick a fig out of a tree as you sit in your backyard reading...can you even imagine? It makes me want to cry a little bit. And so, I am incredibly thankful for my father's persistence (as well as my mother's patience) with my eating habits over the years, and happy that I now, finally, have so much love for dates and figs. See here for further evidence.

I was going to go grocery shopping tonight, but then it started raining really hard and the tornado sirens went off, so I stayed home. Somewhat short on food, I searched my fridge to find some satisfying Dinner Two ingredients (Dinner One was Special K Red Berries and almond milk when I got home from work at 5:15. Classy). I spotted the giant plastic container of dates my father had given me the last time I was at home, the bag of walnuts I bought at the Co-op the other day, and a container of Greek yogurt. It was totally a "HEY GIRL" moment. Meaning, I got real excited.

When Christopher visited me last fall, he seemed to make masterpieces out of practically nothing, at least in terms of food. I remember this dessert he made, poached pears with dates, honey, and cream.

I mean for real, it came out of nowhere. And it was amazing. So, I decided that Dinner Two would be date-based tonight. Please note, I used FANCY dates. That's right, I only eat fancy things.
Dates look like small, fat turds. Or giant raisins. Or both. Whatever gets you excited.
Now, for the extremely technical description of how to remove the pits and put in the walnuts:

1. Wash your hands real good.
2. Dig your fingers into the dates, making a lengthwise opening.
3. Pull out that damn pit.
4. Stuff a walnut back in there.
5. Wash your hands real good again. Probably clean underneath your fingernails for date guts.

Beautiful! Now, here's where my parents would usually leave it and put the dates on a nice plate to serve to guests. But I was in the mood for more ingredients, so I got out the Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is really good; it's creamy and thick and not sweet. Plus it's full of protein, but I'm more concerned with the deliciousness. Although my father would probably criticize this part, I went ahead with it anyhow. He's a purist, you see, and he has extremely strong opinions on the treatment of fruits. A direct quote from him: When you want to mock lovely fruits, you put chocolate on dates or cheese on figs. This is an insult. Yeah. He is adamant about this. Sorry, Dad.
I drizzled a bit of honey on top of the dates, although it was totally unnecessary because they are incredibly sweet already. But it was a nice touch. It was like there were two different sweetnesses, but they blended together really gently and smoothly.
Dip the honey-covered dates and walnuts into the Greek yogurt, and you got yourself a snack! Yow! Thanks, rain and parents and food that was in the fridge! You made it a good night!


Summer said...

Nicely done Reem-- I actually LOVE dates in yogurt- it's one of my favorite meals/snacks when i don't feel like eating a meal like dinner/lunch, or breakfast- I have added walnuts to my dates & yogurt plate before, but not as fancy as yours- YumMy!!- Summer

Reem Tara said...

Thanks, Cuz! It's delicious and filling. I'm glad you like it too!

Sara Ashes said...

well done, Sissy! So glad you got over whatever it was that kept you for the deliciousness as a child.

Also, my favorite is when Dad is faced with bacon-wrapped dates! He actually unwrapped the bacon from the date on your birthday! WHO DOES THAT?!?!

SophisticatedBrew said...

color me impressed!

Cody said...

Wow! I am impressed. I always think dates look like cockroaches however. Big, juicy cockroaches.