When I was quite small, I clearly recall my grandmother’s fingers wrapping pieces of walnut in robes of cream cheese.  She then deftly stuffed each into a date with her thumb and rolled the whole thing in granulated sugar.  These were a unique part of the winter holiday menu for our family, and as a child I looked forward to their appearance, because I regarded them as completely magical and delicious.

I discovered years later that dates dipped in butter have been a Bedouin tribal token of hospitality, served with coffee almost since living memory.  Maybe familiarity with dates  somehow migrated across Europe after the ninth century after Spain was colonized.  Maybe Marco Polo brought them along with him over the Silk Road even later – I don’t know.

Twenty years ago, I changed Nonnie’s date recipe slightly by combining the granulated sugar with only a hint of essence of rose.  This gave the stuffed dates a flavor that was nearly impossible to identify.  I made them for Solstice/Christmas one year, and a friend from India told me it was one of the most amazing things she had ever tasted.  Now that was a surprise and a compliment.

For each serving, you will need

-a dried, pitted date

-cream cheese

-half a walnut meat (toasting it would bring out the flavor)

-granulated sugar (either plain or scented with rose petals or rose water).  If you make your own rose sugar by burying petals in the sugar to dry, just make sure you use flowers that haven’t been treated with chemicals.  You can also infuse a little neutral alcohol such as a small amount of vodka with food-grade dry rose-petals (look in the tea section of your local natural food store) and sprinkle that into the sugar.

So simple:  Take your walnut meat, wrap enough cream cheese around it so the whole thing still fits into the cavity of the empty date… and roll it around in the granulated sugar.  It’s ready!

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