I like dates. Not the kind where you go out to dinner and a movie ... no, wait, those kind I like as well. What I meant was those little dried sticky fruits that come in half- or one pound containers at the supermarket. Or 2 pound gift behemoths from Israel that your son brought back, pretending that he carefully selected it from an open air market when in reality he bought it off a friend's mother at the airport.
Speaking of Israel, Tu B'Shevat is coming up next week. Also known as New Year for Trees (because fruit-bearing trees are considered to have aged one year, like racehorses on Jan. 1st), this year it starts the evening of Wednesday, January 19th. It's called Tu B'Shevat (pronounced TOO Besh-VAT) because it falls on the 15th (Tu stands for the numbers of 9 and 6 in Hebrew, which add up to 15) in the Jewish month of Shevat.
According to that well-respected source of Jewish history, Wikipedia, it is customary on Tu B'Shevat to plant trees and to eat dried fruits and nuts mentioned in the bible. It's a big deal in Israel, the equivalent of Arbor Day. But to many Jews in the US, it's a relatively minor holiday. Especially with the mountains of snow here in New Jersey, there's not much chance of planting any trees in the near future (although I usually start up some parsley on the windowsill now to harvest in April for Passover).
But happily, I can go to town on dried fruits and nuts. Which brings me to today's recipe, stuffed dates with almonds. Dates and almonds are just two of the traditional dried fruits and nuts traditionally served on Tu B'Shevat. Add a schmear of cream cheese, and it's heaven on a plate!
Pretty much any variety of plain date, pre-pitted for your convenience, can be used. Just don't buy those pre-stuffed dates rolled in coconut ... that sorta defeats the purpose. Serve as an appetizer or mini-dessert.
Stuffed Dates with Almonds - Easy
1 container (8 ozs.) whipped cream cheese
2 Tbl. powdered sugar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 pkg. (8 ozs.) dried plain dates, pitted
1/4 cup (approx.) sliced or whole almonds
In a small mixing bowl, mix together cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice. Set aside.
Use a knife to widen the slit in each date, without cutting all the way through.
Spoon or pipe in about a teaspoonful of the cream cheese mixture into each.
Top each date with almonds. Just for funsies, I topped these dates three different ways. On the left is a peacock. In the center I gently pressed in a whole almond. On the right is a butterfly. For some reason, they all tasted the same.
Serve cold or at room temperature. If not serving within an hour or two, store, covered carefully, in the refrigerator up to a day.