chopped kale salad with hot smoky dates

I would love to eat a fresh date, preferably right now while taking in the sight of an azure Mediterranean sky through a spray of palm fronds. Today, instead of that, I have muted gray winter light (a chance of snow, they say) and some dried dates.

In Miami, where I once lived, huge majestic date palms were planted all around the grounds of fancy hotels and private homes, and at one of my favorite public spaces anywhere, the Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I’m pretty sure the clusters of brilliant yellow fruit that would sometimes appear on the trees were not good to eat. Date palms are natives of hot, dry desert places.

They’re grown in the humid zone of South Florida, often dug up and imported there from other places at huge expense. But while they can flourish on South Beach like sunbathing debutantes, it’s not their ideal climate for fruit-bearing.

I’ll have to wait until I’m in a place like California in winter to bite into a fresh date, an experience that Alice Waters describes in Chez Panisse Fruit as “soft yielding flesh, with a mildly sweet, rich flavor entirely different from that of the hard, wrinkled and cloyingly sweet dates in the package.”

Medjool dates are dried dates, but far from hard and dry, I think. They have a rich quality – kind of luscious really – plump and tender inside. And you can find them in almost every well-stocked market in the produce section at this time of year.  [Read more…]

winter salad with lemon anchovy cream

winter salad with lemon anchovy cream

March is the Month of Expectation – Emily Dickinson

It’s not quite March yet, but at this point of a particularly brutal one, it’s hard not to get antsy for The End of Winter….impatience fueled by a subtle shift of light. There’s light in the sky in the early morning when our groggy household starts the day, and still lingering now at dusk, 5:45 pm as I write this. We are moving closer to the sun!

winter salad with lemon anchovy cream

It was snowing again this morning, but I didn’t want to venture out for provisions. So I dug into the produce drawer of the refrigerator, hungry for the vitamins in fresh leaves and crisp vegetables. I felt like Captain Cook scrounging around in the galley for a wedge of lime to suck on.  [Read more…]