While I had a pleasant enough Christmas holiday, I was brought momentarily down by some sort of stomach ailment or flu. To those family members that continue to insist that my malaise was caused by excessive consumption of rich holiday food, I say nonsense! It was the stomach flu. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Nevertheless, the fact that I spent almost four days lying down and watching old episodes of "Matlock" and "Hawaii Five-O" meant that a lot of the Christmas cooking and baking I’d planned to do went out the window.
Nothing brought this fact home more so than my discovery of an unopened container of mascarpone lost in the wilds of my refrigerator. I found it cowering behind containers of menacing leftovers that were in such an advanced state of decay that only Gil Grissom and the CSI team would find them interesting!
What to do with this found treasure? Normally I would whip up a tiramisu but to be honest, I’m all "tiramisued" out. I know that’s shocking, but trust me, tiramisu has become one of the most popular desserts for Italians at the holidays. I must have been served at least four different tiramisus this past December alone. Enough is enough … even for this mascarpone lover!
But that still left me with my dilemma. And then it hit me. I recalled reading an issue of Saveur magazine that had a wonderful article entitled "Drawing out the Flavor" by Marcella Hazan. I was so impressed by the piece that I actually went out and bought Hazan’s Marcella says….
The article (and the book) was a joy to read. I’d never been exposed to Hazan before. I knew who she was of course, but I’d never "heard" her voice as I did when I read that article. Her wisdom and and respect for the pure, unadulterated foods of her country were so compelling.
What intrigued me most was a mention in the magazine of a snack that Hazan would often enjoy as a child for merenda (mid-afternoon snack): dates stuffed with mascarpone.
At first this combination seemed so odd. Dates stuffed with mascarpone?! But as I thought about it, I came to realize that it was a match made in heaven. The dense creaminess of the mascarpone coupled with the sticky sweetness of the date would have to be incredible together. Topped off with a lovely walnut half, it was pure delight.
Once this memory of food discovery came to me, I knew I had to run out and pick up some dates (the fruit that is). As luck would have it, I attended a small gathering at my cousin’s house this evening. It was the perfect opportunity to share these delectable treats.
So here is proof positive of three things: 1) you just never know what’s hiding at the back of your refrigerator; 2) the discovery of new flavour combinations is always a joyous moment for the taste buds; and 3) mascarpone rules!
Datteri Freschi Farciti di Mascarpone (Fresh Dates Stuffed with Mascarpone)
from Marcella says… by Marcella Hazan.
12 fresh dates, pitted or unpitted
3 tablespoons mascarpone
- Split open each date lengthwise on just one side, leaving the other hinged. If the dates have pits, use the tip of a paring knife to pry them out.
- Stuff each date with a tiny scoop of mascarpone, about the size of a grape, then partially close the date over the cheese. Stuff the remaining dates in the same manner. Place the stuffed dates on a rimmed serving plate and refrigerate until you are ready to serve them.
Note: As an added treat, place a walnut half in each date after you’ve filled them with mascarpone.