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National Date Nut Bread Day

December 22nd, 2008 | 5 Comments »

And you thought I was done talking about food holidays!!


December is National Fruitcake and National Eggnog Month.  Blech. Just the word ‘fruitcake’ conjures up images of crazy people, and the real deal is not at all appetizing although I would like to taste one, for real, that is fresh and worthy of praise instead of ridicule. The poor Fruitcake just never gets any respect- the lil’ Rodney Dangerfield of food.

Today is National Date Nut Bread Day. I’m a big fan of dates and have been since childhood. My mom made the standard Date Bars- you know, with the oat topping?- and I loved them dearly. Sadly, her recipe isn’t in my treasured recipe box of hers, and despite several attempts with recipes found on-line, I haven’t been able to duplicate her offering and gave up, full of sad face and regret, resigned to a date-less existence.

But the holiday intrigued me because this is bread, and it has dates and it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with an option that doesn’t make my teeth hurt from being too sweet. Dates are notoriously sweet and contain the highest concentration of sugar in any dried fruit. They are also higly caloric, but they are loaded with potassium and fiber and can be an enjoyable treat, in moderation. One thing they don’t need at all is any extra sugar, so in finding a recipe that relied on only the dates for sweetness was a bonus in my mind.


I’m not one to expend too much effort searching online recipe databases for the perfect recipe. I’m not patient enough for that. If I’m looking through Recipezaar, AllRecipes, Epicurious or any other site, I want to find something quickly and not spend endless time perusing through countless offerings, reading dozens of reviews and gazing at pictures. I trust reviews the most and they need to be unanimously positive. Coming across this bread recipe on the AllRecipes site, the first thing I noticed was that it had no added sugar, the next thing I read were the enthusiastic reviews that claimed this moist tender bread would surely be a hit. I didn’t need any more than that.

The best part was, they were right. Even slightly overcooked- which seems to be a recurring theme in my kitchen lately- the bread held a nice moist feel and was chock full of date flavor without making my eyes water from the sweetness. Without the sugar, the true flavor of the fruit shone through, and really, isn’t that why we eat something in the first place? This will be a repeat in my kitchen, with proper oven timing, whether it’s a food holiday or not.

Moist Date Nut Bread
from AllRecipes

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees F). Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the dates and butter. Pour boiling water over them, and let stand until cool.
  3. When the dates have cooled, stir the mixture to break up any clumps. Mix in the brown sugar and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; stir into the date mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I followed this to the letter except for the walnuts. I don’t do walnuts, not after a childhood of dealing with walnuts in every home baked goodie I ate. I loved my mother’s baking, just not her love for walnuts. Instead, I finely chopped almonds and sprinkled them over the top of the loaf before baking. I think pecans would be nice too.

Be sure to thoroughly allow the dates and butter to cool and absorb the liquid. It will become a thick fragrant paste and really, is quite delicious all on it’s own but keep your spoon out of it and use it in the bread! A little fresh grated nutmeg would probably add a nice flavor touch to this, but the date flavor all on it’s own is really delicious.

The patron Saint of charcuterie

November 16th, 2008 | 1 Comment »

Today is National Fast Food Day but….ewww yuk….I recoiled in near horror when faced with this one. What kind of research would I have to do for this? I never eat fast food, never at all unless it’s a Mavericks pulled pork sandwich done Carolina style, slathered with a little chipotle horseradish and some sweet banana peppers. Now that’s a sandwich. If you reside in the Twin Cities and haven’t been to Mavericks, get yourself over there and enjoy. They also have some of the best french fries ever. Ever. But being that it is pork, it ties in with what I happened to discover about this day over in the tiny gastronomically inclined country of France.

Paging through the current issue of Saveur magazine, I came across a tiny little article in it about a French celebration honoring Saint Anthony, the patron saint of Charcuterie. Subsequent research failed to result in any extensive information about this at all, save for a few bits here and there about how Saint Anthony often was pictured with a pig, but doing a search for St. Anthony only brings up information about the patron saint of the lost, or in another context, the patron saint of skin disease.

Not what I was looking for, actually.

In France each year, on the third Sunday of November (that would be today), it isn’t uncommon for up to a thousand worshippers to gather at the 368-year old Saint-Eustache church located directly across from the where the legendary Les Halles market once stood. The event, the annual Messe du Souvenir des Charcutiers, or Charcuterie Mass of Remembrance is in it’s 200th year and is a solemn affair honoring the nations makers of sausages, hams and pates. The priests sing gregorian chants and incense is thick in the church as scripture readings that promise a heavenly feast of succulent meats and sensuous wines are intoned. A delegation from the Fraternity of the Knights of Saint Anthony is present and there is usually a large contingent of charcutiers in toques and chef whites, some bearing the gold medal of the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France award, which is given to the most gifted of the nations culinary arts and other trades. The term ‘charcuterie’ is derived from the French ‘chair cuitiers’ or ‘flesh cookers’ and France’s National Charcutier Association dates back to 1513 when those who specialized in cooked, cured and preserved pork products formed their own group away from the butcher’s guild. During the service, the names of those in the association who have passed on are read aloud, and the ceremony concludes with a heart-felt singing of ‘Chant des Adieux’, the French version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. A reception afterwards features dry cured hams, and headcheeses. In a pamphlet published by the church’s pastor, one is reminded of the purpose of the event, in that it isn’t purely alimentary but “…about providing what responds to our desire for conviviality, for sharing, for good taste, for beauty. Food is not just about taking care of an organic need of the human body”

I’m all for that.

I profess an abiding love for charcuterie although I don’t indulge as often as I would like simple because it’s not the most healthiest item to eat. I am loud in my love for bacon though, the thicker and smokier the better. I love a good hard dry-cured salami like soppresata, but really when it comes down to it, any salami to me is fabulous. I love it best on good dark bread with a smear of grainy mustard; a rare sandwich indulgence for me. But then again, prosciutto in pasta or wrapped around fresh nectarines or melon, ham and bean soup, ham in mac and cheese….it’s all good; salty, briny and fabulous preserved goodness. Now when I indulge I can lift a silent toast to St. Anthony, the patron saint.


Let’s have some in celebration!!