If your camel caravan ever loses steam during a desert trek, dates are a perfect quick-energy pick-me-up to have on hand.
Dates are portable, sure. But they also contain a good amount of protein, potassium and iron, not to mention that they have a very long shelf life.
Thanks to their exceptional candylike sweetness, Medjool dates, often referred to as "the king of dates," most often wind up in desserts, such as breads, cakes and cookies. But you don't have to wait for a desert or a dessert to enjoy a combination of great flavor and good nutrition.
This recipe for date-filled acorn squash uses the sweet chewy fruit to create a hearty filling for this meatless main dish. The squash is high in beta-carotene, potassium and iron.
Dates are available year-round, but since Medjools once were reserved for royalty (and the harvesting is labor-intensive), they tend to be pricey. Raisins could be substituted, if desired.
Medjools are soft dessert dates with a creamy inside and high moisture content that sometimes causes sugar crystals to form on the skin. Store dates in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Cooking tips: If the dates stick together, microwave on medium power for 30 to 45 seconds. You must remove the elongated pit before chopping. To keep dates from sticking to your knife when chopping, spray the blade with vegetable cooking spray.
Date-Filled Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash
1/4cup coarsely chopped pecans or pecan pieces
1/4cup dates, pitted and diced
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the acorn squash in half, lengthwise from stem to end. Scoop out seeds and remove stringy strands. Place squash in a shallow baking pan or 9-by-13-inch pan, cut side up. Add 1/4 inch water to the pan.
Combine pecans, dates, orange juice and cinnamon; blend well. Spoon filling evenly to squash halves, then dot each evenly with butter.
Bake uncovered 55 to 65 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Do not under bake. Cut each half in half before serving. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 151 calories (44 percent from fat), 8 g total fat (2 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 33 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber.
The Wichita Eagle—02/15/11