I cheated on WordPress. (They host this blog.) I don’t dabble in too many social networking sites, but tried one recently where you post a photo every day for a year. I love the idea of that! But then I only lasted for a couple of weeks. Really weak, I know. During my brief affair, I kept finding myself photographing dates – date snacks, date trees pregnant with soon-to-be edible dates, packaged-up, beautiful dates. I don’t think I had ever eaten a date before moving here so they will always remind me of our time here. They were a critical part of Bedouins’ diet in the desert since they were readily available, easy to transport, satisfying and nutritious, and they are still a popular snack in the region. Traditionally they are the first thing eaten when breaking the daily fast of Ramadan at sunset. Stores here are brimming with piles of different varieties in preparation for the holy month. Since Ramadan starts on June 28th which is just around the corner, this post is dedicated to rich, satisfying and flavorful dates!
I saw this dessert online quite some time ago and have had this recipe lingering around my kitchen. I finally got around to making it and they actually turned out great on the first try – amazing for me! Thank you Martha Stewart! (Apologies to any blog I read that may have featured this recipe – I couldn’t figure out where I initially found it to link.)
Here’s the recipe:
Martha Stewart’s Date Squares
- 2 cups dates, pitted and diced
- 1 cup water
- 1 pinch of salt
- zest and juice of 1 lemon (I omitted the zest, didn’t want them to be too lemony)
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
- 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Place dates in a saucepan with water, salt and lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium heat until dates are soft, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool before using. This is the date paste.
Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Butter an 8-by-8-by-2 inch baking pan, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Add butter and blend with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Transfer two-thirds of the crumb mixture into prepared pan, and press into bottom and up sides. Spread date paste over bottom layer of the dough. Cover with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Invert onto a plate, then back onto a cutting board. (I made a gigantic mess when doing this because the loose parts of the topping went flying across the kitchen!). Cut into two-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Visit this photo essay in Time to see ways people break the fast during Ramadan around the world.
Ramadan Mubarak to those who celebrate!