Now that we had a nice box of dates as a gift from Tawn’s boss, the only question was, what to do with them? Okay, the premise is a bit misleading. I always have some dates on hand and add them to my oatmeal every morning. And I’m certainly not going to use the expensive, plump fresh dates for cooking – they’re perfect for snacking or stuffing with candied almonds or goat cheese. But the receipt of the dates did get me thinking about ways to incorporate dates into my cooking beyond the oatmeal, so I was inspired to try some Moroccan-themed recipes.
Before anyone accuses me of not being authentic, or of using pork in a recipe ostensibly from a Muslim country, let me acknowledge the disconnects. These recipes were more “loosely inspired by the cuisine of Morocco” than anything else.
I didn’t strictly follow a recipe – no surprise there – but used one as a guide. I prepared jasmine rice, since it was handy, in a rice cooker with a mixture of half water and half chicken broth, adding a cinnamon stick, some cardamom pods, and some cloves.
While it was cooking, I fried a small onion, finely diced, with cumin, tumeric, ground cinnamon, paprika, and chili powder until fragrant, then added chopped pine nuts, slivered almonds, chopped dried apricots, chopped dates (you were wondering when I’d get to that, weren’t you?) and the zest of half a lemon.
After the rice was finished, I pulled out the cardamom and cloves, then stirred in the onion, spice, and fruit mixture. I added a little salt and pepper to taste and garnished with some green onions. If I had had some coriander (cilantro) I would have added that, too.
The pork chops (you could use chicken, too) were marinated in a brine of 2 cups buttermilk, 1 tbsp of salt, and a generous dash of cayenne pepper. After two hours, I rinsed the buttermilk off, patted the meat dry with towels, and then coated it with a mixture of flour, brown sugar, ground coriander seed, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Fried the chops for a few minutes to get a crust, and then moved the pan to the oven until the internal temperature reached 160 F. While the pork chops rested on a plate, tented loosely with foil, I made a sauce from the drippings, using chicken stock, raisins, green onions, and a little corn starch as a thickener.
This was a tremendously tasty meal and I’ll have to experiment with it further and see what other things I can do with the basic idea. Chicken is next on my list, maybe for a brunch this Sunday.