Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

We stuff sweet dates with a mixture of chopped walnuts and parsley before wrapping them with buttery prosciutto.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates
SERVES 6 to 8 FAST
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Combining sweet, savory, and salty into one bite-size morsel, stuffed dates make a perfect addition to any appetizer spread. To balance the deep sweetness of the dates, we looked to ultrasavory prosciutto. We wanted to streamline the stuffing as much as possible, so we tried combining the prosciutto with walnuts and parsley in a food processor. We quickly learned that this method wouldn’t work; our pricey prosciutto was all but unrecognizable, and the walnut pieces were too small to lend any real texture. We decided instead to wrap the prosciutto around the stuffed dates. This put the prosciutto in the spotlight while still allowing the sweetness of the dates to shine through. As for the stuffing, we found that chopping the walnuts and parsley by hand gave us more control over the final texture of the filling and yielded the best consistency. Orange zest brightened the flavor nicely, and just a bit of olive oil helped bind the mixture together. The stuffing served as a nutty, crunchy counterpoint to the soft, sweet dates and, as an added benefit, came together in just minutes. High-quality dates and prosciutto are essential to the success of this recipe. Look for dates that are fresh, plump, and juicy; skip over any that look withered or dry. We prefer Medjool dates for this recipe, as they are particularly sweet with a dense texture.

⅔ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine
½ cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
Salt and pepper
12 large pitted dates, halved lengthwise
12 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
Combine walnuts, parsley, oil, and orange zest in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mound 1 generous teaspoon filling into center of each date half. Wrap prosciutto securely around dates. Serve. (Dates can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours; bring to room temperature before serving.)

VARIATION
Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates with Pistachios and Balsamic Vinegar FAST
Omit orange zest. Substitute ⅔ cup shelled pistachios for walnuts and ¼ cup shredded fresh basil for parsley. Reduce olive oil to 1 tablespoon and add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar to nut mixture.

Assembling Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates

1.Mound 1 generous teaspoon filling into center of each date half.

2.Wrap prosciutto securely around date, leaving date ends uncovered.

NOTES FROM THE TEST KITCHEN
All About Prosciutto
Italians have been making prosciutto for nearly 2,000 years, most notably in Parma. This city in Emilia-Romagna at the top of Italy’s boot is still at it, making Italy’s most famous version, Prosciutto di Parma, under the eye of an official consortium that sears Parma’s five-pointed crown brand onto every approved ham. Next most renowned: Prosciutto di San Daniele, from the Friuli region in Italy’s northeast, with its own consortium and brand shaped like a leg of ham. Both are designated “PDO” by the European Union—Protected Denomination of Origin—meaning that they are exceptional regional products, with exclusive rights to their particular names.
Prosciutto crudo (“raw ham”), as it’s called in Italian, is never smoked or cooked. Producers in both regions use the same basic curing method: After slaughtering pigs, they salt and hang the legs for a minimum of 12 months. The meat’s flavor concentrates with age, as prosciutto loses up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture during curing. This process gives the prosciutto its signature silky, dense texture and nutty flavor.
If you can’t find authentic Italian prosciutto, never fear: In taste tests, we found that Volpi, which is made in Missouri and sold in vacuum-sealed packages at supermarkets, is a viable alternative. They use a series of climate-controlled chambers designed to replicate the curing conditions in northern Italy, which gives the prosciutto a rich, buttery flavor and supple texture.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
MAKES 24 VEG
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Stuffed grape leaves, known in Greece as dolmathes , should boast seasoned, tender leaves wrapped around a flavorful rice filling, but too often, store-bought versions are drowning in oil and suffer from mushy leaves and overcooked rice. To develop a foolproof recipe that turned out perfect stuffed grape leaves every time, we started with the leaves themselves. Not wanting to be restricted by seasonality, we chose to use jarred grape leaves instead of fresh. Since the jarred leaves were packed in brine, we needed to figure out a way to tame their flavor before using them; blanching them briefly in boiling water did the trick. As for the filling, tasters preferred the slight stickiness of short-grain rice to the texture of long-grain rice. Parcooking the rice before filling the leaves ensured that it would cook to the perfect doneness as the rolled leaves steamed. We chose to simmer the stuffed grape leaves in a skillet since they fit nicely in a single layer; a bit of lemon juice added to the steaming water gave the leaves tangy flavor. Lining the bottom of the skillet with the extra, unused grape leaves ensured that the stuffed leaves were not in direct contact with the heat, preventing scorching. We’ve had good luck using Peloponnese and Krinos brand grape leaves. Larger grape leaves can be trimmed to 6 inches, and smaller leaves can be overlapped to achieve the correct size. Take care when handling the grape leaves; they can be delicate and easily tear. Long-grain rice can be substituted for short-grain in this recipe, but the filling will not be as cohesive.

1 (16-ounce) jar grape leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 large onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
¾ cup short-grain white rice
⅓ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup chopped fresh mint

1½ tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
1. Reserve 24 intact grape leaves, roughly 6 inches in diameter; set aside remaining leaves. Bring 6 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Add reserved grape leaves and cook for 1 minute. Gently drain leaves and transfer to bowl of cold water to cool, about 5 minutes. Drain again, then transfer leaves to plate and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
2. Heat oil in now-empty saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in ¾ cup water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until rice is tender but still firm in center and water has been absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Off heat, let rice cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in dill, mint, and lemon zest. (Blanched grape leaves and filling can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
3. Place 1 blanched leaf smooth side down on counter with stem facing you. Remove stem from base of leaf by cutting along both sides of stem to form narrow triangle. Pat leaf dry with paper towels. Overlap cut ends of leaf to prevent any filling from spilling out. Place heaping tablespoon filling ¼ inch from bottom of leaf where ends overlap. Fold bottom over filling and fold in sides. Roll leaf tightly around filling to create tidy roll. Repeat with remaining blanched leaves and filling.

4.Line 12-inch skillet with single layer of remaining leaves. Place rolled leaves seam side down in tight rows in prepared skillet. Combine 1¼ cups water and lemon juice, add to skillet, and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until water is almost completely absorbed and leaves and rice are tender and cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Transfer stuffed grape leaves to serving platter and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes; discard leaves in skillet. Drizzle with extra oil before serving.

VARIATION
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Currants and Pine Nuts VEG
Omit dill and lemon juice. In step 2, add 1½ teaspoons ground allspice and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon to cooked onions, and add ¼ cup toasted pine nuts and ¼ cup currants to cooled rice. Increase water in step 4 to 1⅓ cups.

Assembling Grape Leaves

1.Place 1 blanched leaf, smooth side down, on counter. Remove any thick stem from base of grape leaf by cutting along both sides of rib to form narrow triangle.

2.Place 1 blanched leaf, smooth side down, on counter. Remove any thick stem from base of grape leaf by cutting along both sides of rib to form narrow triangle.

3.Place 1 heaping tablespoon filling ¼ inch from bottom of leaf where ends overlap.

4.Fold bottom over filling and fold in sides. Roll leaf tightly around filling to create tidy roll. Repeat with remaining filling and reserved blanched leaves.

 

Appetizer & Meze

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