Thursday, August 16, 2018

Celery Salad And A Date To Remember.

 I've made this salad before.  Several times.  But never like this.
It's a very simple celery salad, but it packs a punch of flavors.
And for those of you who say , "I don't like celery," you must try this.
The combination of flavors - salty, sweet, acidic - all work together to create what I call culinary synergy - where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The ingredients are:
sliced celery, 3-4 stalks thinly sliced on the diagonal
handful of toasted almonds
shaved Parmesan, about 1/4 - 1/3 cup
big handful of medjool dates, chopped

kosher salt/freshly ground pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
olive oil/lemon juice vinaigrette
(Juice of one lemon and 3 or so tablespoons of a nice, fruity extra virgin olive oil)
And that's it.
Combine all together, tossing to coat evenly with the vinaigrette.

VERY IMPORTANT ROSIE NOTE:  You need to take this to the next level.
Don't use regular dried dates (found in the baking section), like I've been doing.  Use fresh Medjool dates.
 I cannot stress this enough.   
 Use Medjool dates!
Holy crap!  What a difference a date makes.

These are Medjool dates.  They're fresh, not dried dates, and are found in the produce department. I found them at Publix and I called Fresh Market and they said they carried them too.

Let's talk about dates.
Did you know that dates are considered the oldest cultivated fruit in the world?  Dates come from the date palm, the "tree of life" and fossils indicate the trees flourished 50 million years ago.  The fruit has been cultivated in the Middle East for around 6000 years.  The first date palms in the United States were seedlings planted in California in the 18th century by Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries as the Spaniards made their way north from Mexico, but it wasn't until the early 20th century when superior cultivars were introduced that the California date industry was born.

US growers produce about a dozen different different varieties of dates.  The  two major types of dates in the US are the smaller, drier date called the Deglet Noor (often found in baked goods) and the caramel flavored, soft and sticky, high-moisture content, succulent, rich, fat Medjool date, the "king of dates."  Both varieties were introduced to the United States by Walter Swingle in the early 1900s.

In 1898, Congress passed the Agricultural Act creating a special department which authorized "agricultural explorers"  to visit foreign countries in search of  plants not grown in the US but which might be adapted to cultivation here and be economically viable.  Agricultural explorer Swingel, sort of the Indiana Jones of the plant world, was tasked by the government with searching the world for exotic crops.  In 1927, Swingel convinced a Moroccan leader to part with eleven Medjool offshoots and brought them to the US. At that time, the Moroccan date crop was actually threatened with extinction from a disease called Baioudh.  The offshoots were put in quarantine and nine of the eleven survived.  Those nine were eventually moved to the Coachella Valley in California.  Every Medjool date grown in the US can trace its roots to a single oasis in Morocco - the Oasis of Boudenib.  95% of US dates are grown in the Coachella Valley, the "Date Capital" of the US, with other dates grown in southwestern Arizona.

And here's my Medjool date and celery salad:


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