Have you noticed that the size of appetizers has exploded like our waistlines? There was a time when hors d’oeuvres were merely one- to two-bite savory morsels eaten before a meal, often with an aperitif or cocktail. Today it’s not uncommon to be presented with enough hors d’oeuvres that we’re full before it’s actually time to eat. But this goes beyond our super-size eating habits in general. I think it’s more about not understanding the intention. I’m not advocating that we return to an earlier era where conformity was the norm, but it would be nice for people in the profession to understand the purpose of an hors d’oeuvre and take it upon themselves to educate the public on proper courses, serving sizes, and serving sequence.
As a hostess, one must consider the convenience of an appetizer as well. Common sense tells us that if you’re hosting a standing-room-only cocktail party, plates and utensils are not only unnecessary, but also hazardous. Hors d’oeuvres should only be one-bite morsels. Only casual gatherings with ample seating and table space can accommodate larger size appetizers and plates. Considering your guests before yourself and your urge to make your favorite appetizer or a lusted-after recipe is the best way to approach entertaining.
I am just as guilty as the next person for not always planning according to an occasion, sometimes considering a dish because I like it or it’s convenient to make as opposed to what is most comfortable for guests, and my recent recipe for stuffed dates was a reminder of an appetizer done right.
My recipe for Goat Cheese-Pistachio Stuffed Dates was inspired by cookbook author Jennie Schacht. She brought a similar version at the recent butter tasting I attended and hers reminded me of what a great hors d’oeuvre stuffed dates are. There are several versions of them on Project Foodie, many using bacon. The combination of bacon, dates, and cheese is pure heaven to me. My version is more Eastern in flavors since I use orange flower water. I love to have this exotic flavoring on hand for moments like this when you just need that special something to take a recipe to another place. Enjoy!
Goat Cheese-Pistachio Stuffed Dates
Dates are one of those essential pantry staples. Perfect for pre-workouts, they are loaded with carbs for endurance. Add to a smoothie or your morning oatmeal. Dates are also great for last-minute desserts and a great way to add natural sweetness to crumb toppings in cobblers and cookies.
20 Medjool dates
1/4 cup shelled salted pistachios
1/2 cup loose-packed basil leaves
5 oz. goat cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tsp. orange flower water
1. With a small paring knife, split open to top of each date and remove pit; set aside.
2. Chop pistachios and place in a small mixing bowl.
3. Rinse and dry basil leaves, chop, and add to pistachios. Add goat cheese and orange flower water and mix thoroughly.
4. Stuff each date with about a teaspoon full of cheese mixture, holding the date between your fingers and gently squeezing the ends so that it opens where the pit was removed.
5. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to a day ahead.