Ahhhhh (Date Butter)
A few Saturday's ago, the most bizarre thing happened to me. Like bizarre to epic proportions...
Now, I am sure to most this is a common place event. And not monumental. At all. But to me. It was a "Wow, what do I do now moment?"
Do I have you stumped yet???? I do? Okay. Here goes...
...I had the house to myself for like a four whole hours. Four blissful hours of solitude. There was not a creature stirring. No one asking me to feed them. Wash their clothes. Find something. No cries of "M-o-o-o-m-m-m, Can you..."
The couch was mine. The remote was mine. The computer was mine. The kitchen was mine (well, the kitchen is ALWAYS mine - especially the dirty contents of the sink and the dishwasher... UGH). I think my eyes welled up with tears of joy when I realized my good fortune. (Now mind you, I dearly love all my peeps but absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that...)
So how does one celebrate these stolen moments of solitude?
Sorry to disappoint, but no spa day was involved. No shopping spree. It was too cold for a run (the temperatures were still hovering in the single digits and a fresh blanket of snow was covering the ground).
It went down like this. I popped some freshly risen dough into the oven. Whipped up a batch of "adult date butter" (see ingredient list). Slathered some of my freshly made spread onto a slice of bread. Grabbed the past couple of months of periodicals that I hadn't weeded through yet and a couple of fat cookbooks. Snatched the remote. Turned on one of "those shows" (you know, the ones that you love but never get to watch because everyone else whines when they are on...BLAH) and settled in until it was time to reluctantly start rounding up the
And it was... Heaven. Bliss. Beyond words.
And since it will probably be many more cycles of the moon before solitude comes my way again. I shall cling to those few moments and savor the memory. And know that in just a few short years, I will long for the hustle & bustle of days gone by and lament about the excessive solitude that was once so cherished.
This is one of my favorite winter-time spreads (although good all year). The complex, deep flavors of the red wine combined with the sweetness of the dates pair nicely with the tang of sourdough. It is also lovely with any of your "darker grains" (whole wheat, rye, spelt, buckwheat). Oh, and the smell of this cooking on the stove top is enough to brighten the spirits on a cold, dreary day. How can you stay miserable when red wine & spices are simmering away? Just saying...
Adapted from Fig Butter recipe in Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce1/2 cup sugar
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 cup red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon is nice)
1/2 cup ruby port
1 pound dried Medjool dates - pitted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
Combine 1/4 cup water and sugar into a small sauce pan. Stir together with a wooden spoon. (If any gets on the side, wet down with a pastry brush dipped in cool water). Add the cloves & star anise (I like to wrap them in a cheesecloth bundle secured with twine - digging cloves out of a dark red mixture, not so simple...). Bring to a boil over medium heat & cook until sugar darkens to amber (~8-10 minutes).
Add the wine, port, dates & cinnamon (Be careful - the syrup will be hot & might spurt up. Trust me, hot syrup does not feel so good...). At this point the syrup will harden - it is okay, I promise! Keep cooking at medium heat for a couple of minutes - everything will start to mix back up.
Reduce heat to low & simmer gently until the liquids have reduced by half (~30 minutes or so). Once mixture is reduced, remove pan from heat. Cool to room temperature.
Scrape the cooled mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth. (~1 minute). Add the room temperature butter and process again until smooth. If not using right away, place into an air tight container. It will keep, refrigerated for ~1 month (if it lasts that long). Or you can just spoon it into the gullet straight up... Your choice!