We challenged four local chefs and a mixologist to create a four-course meal and a cocktail. The catch: They had to incorporate dates in some way. The resulting smorgasbord not only knocked our date challenge out of the park, but also highlighted the Coachella Valley’s top agricultural crop in exciting new ways. Here are their recipes.



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VEGAN WHISKEY SOUR

Cocktail by Tiffany O’Conner, Bar Manager, Clandestino

date-infused vegan whiskey sour

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • .75 ounces lemon
  • .75 ounces aquafaba
  • 1 ounces date- and rosemary-infused demerara (recipe below)
  • 1 deglet noor date, for garnish
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, for garnish

Directions
Combine bourbon, lemon juice, aquafaba, demerara in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until cold and frothy. Strain into a coupe glass. To garnish, use a sprig of rosemary to spear one end of a date; slice the other end of the date, so it can fit snugly on the side of the glass.


For the Demerara Syrup

  • 5 sprigs of rosemary
  • ½ cup dates
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups demerara sugar

Char the rosemary on the stove until fragrant. Use a blender to combine the dates and water. Add the date and water mixture into a pan with the brown sugar, and bring it to a light simmer. Once simmering, add in the rosemary. Let it simmer on low for about 15 minutes. Once it has thickened, strain and cool the syrup.

DATE MOSTARDA

Hors d’Oeuvre component by Michael Hung, Executive Chef, SO·PA and The Colony Club

black rye crostini with date mostarda

Ingredients

  • 12 medjool dates, pitted and diced to ¼ inch
  • ¼ cup shallot, diced to ⅛ inch
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard seeds (dried)
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 pinch kosher salt

Directions
Combine mustard seed, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce until mustard seeds have swelled and taken on the consistency of caviar. Cool and reserve.

Combine shallots, pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Mix well and let shallots macerate for 30 minutes. Combine macerated shallots, pickled mustard seeds, and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Fold together, taking care not to smash the dates into mush. Allow to sit for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Chef’s tip: When dicing dates, apply a light film of olive oil to your knife to keep the dates from sticking. Also try to use dates that have dried out and have a firmer texture.

Applications: For the date challenge, Hung spread it on buttery black rye crostini with bone marrow, Siberian Ossetra caviar, and a pinch of crème fraîche. He suggests using it on a cheese and charcuterie presentation, as a condiment for pork chops or roasted chicken, or as a spread inside a turkey sandwich.

SIX-LAYER BRIOCHE

Starter by Katherine Gonzalez, Chef/Owner, Chúla Artisan Eatery and Chúlita Artisan Café

six-layer brioche with onion-date jam

Ingredients

  • 2 slices brioche
  • 2–3 tablespoons marinated mushrooms
  • 1 handful organic arugula
  • 2 burrata pods
  • 2 tablespoons onion-date jam (recipe below)
  • 2–3 tablespoons balsamic glaze
  • 1 pinch microgreens
  • 1 cup chopped applewood smoked bacon

Directions
Toast brioche. Spread 1 tablespoon of onion-date jam onto each slice of toasted brioche. Place arugula on top of jam. Slice burrata pod open and mash onto the arugula. Sprinkle mushrooms and chopped bacon onto burrata. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, garnish with microgreens, and serve immediately.


For the Onion-Date Jam

  • 12 local dates, pitted, rough chop
  • 2 white onions, chopped
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil

In a large skillet over high heat, add grapeseed oil, onions, and dates. Sauté together until onions are translucent and caramelized. Add sugar and broth and bring to a boil for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and pour contents into a deep bowl; using an immersion blender, gently puree the onion-date mixture until it becomes a smooth and slightly chunky jam.

Applications: Onion-date jam can be used on toast, baguette, or bagels. Tastes great with bacon, brie, or eggs.

GRILLED BISON TENDERLOIN

Entrée by Daniel Villanueva, Chef/Owner, Daniel’s Table

grilled bison

Equipment

  • Small grill
  • Matches or lighter
  • Firewood (3 to 6 small pieces, depends on grill size and number of servings)
  • Mulch or cardboard (enough to light a fire, no ink or wax)

Ingredients

  • 8–10 oz bison tenderloin
  • 12 barhi dates, pitted
  • 2–4 medjool dates per plate, pitted
  • 1 ½ ounces Spanish goat cheese, quartered
  • 5 smoked tomatoes
  • ½ cup dry cannellini beans
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 1 dried chile
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to coat bison
  • Grey salt, to taste
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Leeks, chiffonade for garnish

Directions
Cook beans with dried chile ahead of time, using three times the amount of water to beans. Salt and pepper to taste. Stuff medjool dates with Spanish goat cheese and set aside to grill. To prep the bison, clean silverskin and, if using a whole tenderloin, portion the meat; set aside.

Smoke tomatoes 30 minutes separately; you’re looking for soft, smoky tomatoes. Peel them, place in a bowl, and break up or separate them to about 1-inch pieces. Peel 1 carrot and cut into julienne strips or small dice. Blanch in boiling water for 60 seconds, strain.

Start a fire and allow the wood to burn down slightly to a medium fire, keeping the grate close to heat for precise cooking. As the fire comes down from high, place the stuffed medjool dates on the fire to mark with grill and par-melt the cheese inside the date to your liking (approximately 1–2 minutes).

Coat bison with extra-virgin olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Check the fire for a medium flame and add wood if necessary; lay bison gently on the fire, turn, and cook to medium rare. After cooking, rest for 2–3 minutes.

Meanwhile, with beans cooked, strain all but half the liquid. (They should appear saucy.) Remove from fire. Add bahri dates, tomatoes, and carrots. Add spinach and stir. Taste for salt and pepper. Flavor should be smoky, sweet, salty, and spicy.

To serve, use a warm plate. With a slotted spoon, to avoid too much liquid, add the date/bean/tomato mixture on the center of the plate, ensuring all ingredients are visible. Add bison on top. Arrange grilled stuffed medjool dates around the bison. Add leeks for garnish.

LEBANESE DATE CAKE

Dessert by Albert Gonzalez, Pastry Director/Co-Owner, Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge

lebanese date cake

Ingredients

  • 400 grams dates
  • 300 grams all-purpose flour
  • 10 grams baking soda
  • 20 grams baking powder
  • 6 grams ground cinnamon
  • 200 grams butter
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 196 grams eggs
  • 3 grams cardamom
  • 56 grams olive oil
  • 5 grams salt
  • Candied pistachios, chopped for garnish

Directions
Start by boiling 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Add the chopped dates and the baking soda (slowly), then adjust the heat to low. Continue cooking until the sauce slightly thickens, about 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Using a medium-size bowl, sift and combine the flour, baking powder, and ground cinnamon, then set aside for later. In a larger mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and mix. Pour the cooled date syrup and mix to combine evenly. Add the sifted dry ingredients, and fold to combine — do not overmix.

Pour the cake batter into a prepared pan. Place in the lower part of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted. Remove from the cake pan, and sprinkle with chopped pistachios on top.

Enhancements: For the date challenge, Gonzalez used a piping bag to top his cake with a ribbon of goat cheese mousse and plated it with crème anglaise and dots of orange fluid gel. In addition to candied pistachios, garnishes included candied orange slices and dried flower petals.