Friday, April 06, 2007

Date me

Ever do something and not quite believe you've done it? I like to think of myself as the type who lives by that credo. Yet in reality, all I've ever craved is the comfort of the known and the safety of the un-ventured.

Unless someone has my back. Then almost anything, apparently, is possible. Luckily, my friends seem to believe that I'm capable of impressive feats. They think that I can not only finish my novels but publish them, sell screenplays, knit my own sweaters, grow successful tomatoes and dance flamenco before a paying audience. And maybe with their help these things will come to pass. Or not. But it was a sort of thrilling moment when Julia looked up at me last week and tapped the cookbook she'd been perusing for Seder dinner desert ideas.

"Date and almond truffles."

"Excuse me?"

"Date and almond truffles," she said. "For desert."

"...we can probably buy them from the Lebanese restaurant..."

"We can make them, silly."

We stared at each other for a few beats.

"Can we do that?" I squeaked.

She started laughing.

Things involving food processors tend to scare me away. I had a food processor once, an early '80s-style Cuisinart I inherited from my step-mother. It was huge and unwieldy and resembled a space station, with all that plastic and all those mysterious attachments. And indeed it did take up a lot of space. It took me several months to screw up the courage to try it and when I plugged it in it didn't work. With relief I now use my blender instead. I'm sure it's not as functional as a proper food processor, but it's unlikely I'm going to be getting to those advanced functions anytime soon.

I tell you all this because Tmar Kweerat (or Fatima's Date and Almond Truffles) requires grinding almonds and chopped dates into a paste. Right away I was terrified. Julia took it calmly.

From Kitty Morse's: The Vegetarian Table: North Africa, p. 148

1 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted.

1 cup pitted dates, chopped

1 tablespoon orange flower water (Ah! This is how Seville smells, they say)

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup shredded coconut (we used unsweetened)

Put half the almonds and dates into the blender and grind into a paste. Do the same with the other half. Transfer to a medium bowl. With your hands, blend in the orange flower water, honey and cinnamon. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll them in coconut.

We found these cute miniature paper cups at Marukai, and we put the balls into those to chill overnight.

Were these hard to make? Not at all. But I would never have ventured them on my own. Silly, really. These, eaten with sweet mint tea and the end of the Seder meal, were a huge hit. Alas, none survived, and I'll have to make some more if I want to experience them again. Which I will, because now I know I can. Thanks be to Julia for laughing at my panic. Maybe I'll knit a sweater for her.

Stay tuned for details about the Seder entree...lamb tagine with a thousand spices!

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