Photo By: Blanche Shaheen/Special to the Town Crier
The holidays are bursting with dangerous goodies that taste great but offer little nutritional value. I listen in awe to my mother’s stories of her childhood. She told me that chocolate was a luxurious rarity, so she often snacked on dates for dessert.
I realized that she was on to something. When I want some chocolate without the guilt, I make date almond truffles, which satisfy my craving with just a hint of cocoa. They are pretty enough to share on a festive platter as a hostess gift or at a potluck meal, offering a new twist on seasonal sweets.
An old Arabic legend tells of the date palm’s creation: “After God had finished molding man from earth, he took the remaining material and shaped it into a date palm, which he placed in the garden of paradise.”
In addition to its beauty, the date palm held vital importance in the premodern economy of the Arab world. It has been eaten and enjoyed by man for more than 7,000 years. Fast forward to today, and people of the Middle East eat dates with Arabic coffee to take an edge off the bitterness. Arabs also drink the syrup pressed from dates and use the fruit in a variety of desserts.
Date almond truffles are my modern interpretation of this ancient treat. I give these date balls to my children whenever they ask for chocolate. They love them, claiming that they taste like “little smooth rounds of brownie batter.”
Dates are also a great source of magnesium, potassium and fiber, so they pack a nutritional punch alongside their deliciousness. Throw in the almond butter and you reap the added nutritional benefits of vitamin E, protein and fiber.
I like to pop one of these in my mouth before an intense workout for energy, or put a couple in my purse before hitting festive parties. They are my portable desserts that prevent me from diving face first into the chocolate fondue!
Blanche Shaheen is a food blogger and journalist who lives in Los Altos. She is writing a Middle Eastern cookbook that shares heirloom recipes, cooking tips and family stories. For more recipes, visit feastinthemiddleeast.com.
Date Almond Truffles
• 2 cups large dates, pitted
• 4 tablespoons almond butter
• 4 tablespoons cocoa
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• Dash of cardamom (optional)
• Almond milk (as needed)
• Olive or coconut oil
• Ground almonds, coconut and/or cocoa powder for rolling truffles
Grind pitted dates, almond butter and spices in food processer into smooth paste. Add almond milk a tablespoon at a time to ensure that mixture is nice and smooth.
Grease hands with olive oil or coconut oil to prevent sticking and roll date almond paste into approximately 20 2-inch balls.
Roll truffles in coconut, cocoa or almonds, depending on flavor preference. These make a great party presentation when you do all three and put into mini cupcake linings.
Serves 10 (two truffles each).