Four organic date varieties are cultivated in Kibbutz Samar’s date plantation: large and plump medjool dates originally from Morocco, the long and elegant Tunisian and Algerian deglet nour, aromatic and semi-dry Zahidi dates that originated in Iraq, and barhi, a fresh yellow variety also from Iraq that hangs from the branch around the Jewish high holidays.
In the Arava desert, the heat naturally ripens the Barhi dates on the trees meaning some are harvested fresh and yellow in August, while others are harvested in early November, having further ripened to a shade of toffee. They have a unique flavor and a long shelf life and are available in local markets in Israel; anyone who gets a taste of these round and small fruits immediately falls in love with them. Out of hundreds of tons cultivated in Israel, only about 40 tons from the south of the Arava are labeled as organic “honey Barhi dates.”
In this riff on the classic date roulade from Asif’s culinary director Chef Ayelet Latovitch, Barhi dates are smoked with herbs. To make this recipe vegan, substitute butter with high-quality olive oil.
- 1 cup (115 gram) white spelt flour
- 1¼ cups (150 grams) whole spelt flour
- ⅔ cup Koroneiki olive oil
- ¼ cup (60 grams) brown sugar
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) rice milk
- Pinch of salt
- For the filling:
- 1 large bunch mixed fresh herbs: sage, thyme, white-leaved savory, hyssop
- 3 cups (350 grams/ 12 oz) pitted dates, preferably Barhi
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- ½ teaspoon ground nigella seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- A pinch of coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup (100 grams/ 3½ oz) chopped walnuts
- Smoke the dates: Place the herbs in a heavy-bottomed pot, or one that is easy to clean after (you can also use an old pot that you don’t mind burning), over high heat. Place the dates on a sheet of aluminum foil and shape the edges to an open bowl. Place the ‘bowl’ of dates over the herbs and cover the pot. The herbs will burn, and the dates will absorb the trapped smoke. Smoke the dates for 25 minutes, then cool.
- Prepare the dough: Using a wooden spoon, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, taking care not to overwork the dough. Divide the dough in half, slightly flatten each piece, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Transfer the smoked dates to a food processor, add the zests, spices, and olive oil, and grind to a smooth paste. Divide the paste in half and shape each piece into a 30cm/ 12-in long log.
- Roll out a piece of dough between two sheets of parchment paper into a 15x30cm/ 6×12-in rectangle. Remove the top parchment paper and place a date log along the rectangle’s length. Use your hands to flatten the roll so that it spreads to (⅔ of the width of the dough (10 cm/ 8-in). Sprinkle half of the chopped walnuts on top and starting from the side with the date paste, roll tightly into a swirled log. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough, date paste and walnuts.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 375°F.
- Place the rolls on a tray lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, score 2cm/0.8-in wide slices, cutting halfway through each log. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool.
- Cut into slices and serve with bitter black coffee.