Spicy Lemon Date Spread


I first made this spicy date spread for our Equinox party in March.  I didn’t hesitate when throwing all the ingredients together — everything sounded delicious (and that Joy sure knows her stuff).  A quick taste as it was coming together, however, alerted me to just how spicy it was.  I like spicy and quite a bit of it, but not everyone enjoys a swift kick in the pants.

Since there was nothing to tone down the heat (I’d used all the dates and didn’t want to make it any sweeter), I considered it my failure for the evening.  I warned every guest about how spicy it was and figured it’d hardly be touched.  Boy was I wrong.

A bunch of our friends camped out around the spicy date spread and wiped out the pita chips and water crackers while wolfing it down.  I received rave review after rave review and several demands for the recipe.  It’s since been requested at other parties we’ve attended and is always a show stopper.  Apparently people do like spicy.

Lemony, spicy, and sweet — what’s not to love?  It’s also perfumed with warm cumin, making it the perfect accompaniment for chilly evenings and backyard barbecues alike.

2 1/2 cups pitted, chopped dates
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
scant 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook chopped dates, lemon juice, water, zest, ginger, and spices.  Simmer until almost all of the water is evaporated, about 30 minutes.  The dates will begin to break down, and the simmering mixture will resemble a very thick stew.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  With a spatula, scrape mixture into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Puree until smooth.  Serve immediately.

This spread is delicious warm and at room temperature.  It will last, covered in the fridge, for one week.

Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker.

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