Saturday, March 5, 2011

FABULOUS APPETIZER! STUFFED DATES.

Last Thursday was our Cooking Club lunch and it was one of the best we've had.  The best of the best though was the appetizer.  Enjoy this easy but delicious dish.

STUFFED DATES.  Makes 20.
*  20 Medjool dates
*  20 whole fresh mint leaves
*  1 3-oz piece of Manchego cheese (a Spanish cheese made from sheep's milk, sold at most stores) cut into 20 1-1/2x1/4x1/4 inch strips
*  4 packages thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
Cut small slice off the short end of each date and discard.  Carefully remove the pit from the date through a small slit.  Place 1 mint leaf across the opening of the date, covering the cavity.  Take 1 strip of cheese and push the mint leaf and cheese into the date cavity.  Pinch the date opening closed.  Repeat with all of the dates.  Wrap 3 pancetta slices securely around each date, enclosing the date completely.  Place the pancetta-wrapped dates on a baking sheet.  [Note:  Can be made ahead up to this point, cover and refrigerate.]
     Preheat oven to 375º.  Bake dates uncovered until the pancetta is crisp and the bottoms of the dates caramelize, about 30 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and serve warm.

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