January 7, 2014

GOODBYE 2013 + A SIMPLE ZUNI DESSERT





Every time the calendar changes I feel the weight of tucking away another year. I cannot believe 2013 was the year my babe turned 13, or that I actually finished writing my own book. Those milestones, both personal and momentous, fill me with deep gratitude. At the same time, 2013 was a year where many of my dear friends' parents and grandparents became ill or passed away. In these middle years, I feel sandwiched between the hope and possibility I see in my kiddos and the messy pain of witnessing loved ones stoop, ache, and slow.

Judy Rodgers was one of those we lost last year. Though I never met her, Rodgers deeply impacted me, along with so many others. I treasure the lazy Sunday afternoons P and I have spent at Zuni snugged into a tiny table near the long zinc bar, grazing on oysters, Caesar salads, crispy fries, chilly martinis. Life doesn't get better than that. Digging deeper into my memory, I see myself eating at Zuni before my Senior Prom feeling very grownup in uncomfortable heels and a fancy dress, made to feel totally at home in Rodgers' restaurant. A decade ago, Rodgers' brilliant cookbook, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, let us bring her food into all of our kitchens. Her perfect roast chicken is the one Paul makes on a weekly basis, her brined turkey is the one we sit down to every Thanksgiving.

When Rodgers succumbed to cancer last month, I knew I wanted to mark her passing here, to pay my respects. I thumbed through her book looking for just the right recipe to embody what I loved about her food. As I flipped to the final pages, I found the recipe I wanted - dates stuffed with mascarpone, pistachios and pomegranates plus mandarins, blood oranges, and a splash of orange blossom water - a simple, beautiful, delightful dessert infused with Rodgers' magic.


DATES stuffed with MASCARPONE, POMEGRANATE, PISTACHIOS + MANDARINS, BLOOD ORANGES  and a splash of ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER

INGREDIENTS adapted from Judy Rodgers' The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
printable recipe 
  • 4 mandarins
  • 2 blood oranges
  • splash of orange blossom water 
  • 8 ripe dates - Medjools are always my favorite
  • 8 teaspoons mascarpone
  • 30 roasted/salted pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped
  • seeds from 1/2 pomegranate 
Prep mandarins and blood oranges by slicing the top and bottom off the unpeeled fruit. Resting each orange on its flat bottom, use a sharp knife to cut off strips of peel and pith, rotating the citrus and cutting until the fruit is naked and ready to be sliced. Once the peel is removed, slice the citrus horizontally into nice pinwheels. Scatter the citrus rounds onto a plate. Add a light splash of orange blossom water to the citrus - I'm amazed at the dreamy way the orange blossom water heightens the natural perfume of the fresh citrus slices.

Cut each date with a slice large enough to remove and discard the pits. Carefully stuff each date cavity with 1 teaspoon mascarpone. Press some chopped pistachio and pomegranate seeds onto the mascarpone. Scatter the remaining pistachio and pomegranate onto the plate if you so desire.

Rodgers' brilliant combination of flavors, textures, and colors is the embodiment of seasonal brightness on a plate. Thank you Judy.


Serves 4 
  

46 comments:

  1. I adore Zuni Café, especially that chicken - oh that chicken and the bread soaked with the goodness of the chicken - YUM! You picked a perfect recipe to highlight how wonderful Judy was and luckily for us, we have her cookbook to have her legacy continue forever. Happy 2014 Erin!!!

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    1. Lisa! Oh that chicken is so good. I think that's the dish I ate on prom night;)
      Judy Rodgers was a gift to us all. I'm grateful to have eaten her food and that she shared her wisdom so we can cook her food ourselves. Lucky us!
      xoxo
      E

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  2. A wonderful recipe and treat. Lovely photography too.

    Happy New Year and best wishes for 2014!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Best wishes to you as well Rosa! Happy 2014. xo E

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  3. Just lovely! I found myself at Zuni a week after she passed, and felt so lucky to spend the evening thinking of, and appreciating, her legacy. Still such a loss.

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    1. And she was so young too:(

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  4. It's definitely strange being stuck between celebrating the future and mourning what has already happened, but I guess somehow we need to find balance! And it looks like you're doing fabulously! Love this plate of deliciousness!

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    1. Katrina, so true. Always a balance between joy and loss. That's life I guess.
      xo
      E

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  5. You've written a beautiful tribute to Judy here. I've never been to the Zuni Cafe, but the cookbook is a classic I have cherished over the years. I love dates and this recipe looks delicious.

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    1. Thanks Jess. The book is a treasure, isn't it? Even though we've owned it for years, I feel like I've barely scraped the surface of all Judy has to offer us. I have work to do.
      And the dates are so darned good. The creamy mascarpone and caramely date combo slays me!
      xo
      E

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  6. I've read a lot about Judy Rodgers since she passed - she wasn't a chef that I was particularly familiar with but everything that I've read about her makes me like her even more. This is a wonderful tribute and such a lovely and inventive dessert. Beautiful pictures too, as ever.

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    1. Kathryn, do you have her book? I think you'd love it. She goes way beyond recipes into techniques, attitudes and general teachings about food. A gem.
      Always good to hear from you!
      xoxo
      E

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  7. A lovely tribute to a very special chef. She taught us that simplicity is so often the best way to enjoy the real nuances of ingredients. Can't believe she was all of 57 when she passed away. Definitely too soon. But what a delicious legacy she leaves.

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    1. Way too soon. Such a tragic loss.

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  8. Ahhhh the martinis and oysters and fries and Cesar. What I love about Zuni is the simplicity of ingredients and how that magnifies the taste bud delight. Thank you for picking such a perfect receipe.

    XO Ames

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    1. Ames, is it possible that we haven't been to Zuni together?!? Let's make a date.
      Love you,
      E

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  9. Beautiful pictures as always, understated and elegant like the dish goodness you have brought to share. I have discovered dates this year...why didn't I before? I will work this into my next after dinner desire.

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    1. Oli, happy 2014 to you! Aren't dates a wonderful treat? I love them. Tricking them out in Judy Rodgers' style only makes them better if that's possible;)
      xoxo to you and yours,
      E

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  10. Memories is sometimes all we have of people and places we have loved and lost. It's important to cherish them and share them with others. Thank you for sharing your memories.
    What a wonderful dish this is; I shall try it soon.
    That first photo is stunning, Erin.
    xoxo

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    1. Magda, I know what you mean about memories. You make me think of my grandfather - one of my favorite people to have graced planet - who died a decade ago. We talk about him so much that I frequently feel like he's in the room with us.
      Take care Magda. I hope things are looking up.
      xoxo
      E

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  11. Love seeing you apply your personal brand of magic to Judy's. Beautiful tribute.

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    1. Thanks Katie:) Maybe we should go to Zuni on our next girls' date. xoxo E

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  12. Happy new year Erin! What a beautiful little recipe. We eat dozens of stuffed dates at Christmas but I've never seen ones as beautiful as these :-) x

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    1. Happy new year to you too! Do tell.... what do you normally stuff your dates with? I'm a fiend this time of year.
      xo
      E

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  13. that sounds DELICIOUS! and finally i know what to do with all the dates that my husband always imports from tunisia *haha*

    thanks a lot for sharing :)

    greetings from vienna,
    salma

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    1. Ooh Tunisian dates? Yes please!
      xo
      E

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  14. Erin,

    It is so great to see sunshine in your photos! This is exactly what I needed since we've started a new year with a gloomy dark rainy days:) Wish you a wonderful year to come! xoxo Emi

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    1. Emi, all the best to you this year. Wishing you plenty of sunshine and us some good deep rains;)
      xoxo
      E

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  15. What a brilliant plate and lovely post, Erin. xoxo

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  16. A lovely post and a beautiful tribute. Happy New Year Erin.

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    1. Happy new year to you Anna. xoxo

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  17. Judy was so young! And such a gem and an inspiration. Thanks for this sweet accolade to her. Your words and photos bring honor to her work, I think. Such beautiful Winter colors!

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    1. She was way too young. I couldn't imagine not acknowledging her passing here. She was a big hero to me.

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  18. Beautiful post Erin, and I love the recipe too! I hope this year brings you and your loved ones lots of health and happiness! xxoo

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  19. Najwa, Thank you so much. I wish the same for your family this year! xoxo E

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  20. I have the cookbook and I was sad to hear of her death. What a nice thing to do. I've had the pleasure of eating at Zuni Cafe twice. So good.

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    1. Angela, always nice to hear from you and that's so cool that you've been to Zuni twice. Isn't it delicious? xoxo E

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  21. This is a lovely post and a beautiful way to remember someone. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Ashley!

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  22. So simple, but so beautiful and refreshing. Love the looks of this dessert.

    Also, very cool to see the respect and homage for this woman (who I had never heard of), both from you and from all your readers. How sad to lose a talent such as hers at an unfairly young age. We make the most of the time we have, but definitely cause for reflection.

    xo

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    1. Emma, Judy was an amazing talent! Check out her book if you can - she's full of so much great cooking wisdom.

      Hope you're well staying warm.

      xoxo
      E

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  23. Love your blog! New to viewing and certainly will be coming back. Your photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

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So good to hear from you... I appreciate each and every note you leave for me!

Thanks,
E

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