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.
INGREDIENTS adapted from Judy Rodgers' The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
- 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
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.