Saturday, September 11, 2010

Date and Cashew Tart with a Sweet Tahini and Sesame Seed Top Crust

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Fresh Yellow Dates
Over the Labor Day weekend, I took the kids to visit my family in the D.C. area.  I have a love-hate relationship with big cities.   I was so apprehensive about the traffic and being stuck in the car with two toddlers, but luckily that worked out well and our timing was perfect.  On the love side, I just get giddy being surrounded by all the ethnic markets and having everything available at arm's reach.  Before packing the kids for the ride back home, I stopped by at an international market nearby and loaded up on these beautiful Mariana yellow dates.  As a child, my family spent a few years in Saudi Arabia and one of my earliest memories is of huge date (I remember them being red) clusters hanging in the kitchen.  I would always have to climb up on the counter to reach some for snack. 
Dates are an ancient fruit, dating back close to 4000 BC, and have been a staple in the Middle Eastern diet for thousands of years.  Dates provide endless possibilities.  Picked fresh (in the Khalal stage), they are crunchy like an apple with minor hints of bitterness.  As the maturity process continues, they turn to Ratab which is the stage when the fruit turns a darker color, the flesh softens and becomes sweet like honey.  Then, it continues to ripen to the dry stage and becomes chewy, the type that is widely available everywhere.
Date and Cashew Tarte
Ratab
For this tart, I used dry date paste also known as baking dates, which is available in Middle Eastern stores.  And you know me and nuts, I had to incorporate those somewhere especially because they pair so well with dates.  I enjoyed a piece with coffee this morning and Sophie had a small piece to snack on after her nap.  So easy and simple, I think you will love it.  Happy Eid to my Muslim readers celebrating Ramadan and Happy New Year to my Jewish readers celebrating Rosh Hashanah. For an interesting article on these two holidays, click here.
Open Ratab

Date and Cashew Tart with a Sweet Tahini and Sesame Seed Top
makes an 8 1/2 inch tart

Tart Dough
6 oz whole grains pastry flour
4 1/2 oz butter, unsalted, chilled and cut into cubes
4 oz cashews, raw
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 oz powdered sugar
1 egg
Pinch of sea salt

In a food processor, pulse the cashews and cornstarch until they turn into coarse meal.  Add flour and powdered sugar and blend together with cashew meal. Add cold butter cubes and pulse again a few times to make the flour mix grainy.  Add egg and pulse about 5 times until the dough starts coming together.  Pour mixture over a sheet of plastic and wrap it tightly and form into a disc.  Refrigerate at least one hour.  
Roll the chilled dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/4 inch or as desired.  Remove top plastic and flip over the bottom sheet onto a tart pan with dough facing down.  Shape the dough and cut out extra edges. Set aside.

Filling and Topping
16 oz baking dates
3 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
2 tbsp natural cane sugar
3-4 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted lightly
1/2 tsp orange zest (optional)
6-8 cashews, raw and split (for optional decoration)

Roll out baking dates to same thickness as dough on a lightly oiled plastic wrap sheet.  Flip onto tart pan over dough.  Tuck in edges and smooth surface.  In a small bowl, mix together tahini, orange zest and sugar until well blended. Brush top of dates generously, sprinkle sesame seeds to cover surface completely.  Decorate with split cashews if desired.  Bake in a 400ºF oven for 15 minutes or until crust turns golden brown.

4 comments:

  1. The fresh dates look so good, I've never had them. And the tart looks really delicious, a perfect coffee side kick :). Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Nice combination, looks so appetizing! Pictures are fantastic as usual.

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  3. I have been thinking of making something with tahini and sweets like dates. Perfect tart and I would love to make it soon.

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  4. this looks so delicious! now i have to choose between this and the egg tahini salad recipe for lunch. so hard to choose! http://www.draxe.com/video/egg-tahini-salad-transform-your-kitchen-ep-23/

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