Cucumber Date Salad

Cucumber Date Salad | Pinky's Pantry
I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Made” on the Food Network channel and saw Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian make Grilled Salmon with Smashed Cucumber Date Salad. It sounded really good so I thought I would try it. Wow! I was definitely impressed! It was so easy to do and the salad had such surprising flavor combinations! I loved the bite of sweet date combined with the sour lemon juice and the creaminess of the walnuts.

Chef Zakarian served the salad as a bed underneath a piece of grilled salmon. I didn’t have any salmon when I first made it, but I did have Mahi Mahi so that’s what I used. Delicious! Since then, I’ve served this salad with other fish, like cod, and even with roast chicken. It goes great with anything. Its refreshing flavor is perfect for a summer meal. It’s easy to see why Chef Zakarian is an Iron Chef. His recipe is definitely a keeper!

GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN’S CUCUMBER DATE SALAD

  • 2 English seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 3/4 cup finely sliced fennel, feathery fronds reserved for garnish
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/2 a large lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons fruity olive oil (preferably from Spain)
  • medium-coarse sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  1. Roll the cucumber pieces up in a clean linen napkin or towel, and then smash them to release the juices, pressing down hard with the heels of your hands while ensuring the towel doesn’t unroll.
  2. Transfer the crushed cucumbers to a cutting board and then coarsely chop.
  3. Combine the cucumbers, sliced fennel, dates, walnuts, chives and some of the fennel fronds in a salad bowl and mix gently.
  4. Dress the cucumber salad with the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of fruity olive oil.
  5. Season with sea salt and pepper.
  6. Toss the salad lightly.
  7. Arrange equal portions on each of six plates and top each portion of salad with a piece of grilled fish or chicken.
  8. Garnish each plate with fennel fronds and serve.

NOTE:  If you can’t get fennel, you can just omit it. I’ve done the salad with and without fennel and both ways are equally delicious.

Walnut Date Bars

Walnut Date Bars | Pinky's PantryTita Tere (Aunt Tere) was an old friend of my Mom’s. She wasn’t really my aunt. At least, we weren’t related by blood; but in Filipino culture, it’s not polite to address your parents’ friends solely by their first names. You always refer to them as Tita or Tito (Aunt or Uncle) or attach some other form of salutation to the front of their name as a sign of respect.

Anyway, Tita Tere was a very sweet lady and an excellent cook. In 1996, she entered her recipe for Walnut Date Bars in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest and won 3rd place! How cool is that? These moist and chewy bars are so good and they’re easy to make because they start with a cake mix. Here is her award-winning recipe.

WALNUT DATE BARS

  • 1 box Pillsbury pudding-in-the-mix yellow cake mix
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Generously grease 13 x 9-inch pan.
  2. In large bowl, combine cake mix and brown sugar; blend well.
  3. Add margarine and eggs; beat 2 minutes at medium speed.
  4. In medium bowl, combine dates and walnuts; mix well.
  5. Stir date mixture into cake batter; blend well. (Batter will be very stiff.)
  6. Spread evenly in greased pan.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown.
  8. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen.
  9. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled. Cut into bars.
  10. Store in tightly covered container.

NOTE:  Don’t overbake these bars. I think they’re so much better when they’re slightly under done.