We found this amazing restaurant in Oakland called Encuentro Wine Bar. They are vegetarian, but have many vegan options, including vegan cheeses. The food is amaze-balls – it’s our favorite place so far. One of the things they have is ricotta (mac nut based) stuffed dates with walnut honey. That’s all it says… So, of course, I went on a hunt to recreate it myself. And boy howdy, did I ever!
We had our good friends stay with us for the long Memorial Day weekend. It was a blast! We did all sorts of stuff- hiking, shopping, eating, chilling in the yard, training squirrels to come get peanuts from our hand… You know, the usual. One night, we stayed in and just had our own tapas party. It was the 4 of us, plus my friend’s brother. The 3 are omnivores, so they’re good guinea pigs for things I make to see if it’d pass muster with folks who aren’t dietary restricted. One of the experiments was these dates – and they were a success! One of the first things devoured from the table… and I thought I had made too much. The ricotta gives you the same taste and texture as milk-based ricotta, but without the guilt. Sidenote: We also made gf pizza with this, and it turned out delicious as well (I’ll save that for a future post).
For the ricotta – it’s stupid easy. It’s a basic macadamia nut ricotta. You could also use blanched almonds (or remove the skins from soaked raw almonds), but we made both and prefer the milder mac nut taste and texture in certain things. The almond version is great in things where the nut flavor is good to have, and it’s also a lower fat option. I got this recipe from my go-to cheese book, Artisan Vegan Cheese.
- 2 C raw macadamia nuts, soaked for 8-12 hours
- 1 C water
- large pinch of salt
Put all of it in the blender and process until smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with a cloth, and let sit out at room temperature for 12-24 hours to culture a bit (the longer it cultures, the tangier it gets- so taste it until you’re happy with the resultant flavor). Then move to the fridge. It’ll last a little over a week in the fridge, or it also supposedly freezes well (though ours didn’t last long enough to need the freezer).
For the stuffed dates you will need:
- Mac nut ricotta
- lemon zest
- honey (or your favorite vegan honey substitute)
- toasted walnuts, chopped fine (or chopped in a food processor to crumbs)
Take a bunch of dates and cut them length-wise to the seed, and remove the seed. Then you have a nice little pocket in the date. Spoon a generous helping of the lemon-ricotta in the date. Arrange on a plate or platter.
Drizzle with a local honey (I used some fireweed honey I had left from Seattle) and sprinkle generously with the walnuts.
Looks and tastes super fancy, but is quite easy to do. So for your next party or pot-luck, have these and you might just get some nut-cheese converts!!