Beef Date Tajine
Enough to make your tongue smile! But that’s not all: I mean fresh dates here!
On a recent visit to Israel, I found fresh dates at the Shuk in Jerusalem. Of course I knew they would come to our New York Markets soon, but I just didn’t want to miss this golden chance to bring something home from my all-time favorite market.
There are very few things more heavenly than fresh dates. My niece Mushkie had just gotten engaged, and we were scheduled to host a Sheva Brachot for her and her groom, the day after her wedding. I bought four pounds luscious fresh dates, used all the restraint I could muster, and left them in my freezer back home until the time came. And the time did come, last night, when the dish I had just hatched was one of my greatest hits.
Fresh dates are in season in late summer and early fall. I spot them at Kalustyans Market too. I recommend you pounce on them, so that you don’t miss the short-lived season.
No fresh dates?
Quel domage! Oh, well. I should still tell you that in the absence of fresh dates, which are very hard to find here, nice plump Medjool dates will do the trick beautifully.
Super simple and festive Sephardi dish, a triumph of Moroccan seasonings. You will make a sensation with this dish on Passover too! Bt the way, read all about the healthy and smart date.
Try my chocolate date smoothie, you will understand the date magic!
I was always reticent about using beef cheeks for stews:
I absolutely love them, but I had a hard time getting the meat rinsed to the point where it was acceptably salty, but I finally found a butcher who carries sensibly salted beef cheeks. They are are so fabulous for stews, but of course beef shoulder or lamb shoulder or shanks can be used in this lovely Beef Date Tajine recipe.
Rinse beef cheeks thoroughly!
Soak them first, for an hour or two, to rid them of the most salt they will release. And whatever you do, do not add a smidgen of salt to the dish.
- 4 pounds beef cheeks or beef shoulder or lamb, thoroughly rinsed and cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks (if you are using shanks, leave them whole, about 8)
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 large onions, sliced very thin (use a food processor)
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 good pinches saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper, or less to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh dates, pitted (use a cherry pitter), or 2 dozen pitted medjool dates
- Optional garnishes: Toasted sliced almonds ot toasted sesame seeds, and chopped parsley
Put the beef and water in a wide-bottom heavy pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook, covered, two hours. Check the liquid in the pot occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid (if not, add a little).
While the meat is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and fry on a medium flame, stirring occasionally, until very dark, about 20 minutes.
After the meat has cooked two hours, add the fried onions, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Cover again and cook 30 more minutes. Stir in the dates, and cook 30 more minutes. (Just to be clear: total cooking time for the whole dish: 3 hours).
Transfer the meat and the dates to a platter with a slotted spoon. Check the liquid in the pot. If it is too thin, reduce it on a high flame until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. Pour this sauce all over the meat. Sprinkle with the garnishes, if desired. Serve hot.