Ann’s Warm Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese Plus Smoked Salmon and Grapefruit Toasts

Warm Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Almonds are chic appetizers created by my neighbor and talented cook, Ann Ryan-Small. These savory treats were a huge hit when Ann served them one cold winter day at our monthly book club meeting. The saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the dates make an irresistible combination.

Smoked salmon, Avocado and Red Grapefruit Toasts are equally tempting and were invented by my friend Marie Claire Vallois. Simple but sophisticated, they are composed of unexpected but complementary flavors.

Ann’s Warm Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Almonds

12 medium Medjool dates (available in most supermarkets)
A 4-ounce piece blue cheese such as Maytag Blue, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (See note.)

1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Have ready a medium size baking pan or dish.

2. Slice the dates lengthwise, cutting (not all the way through) just enough to remove the pits.
Fill the cavities of the dates with about 1/2 teaspoon blue cheese. Save extra cheese for another
use. Sprinkle dates with chopped almonds, and arrange in the baking pan. (Dates can be
prepared 3 hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature
30 minutes before baking.)

3. Bake dates until warm and cheese has melted, about 8 minutes. Remove and arrange on a small serving plate or place them in a long, narrow olive tray. Serve warm. Makes 12 dates or enough to serve 4 to 6.

Note: To toast almonds, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes for sliced almonds. Watch carefully so nuts do not burn. Remove and cool.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2010

Marie Claire’s Smoked Salmon, Avocado, and Red Grapefruit Toasts

12 baguette slices, cut 3/8 inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra if needed
1 small ruby red grapefruit
1 ripe but not mushy avocado
Juice of 1 small lemon
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
Fleur de sel or sea salt, optional
12 flat leaf parsley leaves for the garnish

1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush bread on both sides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and just crisp, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove and cool. (Toasts can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)

2. Using a sharp knife, cut a thick slice from each end of the grapefruit. Stand grapefruit upright on a cutting board, and starting at the top, slice downwards following the contour of the fruit, cutting away all of the skin and all of the white pith beneath. Cut between the membranes to release the grapefruit segments.

3. Halve avocado, lengthwise; pit, peel, and slice thinly. Toss avocado slices gently with lemon juice in a shallow bowl.

4. Arrange a smoked salmon slice (cut to fit ) on top of each toast. Top with 1 to 2 avocado slices, then with a grapefruit segment. If desired, sprinkle each toast lightly with fleur de sel. Garnish each serving with a parsley leaf. Arrange on a serving plate; serve immediately. Makes 12 toasts or enough to serve 4 to 6.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2010

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