The Ring (2002), directed by Gore Verbinski, was the movie that launched a myriad of J-horror remakes, and with its haunting atmosphere and compelling storyline, it’s not hard to see why. A viewing of an intensely creepy videotape, followed by the piercing ring of a phone call promises death to the viewer in seven days; it’s presented as an urban legend but immediately proves true. Naomi Watts’s performance as Rachel, a reporter and single mother trying to track down the origin of the mysterious tape, steadily builds from intelligent and curious to disturbed and desperate. All together there’s an expertly crafted sense of impending doom.
For a recipe, I wanted to try something a little different. Seven Dates is almost too cute a food pun, but each variation on a stuffed date is an opportunity to tie back to the film. There’s a bit of a formula: something creamy, something crunchy, something both sweet and salty. Through these variations, there’s some inspiration from Japan, origin of the original film, as well as the setting of the remake: moody, rainy Seattle. There’s a nod to little Aiden (David Dorfman), Rachel’s precocious son. And then we have takes on the classic Devils on Horseback which tie in perfectly with the film’s bleak theme.
Each version below makes 12 dates, and they’re all extremely simple – so you can stick to one, or divide the measurements and make several kinds at once! The measurements are approximate, it will depend on the size dates you have, but none of these are fussy and you can adjust accordingly. For all dates, slit down lengthwise and remove the pit if necessary.
Date 1: Miso Sesame Dates
These have a bit of a Japanese flavor profile, with salty/umami miso, creamy tahini, and toasty sesame seeds.
Whisk together 2 teaspoons miso, 2 tablespoons tahini, and a teaspoon honey. Fill dates and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Date 2: Anko Kinako Dates
These also have a Japanese flavor profile that is similar to Japanese sweets such as dango. Anko is sweet red bean paste that’s very versatile – it can be smooth or textured, and used as a topping or filling. You can get it storebought, or make your own (here’s a recipe from Just One Cookbook). Kinako is toasted soybean flour, and has a delightful nutty flavor, and a light smooth texture perfect for dusting.
Fill dates with anko, you’ll need about 3-4 tablespoons. Whisk together 1 tablespoon of kinako with 1 teaspoon sugar, and dust over the dates.
Date 3: Espresso Mascarpone Dates
Perhaps stereotypical, but something definitely associated with Seattle is Starbucks. Luckily espresso and dates are a perfect pairing, and mixed with lightly sweetened mascarpone and dusted with cocoa, you have little mini tiramisu lattes.
Mix together 4 tablespoons mascarpone with 2 teaspoons honey and 2 teaspoons instant espresso. Stuff dates and dust with cocoa powder.
Date 4: Cherry Almond Dates
The film takes us into Washington state, from nearby island to nearby mountain. Washington is famous for its cherries. For this version you can use a mild cheese like goat cheese or brie, but as I had mascarpone on hand from the previous version, I went with that!
Stuff dates with mascarpone (3-4 tablespoons needed), then a little cherry jam (2-3 teaspoons). Top with slivered almonds.
Date 5: Peanut Butter and Jelly Dates
Aiden is a very independent kid; he gets himself dressed, walks himself to school, and makes his own lunch – peanut butter and jelly!
Mix 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter with 1 tablespoon jelly of your choice (I used grape). Top with chopped roasted, salted peanuts.
Date 6: Devils on Horseback
These are a cheese stuffed date usually wrapped in bacon then baked, but instead of wrapping them I sprinkled them with crumbled bacon to match the style of the other versions.
Heat broiler. Stuff dates with 3 or so tablespoons of blue cheese, and broil for 2-3 minutes. Fry two slices of bacon until very crispy and drain on a paper towel. Crumble and sprinkle over the dates.
Date 7: Vegan Devils on Horseback
These are the classic – but with coconut bacon and cashew cheese! Recipes for both at The Full Helping.
Heat broiler. Fill dates with 3-4 tablespoons cashew cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes, then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut bacon.
And there you have it! One thing I really learned is that the possibilities are endless – try these (they were all great) or create your own and stuff on.