If you're reading this, it means that you were not totally baffled by the title of this post, or that you were at least intrigued enough to continue on. And I've got good news for you because you're about to become so much happier than the fuddy-duddies who read the title in horror and immediately closed this tab (that's okay, we can totally make fun of them; they're not reading this, remember?).
When I first started developing this recipe, I started telling friends about this great date and egg dish that my friends Mary and Valia told me about, and there was definitely a lot of bewildered eyebrow raising, skeptical head cocking, and concerned squinting. While not everyone thinks of dates and eggs as two things that you can eat together, as many Middle Eastern people will tell you, they're an absolutely perfect match.
Eggs and dates can be cooked together several different ways. There's a version of this where the dates are chopped and cooked in a skillet, and then the eggs are poached in the dates just like shakshuka. There's another version where the dates are chopped up and scrambled together with the eggs. But this is my favorite version: you baste the dates in butter, briefly scramble the eggs until they thicken slightly, nest the dates halfway into the eggs in a pretty pattern, broil it until the whole thing cooks through and the dates slightly caramelize, and then top it with feta, spices, and parsley. It's almost too pretty to eat, but don't let that stop you.
At first, I thought about pitching dates and eggs as the perfect thing for fans of sweet and savory, but when I really thought about it, I realized that there's nothing inherently savory about an egg, although we tend to think of a frittata as a savory food. But I argue that this is more tradition than reality. Think about it! In addition to savory, eggs are used in countless sweet dishes; they're at the forefront of crêpes, gold cake, custard, mousse, and lemon curd. When it comes to eggs, they're more neutral than anything, ready to be influenced by whatever's around them. So a sweet frittata isn't necessarily savory and sweet, just because it's made up primarily of eggs.
But at the end of the day, I wanted to make this one for the sweet and savory crowd, so I included crumbled feta, minced parsley, and baharat, three things very much in the savory camp. The addition brings that wonderful tension that sweet and savory people love. But if you're the kind of person who doesn't like savory with their sweet, feel free to leave these last 3 ingredients out, and maybe even pour on a little maple syrup if you're looking for a serious treat. Just watch out, because the dates are pretty sweet on their own.
Eggs and Dates
Yield: 2 to 3 servings
Total time: 10 to 20 minutes
1 tablespoon butter
4 dates, sliced in half lengthwise and pitted
4 eggs, beaten
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 pinch of your baharat of choice *
- Pre-heat the broiler.
- Heat a 10-inch broiler-safe seasoned cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
- Melt the butter and place the dates in the pan cut-side down. Let them cook for about 2 minutes without flipping them, until they slightly caramelize.
- Remove the dates from the pan, leaving the butter behind.
- Add the eggs to the hot butter and scramble them for about 1 minute. Salt the eggs to taste.
- After 1 minute, while they're still very runny, turn off the heat and place the dates on top of the eggs in a pretty pattern (see photos for inspiration). Gently press the dates into the eggs so that they stay in place.
- Move the pan to the broiler. Cook, checking every minute. **
- Once the omelette has cooked through, slide it onto a plate.
- Garnish with the feta, parsley, and baharat, and serve immediately.
Note: If you're doubling or halving the recipe, make sure you use the right size pan so that the frittata doesn't turn out too thick or too thin.
* Baharat simply means spices in Arabic. The one I use for this recipe is a Lebanese spice blend, which is mostly made up of paprika, black pepper, and cumin. Feel free to use some combination of all or one of these spices, or blend up a jar of my baharat recipe and keep it on hand future cooking. It makes a great dry rub with some salt, and I also love sprinkling it on shakshuka. A little goes a long way in this recipe, so just use a very reserved pinch.
** Depending on your broiler, this could take 1 minute, or it could take 5. All broilers are different, so just be sure to keep an eye on it.
For more date ideas, visit my post on stuffed dates, which make lovely hors d'oeuvres, snacks, and desserts.