Super dates for Super Sunday

Elizabeth Karmel
Associated Press

It’s hard for me to believe that this year marks the 50th Super Bowl. And food has become such an essential part of this event, I can’t help but wonder what was on the menu back when it all got started!

So as I was thinking about what to serve at this year’s bash, I decided to draw my inspiration from an appetizer that was hot stuff back around the time the Super Bowl got started. Ever hear of rumaki? Back in the day, it was all the rage to serve these bacon-wrapped chicken livers seasoned with sort of trans-Asian flavors. I wasn’t willing to go quite that far (Liver? For a Super Bowl party? Probably not …), but the rumaki sparked an idea.

I love dates because they are meaty and sweet. I also love how delicious it is to play their flavor off of savory ingredients. And that’s why I decided to remake rumaki as dates stuffed with chunks of Parmesan cheese and wrapped with bacon. And because I’m a total grill girl at heart, I popped them over hot coals to get them warm, crisp and delicious (though I include an oven alternative for those unwilling to brave the cold to grill).

The dates are easy to make, and even easier to eat! So be warned that your guests will eat them like candy! I would plan on a minimum of four per person. And if your crowd has a voracious appetite, double or triple this recipe.

If the dates aren’t large enough to sit comfortably on your grill grates without falling through, arrange them on a wire rack and set the entire rack on the grill. Or you can just do them inside in the oven. But whichever way you cook them, let them cool a bit before serving; they get very hot.

Bacon-Wrapped Parmesan-Stuffed Dates

24 whole, plump dates

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted

1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, cut into 24 chunks (about 1/2 inch each)

12 slices bacon, halved crosswise (to make 24 strips)

24 wooden toothpicks, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes

Prepare a grill for medium-low heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side, then cooking on that side. Alternatively, for indoor cooking heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut a slit down the side of each date, slicing up to the pit, but not cutting the date in half. Carefully remove the pit from each date. The tip of a paring knife can be handy for prying out the pit. Sprinkle a few cumin seeds into the center of each date, then add a chunk of Parmesan. Press the date closed around the cheese (or as much as possible).

Wrap 1 piece of bacon around the center of each date, securing it with a toothpick.

Set the stuffed dates on the cooler side of the grill, directly on the grates. Alternatively, set a wire rack over a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and arrange the dates on the rack for cooking in the oven. Either way, cook for 15 minutes, turning the dates halfway through. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 24.

Per date: 130 calories; 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 14 g sugar; 15 mg cholesterol; 180 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber.