Cranberry Rosemary Punch + Dana's Dates

dana's dates

Last night's party was delicious--delicious co-workers (thank you, Priya and Emily!); guests (Organization Development professionals from around the world); and client--my friend Geoff who has a PhD in giving heartfelt compliments.  He knows how to make a girl feel appreciated.

In all my running around--taking dirty dishes, refilling crostini, fetching ice--I managed to promise guests that I'd post these recipes. They happen to be the two least labor-intensives nibbles of the night.  The dates are from Dana's blog, and I've wanted to make them for a long time.  Simple, quick, but "Give-me-another-one-of-those" scrumptious.

The punch was an accident.  In the prep kitchen, I pulled out my big punch jar and went to grab lemonade concentrate.  A thousand expletives.  In my freezer at home!  And no supermarkets downtown!  Emily walked  to Uwajimaya and called me from the frozen aisle--no lemonade.  We decided on cranberry cocktail, and she carried some back to the gallery.  I dumped the rosemary syrup in, floated a big chunk of ice and a bunch of thinly sliced lemons.  People were pining for it, and it looked so beautiful in the glasses.  It's a big joke on me--the thing everyone's begging for wasn't in the master plan. I'm sure you've got your own stories and metaphors where that's concerned.  If we had it all together and never did things like forget lemonade at home, there wouldn't be room for cranberry punch. And what kind of world would that be?

Emily and Priya will tell you I was definitely NOT all zen about the punch last night, though, or about the rentals arriving 45 minutes late.  Lest you think I can creatively solve kitchen emergencies and smile beatifically all the while.  Sheesh. I'm not that multitalented.

box of dates

Cranberry Rosemary Punch
This makes 5 quarts--a lot.  Halve it for a smallish party.  I often have simple syrups like this in the fridge, so you can just pour a little bit into a single glass of juice, too--taste, and adjust to your liking.  Not surprisingly, I like mine really rosemary-y.

For simple syrup:
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1/4 c. chopped fresh rosemary

In a saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Add rosemary, simmer for a couple minutes, then remove from heat and cool.  Pour mixture through a sieve, discarding rosemary. Keeps in the fridge for a couple weeks.  This makes more than you will need.

To make punch:
Combine 4 cans frozen cranberry juice concentrate with 12 cans water and 1 1/2  cup of rosemary simple syrup. Add lots of ice (you want to dilute the punch a bit since you've just added sugary syrup), two thinly sliced lemons, and a couple fresh rosemary sprigs.  Serve confidently, acting like you planned this the whole time.

Goat Cheese and Pistachio Stuffed Dates
Makes 16.  Adapted from Dana Treat, who adapted it from
The New Classics by Martha Stewart.  You can make the goat cheese filling one day ahead and refrigerate it. These hors d’oeuvres can be assembled several hours before serving. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to three hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

4 oz. soft goat cheese
3 tbsp. shelled salted pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
1 Tb. honey
8 plump, soft dried dates (preferably Medjool), pitted and halved lengthwise

Stir together goat cheese, pistachios,chives, and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Season with pepper.

Arrange dates, cut side up, on a platter. Using a small spoon and your fingers, fill each date with a small mound of the filling. Garnish, if you like, with additional chopped pistachios and chives.  Thinly drizzle a bit of honey over the whole platter.