Their natural sweetness makes dates an excellent ingredient for desserts, cakes and chutneys. Here they are cooked until thick and smooth with an apple and aromatic spices, then blended with cream cheese to make a sweet and spicy dip for fresh fruits and vegetables. This also makes a great spread for toast, scones and muffins.
If using cardamom pods, lightly crush them with the flat side of a chef's knife to split them open, then remove the seeds. Discard the pods and crush the seeds with the side of the knife. (This can be done with a mortar and pestle.) If using ground cardamom, omit this step.
Mix the apple, dates, crushed cardamom seeds, cinnamon and ginger in a medium saucepan, then add the water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the apple is tender and the dates are pulpy, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool.
When the apple mixture is cool, stir the cream cheese in a medium bowl until creamy, then blend in the fruit mixture. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. (The dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Serve the dip in a shallow bowl or dish, place on a platter, and surround with an assortment of fruit and vegetable crudités.
To serve as a dip for crudités such as: Wedges of red and green apples Carrot, celery and cucumber sticks Wedges of fresh pineapple, seedless grapes and strawberries
Each serving (two tablespoons dip) provides: calories 83, calories from fat 45, fat 5 g, saturated fat 3 g, cholesterol 16 mg, carbohydrate 8 g, fibre 1 g, sugars 7 g, protein 3 g. Choices per serving: Carbohydrate 1⁄2, Fat 1