Like Faith, I adore the combination of oranges and dates. Rich with natural sweetness, the pair makes for a simple (not to mention gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and vegan!) weeknight dessert. I like to arrange them on a platter along with cinnamon roasted almonds and a scattering of mint for an elegant and playful way to end a meal.
For a dish like this, it's fun to mix at least two varieties and colors of oranges, including dramatic blood oranges, which carry a hint of red berry flavor. Use whatever you have available, though. You can also enhance the citrus with a drizzle of fragrant orange flower water if you like; it's exquisite with or without. As for the dates, I find that whole fruits can be cloying in their sweetness, but cutting them into slivers provides lovely flecks, rather than mouthfuls, of caramel throughout the dish.
To bring another layer of flavor and texture, I recommend the addition of almonds. For a recipe that's vegan and lower in sugar, toss the nuts in a mixture of coconut oil, agave nectar, and cinnamon, and bake them until toasty. If dietary restrictions aren't a concern, feel free to substitute honey or to make more traditional candied almonds with egg whites and sugar.
Orange, Almond & Date Salad
1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup raw almonds
4-6 oranges, depending on size
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
4 dates, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chiffonade of mint
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, agave nectar, cinnamon, and a smidgen of salt (not too much, just a trace). Add almonds and toss to coat. Spread almonds in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until toasted – about 10 minutes. Cool before using. (Can make ahead and store in an airtight container.)
Slice the ends off each orange. Stand each orange upright and cut away the peel and pith, following the curve of the orange. (For a visual guide, see steps 2 and 3 of How to Segment an Orange.) Cut each orange into 1/4-inch thick rounds and remove any seeds.
Arrange the orange slices on a platter. Drizzle with orange flower water, if using. Scatter dates, almonds, and mint on top, and serve.
(Images: Emily Ho)