Herby Date Sauce
Tam Gilbert, one of the team members of Melissa’s Marketing Department, shares her multipurpose Herby Date Sauce that she uses to top pretty much everything from toast to grilled veggies and fish, Buddha bowls, and both green or grain salads. To demonstrate that versatility, I made two practical applications of Tam’s sauce in the same recipe – first, I used it to baste a batch of slow-roasted Butterscotch™ pear halves, then as a topping in the dish’s final plating.
“I came up with this recipe this past summer when I was cooking with a ton of fresh herbs from my garden but could not keep up with the bounty,” Tam explained. “I was craving something sweet, yet all-purpose—something that had sweet, sour, salty, savory and spicy notes, too. Dates and honey lend a deep, rich sweetness; the balsamic vinegar provides the sour; the mustard and garlic add a little spice, while the herbs bring fresh aromas and clean flavors to the mix. Occasionally I will throw in some hot red peppers to spice things up a bit. I like this recipe because it’s super simple. You don’t need special equipment like a food processor, and it can be adapted to whatever flavors you like or whatever ingredients you have on hand. I keep and use this sauce more like a condiment and store it in a mason jar in my fridge— then I bring it back to room temp to allow the olive oil to warm to a liquid before using.”
While Tam’s recipe is an easy one-bowl prep, the resulting flavor combination will turn the simplest dish, like a roasted pear for instance, into something very special. A cooked Butterscotch™ pear has its own unique firm-soft texture. Topped with competing notes of garlic-honey-balsamic-dates and fresh herbs laced in olive oil adds a whole new layer of rich goodness to this pear variety’s juicy sweetness. By slicing the rounded side of the extra-large Butterscotch™ crosswise (Hasselback-style) Tam’s sauce finds its way between those slices, which will gradually widen further apart as the pear roasts in each fresh baste of lusciousness! Just writing this up brings back mouth-watering memories of my own taste test! A moment to savor.
Butterscotch™ pears, also called Korean pears, are the perfect vehicle for Tam’s condiment-sauce. The variety is almost perfectly round and twice the size of other pear varieties. The fruit’s thin brownish-yellow skin bruises easily, so it is usually protected with a white netting at retail. Unlike other kinds of pears that must soften to be ripe, a ripe Butterscotch™ is still hard and crisp— like all Asian pear varieties. Appropriately, the fruit is sometimes referred to as an apple pear. However, unlike most apples, Asian pears do not darken when sliced and exposed to air; their cream white interior maintains its bright appearance, even when chopped in a salad. The fruit’s flavor is crisp, sweet, slightly tart at the core and very juicy. Because of their high-water content, Korean pears have only about 50 calories per fruit!
Tam Gilbert is one of the newest members of the Melissa’s family who operates remotely from her Boise, Idaho location. With a background as a pastry chef, writer and food marketer, she began working at Melissa’s as a part-time copywriter more than a year ago and recently transitioned to full-time. Like any distribution company that markets many items under a retail brand, be it fresh produce or widgets, merchandising requires the written word: creating copy for new product labels, sell sheets, marketing signage, retail promotional materials for display, product descriptions, and internal and external communications for staff and the consumer. Fresh produce is also an ingredient, so Tam also collaborates with the rest of her team on recipe development, food styling and photography.
“The fresh produce business is unique and fascinating; I learn something new every day about this industry!” Tam exclaimed. “I now look at those neat displays of fresh fruit and vegetables at my local grocery store in a totally different way. The global supply chain is complicated. There are so many variables that come into play every day. In part, the collective work of everyone at Melissa’s has a hand in keeping those produce aisles full—and therein lies our daily challenge! Marketing’s basic role is to support sales by educating consumers in creative ways. The thing is, our catalog of goods is enormous, so there’s never a lack of products to promote. I find it great fun to find myself learning everything there is to know about mushrooms, for instance, and then figuring out how to communicate that info to our customers."
Tam was quick to name surfing when asked about interests away from the office. However, she had to immediately correct that to a “past passion” as she recently moved from Southern California back to her childhood roots in Idaho with her husband, Charlie and their 3½-year-old, Tui. So, her surfboard has been stored until her next trip to the ocean as she reacquaints herself with more Idaho-appropriate outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Tui doesn’t realize that there are plans to introduce him to a snowboard with the first snowfall of the season! Tui is the Polynesian title for a tribal chief, which Tam says is fitting because he totally rules the household. When there is a quiet moment, Tam says she relishes reading food magazines (no pun) or cleaning the house while listening to the always fascinating podcast, Stuff You Should Know.
When asked whom she would invite to share a meal at her own table (a famous person living or from history), Tam again had another answer ready.
“I’m a major fangirl of Christina Tosi,” Tam admitted, explaining. “She is the pastry chef-owner of Milk Bar, a unique bake shop in New York City that is now a baking empire. Maybe you’ve seen her episode on “Chef’s Table” or tried her cookies sold at grocery stores? It seems like you’d leave dinner with Tosi supercharged because she radiates good vibes. I think that’s her secret sauce— her boundless energy pulls in everyone around her like a vortex!”
Not only can my own taste test give witness to the wonderfully rich and savory-sweet pairing of Tam’s sauce with a roasted Butterscotch™ pear, but ever since there has been a jar of this luscious mixture in my own fridge. Actually, that jar is normally only half full and has been refilled a few times as I discover (as in find excuses) to try it on other dishes! That research continues!
Korean Pears with Herby Date Sauce
For the sauce:
15 Melissa’s Organic Pitted Deglet Noor Dates, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Melissa’s Honeycomb
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
½ cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped
½ cup oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 long hot pepper, deseeded and minced (optional, based on spicy heat preferences)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off the jar of sauce
For the Hasselback Pears:
2 Butterscotch™ Pears, peeled
In a medium mixing bowl combine all the sauce ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Transfer to a mason jar and top with more olive oil to cover all ingredients. Store in the fridge and use within 7 days.
Cut the peeled pears in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller to remove the seeded core from each half, and then a paring knife to cut out any remaining skin and stem at both ends. Once peeled, the pear halves should be coated immediately with lemon juice during this process to avoid browning from oxidation.
With a very sharp paring knife cut as many thin slits as possible into the round side of the pear halves. Do not cut all the way through the pear; the slice should stop about 1-inch from the bottom. Place the prepared pear halves, flat side down, on the greased baking pan. Generously slather each half with the herbal date sauce.
Slow bake at 300°F for about an hour or until pears are cooked through; as the pears cook the slices will open up; baste every 15 minutes with the residual sauce from the roasting pan so the sauce permeates deep into each pear.
Remove pears from oven. Gently transfer them with a spatula to a serving plate. Drizzle a dollop of the sauce right out of the jar onto each half. Serve warm and enjoy!