Caramelized Onion & Yogurt Dip + Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

We are now entering the season for entertaining, parties, and get-togethers, most of which include abundant displays of hors d’oeuvres. Whether you are hosting a social event or attending one, it’s convenient to have a few go-to recipes for easy and make-ahead healthy appetizers.

Such as this Caramelized Onion & Yogurt Dip. Adapted from the culinary genius of Alton Brown, this dip fills all of the previously mentioned criteria. My version is simple to prepare, tastier if made in advance, and lighter that the original recipe. Although it may sound odd to chill the dip overnight, it is a key step in achieving the perfect depth of flavor.

Creamy Greek yogurt and tangy light canola oil mayonnaise comprise the base of the dip, into which sweet caramelized onions and a few seasonings are folded. Reminiscent of – but much, much better than – the onion “dip” that comes from a plastic pouch, this homemade version pairs well with fresh crudite, chewy bread, and crisp chips or crackers.

Caramelized Onion & Yogurt Dip

adapted from Alton Brown’s Onion Dip from Scratch

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or 1 Tbsp each butter and oil)
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 – 2 cups)
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt, such as Chobani
  • 3/4 cup light canola oil mayonnaise (such as Spectrum)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 20 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 20 additional minutes.
  2. Remove skillet from heat and let onions cool to room temperature.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, and garlic powder until well-mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in the cooled caramelized onions and refrigerate dip overnight.
  5. Taste, and season with addition salt and pepper if desired.
  6. Serve with crisp bagel or pita chips, baguette slices, and/or crudites.

Another simple, make-in-advance appetizer are these Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates. For the dates in these photos, I combined blue cheese and neufchatel cream cheese for the stuffing, but you can use any type of soft cheese you desire. Goat cheese, brie, camembert, etc. are all delicious options. I like to combine whatever type of soft cheese I’m using with an equal amount of cream cheese to balance out the piquancy – especially that of blue cheese. The salty prosciutto nicely offsets the sweet dates and bold blue cheese. Be sure to seek out big, soft, Medjool dates, (Trader Joe’s carries them at an affordable price), as they are incomparable to other types (such as Deglet Noor, which are smaller and drier) in both taste and texture.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

Ingredients:

  • 10 soft Medjool dates, sliced lengthwise halfway through & pitted
  • 1 oz blue cheese, at room temperature (or an equal amount of another soft cheese)
  • 1 oz neufchatel (1/3-less-fat cream cheese), at room temperature
  • 5 very thin slices prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise to create 10 thin strips

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together both cheeses until well-combined. Using a piping bag or small spoon, stuff the dates with cheese mixture.
  2. Wrap 1 strip of prosciutto around each stuffed date.
  3. If making in advance, refrigerate dates in an air-tight container. Let rest at room temperature 1-2 hours prior to serving.

*For two additional variations on stuffed dates, visit this post


Stuffed Dates Two Ways

Stuffed dates are an easy but impressive hors d’oeuvre that transcend seasonality. Equally well-suited for an elegant winter dinner party or a backyard summer BBQ, these two-bite delicacies balance sweet, salty, and tangy flavors as well as chewy, creamy, and crunchy textures.

I decided to make two varieties of stuffed dates for a 4th of July get-together with our friends at their lake house. Half of the dates were stuffed with a goat cheese-neufchatel mixture and studded with whole toasted almonds:

…and the remaining dates were filled with a blue cheese-neufchatel blend and topped with toasted walnut pieces:

Both varieties of stuffed dates taste like sheer heaven. The mild neufchatel cream cheese helps to balance out the piquant flavors of the goat cheese and blue cheese, making the filling more pleasing to a range of palates. Lightly toasting the almonds and walnuts brings out their rich nuttiness, and the added crunch is a nice textural contrast to the soft dates and creamy cheese.

If you have yet to try Medjool dates, I urge you to seek them out at your grocery store. I buy them at Trader Joe’s, but they are also sold at Whole Foods and are becoming increasingly available at large chain grocery stores.

Goat Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates & Walnut and Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates

Ingredients:

  • 14 large soft Medjool dates, sliced lengthwise halfway through & pitted
  • 1 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 oz reduced fat blue cheese (such as Stella), at room temperature
  • 2 oz neufchatel, (1/3-less-fat cream cheese), divided, at room temperature
  • 14 whole almonds
  • about 2 Tbsp walnut pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat toaster oven or conventional oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spread the almond and walnuts onto a small baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove nuts from baking sheet and allow to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together goat cheese and 1 oz neufchatel until well combined. Using a piping bag or a small spoon, stuff 7 pitted dates with goat cheese mixture.
  4. Gently press 2 almonds into each goat cheese-stuffed date.
  5. In a separate small bowl, stir together the blue cheese and remaining 1 oz neufchatel until well combined. Using a piping bag or a small spoon, stuff the remaining 7 pitted dates with blue cheese mixture.
  6. Gently press a few walnut pieces into each blue cheese-stuffed date.
  7. If preparing stuffed dates a day in advance, refrigerate until a few hours prior to serving. Best when served at room temperature.

I leave you with a snapshot of how I spent the holiday!