Sizzling dates — something in between the quickness of sauteing and the more oil-heavy cooking method called pan-frying — turns regular dates into warm and caramelized dates that are a little crispy and an overall way more sexy date. In this recipe, hot oil saturates the dates, making them a little savory. Za’atar, fresh thyme and lemon add brightness to the rich, caramelized dates, while feta adds a creamy, salty sharpness. Don’t skip the bread here, which you’ll need to mop up all the flavorful juices on the plate. This dish is ideal served as a cheese course or appetizer before a meal.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the dates to the pan and shake them in the pan so they get coated with oil. Cook, turning them a few times so they brown evenly, until crisp on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. They cook quickly, so be careful not to burn them.
Remove the pan from the heat, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and let cool until the oil is just warm, about 5 minutes. Stir the thyme and za’atar into the oil.
To serve, arrange the feta slabs on a platter, place the dates next to the feta and spoon the za’atar oil over the cheese and dates. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the cheese and dates and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Serve with chunks of torn baguette for swiping through the oil and juices.
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