Bacon Wrapped "Black" Sugar Glazed Dates with Walnuts and Pecorino

Serve the dates as an appetizer or as a first course with a salad made with crisp lettuces like radicchio, escarole or romaine.

24 servings, 1 piece each or 12 serving 2 pieces each

Glaze:

2 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar or substitute with dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons aged Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
salt, tiny pinch
freshly ground black pepper

Combine the sugar, cocoa, black pepper, salt, and Sherry vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil mixing well. Cook about 1 minute until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat, add the walnut oil and whisk together. Reserve.

24 fresh Medjool dates

12 walnut pieces cut lengthwise into halves then into quarters to stuff the dates
1/8 pound pecorino cheese, cut into 24 small, thin pieces to stuff the dates
8 slices applewood smoked bacon
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt like Maldon sea salt
toothpicks

Preheat oven to 375°

Line a baking pan or sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. Coat a baking rack with cooking oil and place on top of the pan.

Slice the dates lengthwise to remove the pits. Take a walnut piece sandwiched between 2 small pieces of pecorino and tuck into each date. Cut each slice of bacon into thirds. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date and secure with a toothpick. Brush the dates with the glaze and place on the baking rack. Bake turning once or twice at 375° basting with the glaze for a total of 12-15 minutes (for thinly sliced bacon), 20-25 minutes (for thickly sliced bacon), or until the bacon is crisp. Sprinkle with a little Maldon sea salt, freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.