The Coachella Valley in Southern California is home to (among other things) the mountains and desert of Palm Springs, the famous Coachella music and arts festival, and the nation's largest collection of date palms.
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Back in 1904, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up an experimental station devoted to growing dates in this region since the hot, arid conditions mirrored the climate in the Middle East where these trees thrived. The experiment paid off. In 2020 California produced 49,300 tons of dates, mostly in this region, at an estimated value of $114 million.
The bounty of dates in the area means they show up everywhere in the local food scene, including in the now-iconic, ultratasty date milkshake. This thick and creamy concoction is made with ice cream, milk, and dried dates and sometimes includes walnuts or warm spices. The sweet dates give the shake a rich, caramel flavor and a thick, almost sticky, texture.
Palm Springs Date ShakesThe taste of California sunshine in a creamy milkshake.
When developing a Cook's Country version of this So-Cal specialty, I called for steeping dried dates in hot water before blending. This step is to account for the fact that the dried dates you find in supermarkets are often a little past their prime and so dry as to challenge even a good blender when making shakes.
I kept this version simple with just dates; vanilla ice cream; milk; and a little salt, which both draws out complexity in the dried fruit and gives a touch of savory-sweet appeal. But you can always experiment with a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or your favorite warm spice.
Or, if the kids aren't around, try the boozy version that's amped up with a glug of golden rum.