My First Date with Date Bars

Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2004
1 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8x8-inch metal baking pan. Bring water and orange juice to simmer in medium saucepan. Add dates; simmer until very soft and thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla.

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until moist clumps form.  Add oatmeal and pulse on and off until oats are evenly incorporated.  Press half of oat mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Spread date mixture over oat mixture. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture and chopped walnuts if using, gently to adhere. Bake until brown at edges and golden brown and set in center, about 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into squares and serve.

Yield: 16 squares