March April 2016
From Chris Halpin
People rarely think of using grapes as a cooking ingredient, other than in a salad or frozen as a summer treat. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to them in spring or while I’m anticipating spring.
Pistachio Chèvre Grapes
This is one of those hors d’oeuvres that’s so easy and yet tastes complex. Wash, dry and refrigerate 24 grapes. Put 1 c. chèvre, 1 t. ground coriander, 1/2 t. white pepper into a bowl and mix well. Put 1 c. pistachios, ground or crushed medium-fine, into another bowl. Remove the grapes from the fridge, coat each grape with some of the chèvre mixture, then roll in the pistachios and place on a platter. This can be done up to two days before serving. Makes 24.
Beef, Grape and Asparagus Salad with Horseradish Dressing
This is perfect for the bits left from a roast. To make the dressing, put into a large bowl 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 1 T. horseradish, 1 t. honey and 2 T. cider vinegar. Mix well. Cut 1 bunch of asparagus into 2-inch pieces, after removing the tough bottom of the stalks. Place in a colander and pour boiling water over them, then rinse under cold water and blot dry. Add the asparagus to the bowl with the dressing, then add 4 c. roast beef strips and 1 c. small red grapes. Mix well and add salt to taste. Serve on a bed of red kale, watercress or arugula. Serves 4.
Tilapia in a Grape Beurre Blanc
There are a few things to keep in mind when making beurre blanc. The wine needs to boil, the butter needs to be very cold and you need to whisk in one cube of butter at a time. Also, this is not a sauce that will hold for long – the flavours are as elusive as the texture – so make it and enjoy it. In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, put 1 bottle of white wine, 1 bay leaf, 6 black pepper corns, 1 sprig of tarragon and 1 garlic clove, cracked. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Add 4 tilapia filets and poach for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the fish and set aside for later. Strain the wine and return it to the pan. Place over high heat and whisk in 1 c. cold butter, cubed, one cube at a time. Once the sauce has thickened, add salt to taste, 1 c. halved grapes, the fish, and remove from the heat. Serve over couscous or rice and garnish with chopped tarragon. Serves 4.
Lamb Sausages with Rosemary and Grapes
Merguez sausage is my favourite lamb sausage. You can find it at Middle Eastern shops or at The Cookbook Co., but you can also use any spicy sausage you like. Globe grapes are perfect for this recipe, as they tend to have seeds, which I think add to the savouriness. They’re large and hold up well to heat. In a pan over medium-high heat, put 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil. When sizzling, add 8 sausages, 2 onions, finely sliced, and 2 rosemary sprigs. Turn sausages from time to time and sauté the onion. When the sausages are almost cooked, in about 10 minutes, add 3 globe grapes per person. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and salt to taste. Serves 4 to 6.
Grape and Mascarpone Torte
This is so simple and elegant it will make your head spin. I love President’s Choice all-butter puff pastry. Preheat your oven to 375°F. You’ll need 3 c. grapes, halved. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 sheet thawed puff pastry to 1/3 larger. Place it on a baking sheet, evenly smear it with mascarpone, leaving about 2 inches on all sides. Lightly sprinkle ١/٢ t. nutmeg, over the mascarpone, arrange the grapes on top of the cheese, then fold the 2 inches of pastry edge over to the mascarpone and grapes. Lightly brush the edge with milk and generously sprinkle ١/٢ c. sugar over the grapes – don’t worry if some hits the pastry! Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is a golden brown; serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.
Small Batch Grape Jelly
For this recipe to work correctly, you must have organic unwashed grapes. If you wash them, then you remove the pectin, if they are not organic, then there may be some unpleasant chemical. My first choice of grape variety for jelly is concord. If they are not available, any dark-skinned grape will do. To prep the jars, have a pot large enough to immerse four 1/2 c. or two 1 c. jars and lids, fill with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off, add the jars and lids and set aside for later. In another pot, put 4 c. grapes, stems removed, 1 c. water, 3 c. sugar and juice of 1 lemon. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Just before the jelly is ready, with a pair of tongs carefully remove the jars and lids from the water and place them upside down on a cooling rack to drain. When the jelly is ready, strain it and pour into the prepared jars. Seal snugly with the lids, allow the jelly to cool on the counter overnight. If the lids pop down and seal the jars, there’s no need to refrigerate them, but store them in a cool place, like the basement. If the lids don’t seal, into the fridge they go. Makes 2 cups.