Grapes, You Need Them!

Grapes,  juicy and sweet.

Grapes, juicy and sweet.

Grapes are ancient.  So ancient that some vines have been growing on this planet long before people arrived.  In certain areas of Italy there is still evidence of late Bronze Age vineyard posts used to train grapevines.  Over the years we’ve been trying to find  ways to make them bigger and sweeter.  Some of the grapes I see at the market are so plump and ripe, I just want to reach out and grab one or two for a juicy bite.  Don’t you?

Red, purple or green, plump or petite, grapes are a healthy pop-in-your-mouth snack.  I love grapes when they are cold as a refreshing way to cool off.  And when we travel, I like to bring along a big bunch of grapes to snack on.  One 3/4 cup serving of grapes is a good source of vitamin K, providing 25% of your daily needs.  Recent studies suggest that Vitamin K reduces the risk of bone fractures, particularly in older women.  Other studies have shown the benefits of having a glass of red wine to reduce the risk of heart and artery problems.  Grapes, particularly red  and black ones, are also rich in antioxidants.  So we know about their benefits, and we eat grapes fresh as a fruit/snack, or drink their juice fermented as wine,  but how many of you cook with grapes?  I’m not taking about making grape jam or jelly, but really incorporating them into a main dish, side dish or salad.

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I’m guessing not many people would even think of cooking with grapes.  Small and juicy with a hint of acid and sweet, they make perfect partners with some foods.  In the weeks ahead, I would like to introduce you to some recipes that utilize grapes in ways you may not have  considered.

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

The first one is this recipe for Grape-Rosemary Focaccia.  Scattered over the top of the focaccia, the grapes subtly sweeten each bite.  The sweet/salty combination of grapes, Parmesan cheese and rosemary is surprising, and delicious.  It can be served with a soup, or salad, as a dinner accompaniment in place of dinner rolls, or as an appetizer.  To make it quickly, use prepared whole wheat pizza dough from your supermarket, fresh or frozen.  If frozen, defrost thoroughly in the refrigerator or at room temperature.  Open the bag to give the dough room to expand, i.e. “rise”, prior to stretching and shaping.   Once the focaccia is prepared, allow it to sit at room temperature for about half an hour for another small “rise” before baking.

GRAPE-ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

Yield:    Makes 12 servings

Whole wheat pizza dough, grapes, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese.

Whole wheat pizza dough, grapes, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tsp. dried
  • 2 cups seedless grapes.  ( If large ones, cut in half.)

1.  Position rack in upper third of oven;  preheat to 425 *F.  Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2.  Working on a lightly floured surface, pat and stretch dough with damp hands into a 10 by 12-inch oval.  If the dough will not stretch easily, let it rest for 10 minutes, then stretch it again.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Stretch dough out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese.

Stretch dough out on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with cheese.

3.  Drizzle the oil over the dough;  sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and rosemary.  Arrange grapes on top and press lightly into the dough.   At this point I let mine sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to give the dough a chance to rest and rise again a little bit.

Add chopped rosemary and grapes.

Add chopped rosemary and grapes.

4.  Bake until golden around the edges and some of the grapes have burst,  18 – 25 minutes.   (Note:  Mine was done at 15 minutes, so watch carefully,)   Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.  (The grapes will be very hot inside.)

Golden brown with a heavenly aroma after baking.

Golden brown with a heavenly aroma after baking.

Serve warm with additional olive oil for dipping.

Serve warm with additional olive oil for dipping.

SOURCE:    Eating Well

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