Sometimes, a product you’ve bought with a specific purpose in mind, doesn’t match your expectations, becomes useless for that specific purpose even, and you might find yourself at a loss at how to salvage the whole deal. Just a few weeks ago, I had to deal with a major annoyance like that. A beautiful bunch of grapes I had bought with a spritzy Champagne jelly dessert in mind, turned out to be blessed – or cursed…? – with the thickest skins I have ever encountered around a grape.
I suppose I should have been prepared for something like that, it’s not like there’s any grapes from around these parts who haven’t been kissed by frost yet, and therefore are bound to have developed a thicker skin… Anyways, grapes rivaling chewing gum have no business in a bubbly dessert, so I scratched that idea… and proceeded to pulling up blanks trying to conjure up alternative uses for the resilient grapes. I halfheartedly decided to turn them into a marmelade and tried to pry one of them off the bunch for a taste-test. The thing put up quite a fight, and when I finally pulled it free, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder – it appeared to have lost about 75% of its thick skin in the process. The rubbery stuff was still attached to the sprig. In one piece. At that point, a whole lot of recipes came rushing into my head, involving grapes and the instruction to “carefully skin them”. I had been skipping those so far because… peeling grapes?! Gotta go~! If they basically peeled themselves however…. Of course, once touched by winter’s icy fingers, grapes take a huge step up in the flavor and sugar department, so I had to pick something to highlight their wonderful, rich flavor while defusing the sugary grenade – and this refreshing, fruity salad came out on top of the recipe-pile~
Just on a side note, if you don’t want to go looking for practically inedible winter grapes just to give this one a try, simply use thin-skinned seedless grapes and halve or quarter them before marinading them.
The Mustard Grapes
150g Grapes, peeled or halved
2 Tbsp Chives, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp Mild Grainy Mustard
1-2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
Opt: 1 Tsp Honey
1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
½ Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp Sugar
Freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
1) Place the grapes in a bowl and sprinkle them with the sugar and salt.
2) Give them a quick toss and set the bowl aside for 30 mins. The salt and the sugar will use that time to draw out some of the grapes’ juices, giving you a yumtastic head-start on the dressing.
3) Have a look at the bowl once the time’s up. You should be looking at around 1-1½ Tbsp of grape juice in your bowl. If that’s not the case, simply whizz up a handful of grapes with a stick blender and add it to the bowl – that’s an excellent way to boost up the “grape” in your dressing in any case.
4) If you’re not doing this to compensate for the lack of juice though, skip a Tbsp of the oil – otherwise you’d end up with way too much dressing.
5) Stir in the mustard and a good crack of black pepper and leave the grapes to marinade for another 30 mins.
6) Have a taste of the proto-dressing to decide whether it needs a bit of honey or not – seedless green grapes can be on the tart side of things.
7) Stir in the vinegar and the oil along with the chives before taste-testing again. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and get ready to plate up~
100g Lamb’s Lettuce
80g Semi-Firm Goat’s Cheese or Sheepsmilk Feta, cut into bite-sized pieces
80g Parma Ham or Bresaola, sliced into thin strips – Grilled or griddled King Oyster mushrooms are a wonderful vegetarian alternative
4 Tbsp Walnut halves, coarsely chopped
1) Divide the lettuce leaves, cheese bites, meaty ribbons and walnuts onto two plates and drizzle the servings with the dressing before dotting the servings with the grapes.
2) Serve the salad with a bit of crusty bread and…