September, golden September! Wine Harvest, anything involving grapes and related outdoorsy things you can do during these times, hikes, excursions and picnics – all asking for delicious little bites to recharge hike-depleted batteries or soak up some of the liquids that may have been sampled along the way!
I made a bit of a feast out of it this time, basically grabbing anything that represents this time of the year in our region and put it into a portable wine’y (The Palatinate and its major Riesling stomping grounds are right around the corner, so all of them actually fit into the Riesling sandbox) context as best as I could – to enjoy the season to it’s fullest in the great outdoors before mother nature puts on her winter outfit. Pack all of the toppings in little airlock containers, grab a crusty walnut baguette or something deliciously bready along those lines and a knife and go find yourself a cosy place with a fireplace somewhere in the vicinity of a winery – uncork a bottle, open your picnic bags and, 2 shakes of a lamb’s tail later, you’ll have a delicious and slightly fancy picnick!
Let’s get the show on the road~
Crostini with Pheasant Meatballs, Red Cabbage and Honeyed Red Grapes
Ok, so this one’s the flashy one of the bunch. If fiddling around with a three-part topping is too much fuss for your tastes, feel free to skip to/or the other two – both of which are first class quick-fix yummies~! Although… this actually looks more like way more work than it is! Let’s have a look.
The Orange and Honey-Glazed Grapes
250g Red Grapes
1 Orange, Juice and Zest
2 Tbsp Dark, Intense Honey
1) Carefully stem, wash, dry and halve the grapes.
2) Place the grape halves in a pickling jar, jam jar or any other heatproof, sealable container you may have on hand. Set the jar aside – somewhere in easy reach, you’ll need it again in just a couple of blinks.
3) Add the orange juice and honey to a small pot and, as the liquid is heating up, stir the lot until the honey has dissolved.
4) As soon as the mixture is showing signs of bubbling up, take the pot off the heat, stir in the orange zest.
5) Pour the piping hot liquid on top of the grapes waiting in their jar and immediately seal the lid once everything’s safely inside.
6) Allow the contents of the jar to steep, infuse and yummify for anything between 8 hours/overnight to a day.
The Marinated Red Cabbage
This part, too, get’s better the longer it get’s to soak, so if you can, prep this the evening before the showdown as well.
½ Head of Red Cabbage
2 Tbsp Orange Juice
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Aged Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Walnut Oil
½ Tsp Orange Zest
¼ Tonka Bean, very finely grated
1 Tsp Salt
½ Tsp White Pepper
1 Generous Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1) Stem and clean the cabbage thoroughly before slicing it into the thinnest ribbons your sharpest knife or your trusty food processor can produce.
2) Pop the ribbons into a large bowl with a fitting lid.
3) Add the vinegar, oil, juice, zest, salt, pepper and spices.
4) Seal the lid and put all of your efforts into shaking the bowl vigorously for about 1-2 mins – or until your arms hurt.
5) Place the bowl in the fridge for some R&R. 6-24 hours – the longer, the better.
The Pheasant Meatballs
100g 1-2 day-old non-grainy bread – a peasant’s rye, Italian ciabatta or simple crusty baguette work nicely – roughly diced
Alt: 100g Panko Breadcrumbs
75ml Low-Fat Milk, slightly warmed
500g Pheasant or Duck Mince – if you can’t get either ready-minced, try to get an even mix of breast- and thigh meat, deboned and skinned, and put your knife or meatgrinder to work.
2 Shallots, finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely diced
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Grainy Mustard
1 Tsp Honey
1 Organic Egg, Size L
½ Small Bunch of Flatleaf Parsley
2 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves only
1 Sprig of Lovage, leaves only
1 Very generous Pinch each of Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg
1 Tbsp Ghee
1 Splash of Red Port
1) Pop the bread cubes/crumbs into a mixing bowl and douse them with the milk.
2) Set the bowl aside for 5 mins and continue with the meat for the time being.
3) Set a small pan onto medium heat, add the oil, shallots and garlic. Sauté the lot until the shallots start to soften and turn translucent – 3-4 mins will do.
4) Grab your pheasant/duck mince and place it in a second mixing bowl. Tip the contents of your pan into the bowl as well.
5) Once the onion mix is in, add the mustard, honey, egg, herbs and spices and top everything off with the soaked bread after giving it a hearty squeeze to get rid of any excess liquids.
6) Time to get your hands dirty~ Knead the “dough” with your hands until everything is well comined – use the parsley confetti as avisual indicator for a convenient “evenly distributed throughout” marker.
7) Once you’re satisfied with the results, roll individual portions of the dough into walnut-sized balls.
8) Heat the ghee in a wide, heavy-based pan sitting on medium-high heat.
9) Gently fry the balls, tipping them over every couple of blinks, until they’re golden all around – depending on your interpetation of “walnut” this may vary between 6-8 mins.
10) Keep the lid on in between flips to keep the heat at a constant level and wipe the lid every time you take it off to avoid water dripping back into the pan, which would ruin your crisp-in-the-making.
11) Pick a specimen of the larger variety and use it as “core temperature” check as well as a seasoning checkup. On ce you’re happy with the pink-core’d-ness of the ball in question, add, if necessary, the adjustments to your seasoning, add the glug of port, give the contents of the pan a nice swirl and close the lid for 3 mins.
12) Transfer the sauce-coated balls to a plate to cool off.
13) In case you have an oven at your disposal, here’s a little carefree-shortcut for you which will make sure they’re perfect on the inside without having to go through one or more sacrifical balls in the process: simply fry the balls until they’re golden all around and pop them into the preheated oven waiting at 140°C. 15 mins to golden deliciousness~
Walnut Crostini with Smoked Trout and Caramelized Pears
These work best if you have an open fire/BBQ or griddle pan nearby – for some reason the pears in particular shine like a whole box of edible diamonds once they hit a freshly roasted, warm and crusty slice of bread~
Hint: A Walnut Baguette or a rustic, wholegrain ciabatta are the best base for these
As many Walnut Halves as you need to match your amount of crostini
Half as many Radiccio leaves as you ned to match your amount of crostini
3 Tbsp Walnut Oil
2 Tbsp Spiced Pear Syrup – bought in an organic food store of your choice or simply made with the help of your’s truly, you can find my recipe right here in my Spiced Pear Parfait post~
Alt: Maple Syrup
3 Sprigs of Rosemary, needles picked and finely chopped
2 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves picked
2 Ripe Pears, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
200-300g Smoked Trout
Alt/Addition: If you’re not in the market for fish or if you like an unorthodox twist here and there, Walnut Camembert is your the perfect candidate for this one
Chilli Salt or Flakes
1) Place a wide pan on medium-high heat and add the butter.
2) Once the butter starts to foam up, slide in the pears and sprinke the lot with the sugar, thyme leaves and chilli flakes.
3) Once the sugar has caramellized into a delicious coat all around the pears, swirl in the syrup and transfer the lot into a shallow bowl with a ficcing lid. Allow the fruit to cool off before sealing the lid.
4) As yum’o’clock is drawing closer, rub the bread slices with the oil, generously sprinkle them with rosemary needles and grill/griddle the slices for 2 mins per side until they’re golden-brown and crispy.
5) As soon as they come out of the pan one by one, pop thin slices of the trout and/or cheese onto the hot bread, top them off with the lettuce leaves, pears and walnut halves.
Chestnut, Grape, Gruyere and Chanterelle Crostini
10 Chestnuts, precooked, thinly sliced
12-15 Large Chanterelles, very carefully cleaned
Alt: 2-3 large porcinis work nicely too but they’ve been costing an arm and at least 3 livers over here the last couple of years.
120g Gruyère or a similar punchy, buttery mmmmh …cave cheese
As many White Grapes as you need to match your amount of crostini, thinly sliced
Opt: 2-3 Tbsp of Lardons – render them and use the bacon fat instead
Ritzy Opt: Duck Fat – Full Stop.
X-amount of Splashes of Olive Oil – x being just enough to drizzle each crostini with a hint of it
½ Bunch of Chives
2 Sprigs of Lovage, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 Sprig of Lemon Thyme, leaves only
A generous Pinch each of Nutmeg, Salt and Pepper
1) Again, freshly roasted/warm bread works deiciously well here, so if you have a fire/griddle or oven conveniently preheated to 200°C nearby, use it after rubbing each breadslice with a hint of oil.
2) Pop a pan onto high heat and add the ghee/lardons/duck fat.
3) Stir-fry the shrooms and chestnut slices for 3-4 mins until the chanterelles al dente with a bit of roasty crisp around the edges.
4) Transfer the lot to a sealable container, season them generously and gently fold in the freshly chopped herbs. Don’t worry about liquids in the bowl, the chestnuts will take care of those~ Again, don’t seal the box for transport or storage before the contents had enough time to cool off.
5) Once you’re ready to serve and the bread is hot, pop a slice of cheese onto every hot slice, add a spoonful of the shroomy chestnut mix and arrange a sliced grape on each crostini.
6) Just in case you’re still close to that oven, seize the day by adding another slice of cheese on top and letting the heat work its magic for another 1-2 mins~
And that’s it! Pour yourself a glass of your favorite, grab a crunchy morsel and…