Green Eats: Pick of the bunch

Third in the list of the biblical Seven Species, grapes are the only fruit that has its own special blessing.

Quinoa Salad311 (photo credit: MCT)
Quinoa Salad311
(photo credit: MCT)
I tasted the most delicious dark red grapes the other day, and was told that I had better buy them quickly, because they’ll just be in season for another week or two. Crisp, sweet, seedless and with an easy-to-chew peel, these dark beauties are called “Sable” grapes, and they should be available in most supermarkets. This is also a time to remind readers that the darker and deeper colors are in nature, the higher the amounts of healthy antioxidants they contain in their pigments.
Grapes are not only healthy. They’re part of our heritage. Third in the list of the biblical Seven Species, grapes are the only fruit that have their own special blessing, and when you think of it, they play an integral part in the celebration of Shabbat and every religious occasion.
To our ancestors the grapevine symbolized security and well-being, peace, quiet and abundance, and they preferred imbibing wine to water (and often, it was probably safer). Both grape juice and wine vinegars were beverages as well as seasonings, and iron-rich grapes were important for consumption throughout the year. Even the vine leaves could be utilized – for pickling and stuffing.
Chilled grapes are a particularly refreshing snack, and together with a hearty bread, (goat) cheese and some cut-up vegetables, make a delicious light summer lunch. Kids love them frozen, and sliced or whole, they are a colorful addition to salads – like the two below.
For guests, I like to serve this salad on a bed of two sauces (recipes follow), though it also tastes very good without.
4-6 servings
✔ 2 medium eggplants (about 800 gr.)
✔ 4 tomatoes, peeled
✔ 21⁄2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
✔ Salt and pepper to taste
✔ 1 cup red quinoa
✔ 11⁄4 cups water
✔ 11⁄2 cups grapes, halved
✔ Half cup red onion, finely chopped
✔ 2 medium mushrooms, cut into quarters and sliced
✔ 3 Tbsp. basil, cut into strips
✔ 1⁄4 cup olive oil
✔ 2 Tbsp. unsweetened pomegranate molasses
✔ 2 garlic cloves, crushed
✔ Salt and pepper to taste
Make the vinaigrette dressing by shaking all the ingredients for the dressing together in a jar. Set aside.
Make eggplant sauce: Place each eggplant in a separate piece of aluminum foil (preferably the recycled kind found at health food stores) and season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil.
Close the foil to form packages and bake at 170 degrees for 30 minutes till tender. Slice the eggplants down the center and remove the contents with a spoon. Pulverize in a food processor or blender with 4 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper.
Set aside.
Make tomato sauce: Grind the peeled tomatoes till smooth. Add 4 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper, and set this sauce aside as well . (This and eggplant sauce may be prepared ahead and refrigerated).
Rinse quinoa in a fine wire mesh sieve and add the water and a pinch of salt.
Bring to a boil, cover and cook 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes. Mix with a fork, and add the rest of the ingredients for the salad including the dressing.
Serve on individual salad plates like this: Using a tablespoon, make a half moon of eggplant sauce on one side of each plate, and a half moon of the tomato sauce on the other side. Measure a third to a half cup of the quinoa mixture in a measuring cup and turn it over in the center of each plate, and serve.
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side salad
✔ 2 butterflied boneless chicken breasts
✔ 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
✔ 2 whole allspice
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. peppercorns
✔ 1 parsley sprig
✔ 1⁄2 cup sliced celery
✔ 3⁄4 cup halved red grapes
✔ 1⁄3 cup pecan halves
✔ 4 cups mixed red and green lettuces
For the dressing:
✔ 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
✔ 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
✔ 11⁄2 Tbsp. honey
✔ 1 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
✔ 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
✔ 1-2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Cut each breast in half lengthwise. Pour enough water into a large skillet to reach 5 cm.
Add wine, bay leaf, allspice, peppercorn and whole parsley sprig, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook 5 minutes. Add the chicken breasts in one layer.
They should be covered by the liquid. If not, add boiling water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat and remove from heat. Let stand for 5-10 minutes (the chicken breasts should be ready. If not, cook them on low heat until done).
Cool chicken breasts and cut into pieces or shred. Mix with the celery and grapes.
Put the lettuces in a large salad bowl or on a serving platter and place the chicken and grape mixture on top.
Prepare the dressing: Put the ingredients for the dressing in the blender, except for the olive oil.
Slowly add the oil with the machine running (keep the top partially on, or pour through an opening in the cover), or whisk the ingredients for the dressing until emulsified. Pour just enough dressing over the salad to moisten it, and pass the rest.
(Dressing may be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.)