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August, 2013

Simple Sides: Savory Grapes
By Dennis Linden

The peak of the season is a great time to show your young kitchen helpers that grapes can add to the family’s dinner table in some deliciously savory ways.

LA Kings Mascot and KidsThis feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options. The dishes will be centered around seasonal fresh produce item and easy enough to prepare so that a child of any age can help in contributing to the family meal. While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can even be great fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.

Organic GrapesAugust brings on the domestic grape harvest. These succulent little nuggets of sweet goodness have basked in the warm summer sun, growing plump and developing their natural sugars for several months. While table grapes have always been a favorite hand fruit snack for kids, the peak of the season is a great time to show your young kitchen helpers that grapes can add to the family’s dinner table in some deliciously savory ways. Plus these two “no-knife” recipes also provide an opportunity for a child of almost any age to build a little culinary confidence by having a part in preparing the family meal.

Recipe I
Lesson Plan for Roasted Grapes
:
The extremely simple dish really is a perfect introductory cooking experience for a very young sous chef. The recipe is a three-step process that is more like a fun arts & crafts project, only edible! Step 1: Any child can be directed in the task of carefully separating grapes and fresh thyme from their respective stems. Step 2: Same with measuring out the olive oil and combining all three in a large bowl. Step 3: Once baked and put back in the bowl, measure and mix in the agave. Done, and delicious!

These roasted red grapes work well when served warm as a summer side dish at the family’s backyard barbeque. They pair deliciously with grilled chicken or salmon. Plus, the wonderful savory flavor will be something for even your youngest helper to brag about making!

Recipe II
Lesson Plan for Green Grape Gazpacho
:
Here’s another great dish with big flavor and little preparation that your kids can contribute to the family’s next backyard barbeque feast! This recipe is quick and easy to prepare on a hot summer evening as it is served cold, requiring no cooking and no knife work. Plus, your kitchen helpers will experience grapes in a whole new way once they have made this creamy-good soup. While there is a little bit of chopping needed for this recipe, this can be accomplished by a child armed with a pair of dull kitchen shears. In fact, most of the preparation for this dish takes place in a blender or food processor. Soy milk provides the creamy taste and texture without the dairy fat.

Recipe I
Roasted Red Grapes
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound Red Seedless Grapes, rinsed and stems removed
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons fresh Thyme leaves, stems removed
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon freshly Ground Pepper
1 Tablespoon Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup

What the kids can do:
  • In a large bowl, gently mix the grapes with the olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper.

  • Arrange the grape mixture on a large baking sheet in a single layer.

  • Leave plenty of space between the grapes on the sheet.

  • Once the grapes have been roasted and put back in the mixing bowl, drizzle them with agave.

What the supervising adult should do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Handle the shaking of the hot baking sheet a few times during the baking process until the skins begin to split, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the hot grapes from the oven and place them back in the mixing bowl for the kids to add the agave to while still warm. Serve the grapes either warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Red Grapes

Recipe II
White Grape Gazpacho
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2½ cups Green Seedless Grapes, removed from stems
1 cup Regular Soy Milk, chilled
½ cup Pine Nuts, blanched
2 Green Onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 Lime, juiced
Kosher Salt and freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 Green Onion, thinly sliced lengthwise for garnish
½ cup White (Light Green) Grapes, stemmed & chopped for garnish

What the kids can do:
  • Put the soy milk and blanched pine nuts in a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth.

  • With the motor running, slowly add the grapes, chopped green onions, and lime juice.

  • Season with salt and pepper and purée until well blended.

  • To serve, pour into small bowls, then garnish with chopped or sliced grapes and sliced scallions.

What the supervising adult should do:
Handle the blanching of the pine nuts. Oversee the chopping and slicing of the scallions as well as the seasoning. Gazpacho can be served at room temperature, but is even better if refrigerated until very cold. If chilled from the refrigeration, stir well before serving.

White Grape Gazpacho