California Grapes with Chef Michelle Bernstein
98% of grapes consumed in the United States are grown in California. I guess it’s fair to stay that California grapes have the market share of grapes! From May – January California farmers harvest grapes for table consumption – over 100 million boxes of grapes! Red, green and black grapes ship to your local grocers ready to be picked up by you or exported out to countries like Mexico, Canada and China.
What happens to those grapes when they arrive in your home? Traditionally we rinse them and store them in our produce drawer to eat as a snack or as a side with lunch. I know friends who like to freeze them, as frozen grapes are a delicious hot-weather treat.
My understanding of grape in cooking expanded this week at a lunch hosted by the California Table Grape Commission. The lunch menu was prepared by internationally recognized and James Beard award winner, Chef Michelle Bersntein at her well-known Miami restaurant Michy’s. Chef Bernstein took grapes to a level I never knew imaginable. She explained to the invited guests, including Miami foodies Maria of Adventures of the Foodaholic and Faby of The Fat Girl Inside, that the grape is one of her very favorite fruits to work with. It’s something that goes with everything. The sweetness of the grape works well with meats, nuts, and even in desserts.
The menu had my mouth-watering. The soup arrived with the grapes and nuts on the bottom of the bowl, as the servers prepared the soup table-side by pouring a white puree atop. This cold gazpacho soup was heavenly. It was light – which surprised me because of its appearance – and so savory. Grapes in soup – something I had most certainly never done.
Next we were privileged to a pancetta wrapped snapper that was braised with red and green grapes, pressed juice and a roast fennel puree. Again, grapes were used in a way I would not of thought to try. The sweetness of the grape carried through the delicacy of the fish. The fennel cream sauce that spread across the bottom of the plate was unbelievable.
Our grape experience ended with a reinvention of the common pair of peanut butter and jelly, grape jelly of course. Chef Bernstein created her own peanut butter, that my 5-year-old – the peanut butter lover would have so enjoyed – and added dehydrated grapes, a dark grape gelee and bit of cream. It was like a bite of heaven, peanut butter heaven, of course!
I left the luncheon so satisfied and ecstatic I had worn draw-stringed pants – yes, I was that full! The use of grapes was remarkable, especially when paired with the renowned cooking of Chef Bernstein. I knew that the concept of using grapes could easily be utilized in my own home. My 5-year-old LOVES grapes, so I knew I would be finding ways to throw in grapes in a dish. Plus, it’s a fruit that we always have on hand!
As a guest of the event, I received a cookbook, Green Black Red: Recipes for Cooking and Enjoying California Grapes
that can be purchased on Amazon. I’ve already made my 1st recipe from the book! I made the Slow-Cooked Pork Chops with Spiced Honey and Grapes. Served it with wild rice and roasted asparagus and mushrooms. It was fantastic! Let alone, the idea of throwing in a cup & 1/2 of grapes in with a pork chops as they are sautéing is new to me. The cookbook is full of fantastic, unique ways of integrating the American snack favorite into breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes. I hope to share some of the recipes soon!
You can learn more about the use of grapes from the California Table Grape Commission. Follow them online at https://www.facebook.com/GrapesFromCalifornia. They are hosting a contest to win $5,000 if you have a clever way of reinventing a snack using grapes!
Have you ever incorporated grapes into your cooking? Have a recipe that you would like to share? I invite you to guest post a recipe that uses grapes and enter the contest too!