Grapes are in season right now. Get them fresh off the vine and try some of our favorite ways to prepare them.
When, Where, & What?
Grapes (Vitis spp, Vitaceae) are edible berries grown in clusters on small shrubs or vines. They grow best in temperate zones such as Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Chile. New world settlers found that grapes brought over from Europe didn’t survive the winter cold and were prone to fungal diseases. They developed the hybrid varieties found in America today. Today California is the largest producer of “table grapes” – the kind for snacking.
There are thousands of varieties of grapes. Some are grown for wine production while others are grown to be eaten as-is. Concord grapes are used to produce grape juice, jams and jellies. They’re blue in color, with a thick, chewy skin and contain seeds. They’re sold as table grapes along with other varieties like Interlaken, Lakemont, Einset Seedless and Venus. Muscat grapes are turned into raisins while Riesling grapes are used to produce wine. Dana found fun varieties when she scouted her local farmers market including Mars and Juniper grapes.
Grapes are typically round or oval, smooth skinned and juicy. Some varieties contain seeds while others are seedless. Some are “slip skin” where the skin can easily be removed while other varieties have skin that is tough to remove. Grapes are divided into categories by color: white or black (or red). White grapes range in color from pale yellow-green to light green, while black varieties range in color from light red to deep purple. In the U.S., peak season for grapes is August through October.
Read more »
- You say tomato, we say gazpacho.
Between the backyard garden, CSA deliveries, and compulsive trips to the farmers’ market – my kitchen is bursting with tomatoes and other goodies like cucumbers, onion and herbs. What’s one of the most tasty and healthy ways to use up lots of veggies? When life hands you tomatoes . . . make gazpacho!
Step 1: Choose your ingredients
Take your pick of favorite fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs. The only other ingredients needed are olive oil, a source of acid, tomato juice, salt and pepper. If you’ve got some day old bread lying around, use it to thicken the soup (see recipe below).
Classic veggie options include tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, onion and celery. Then add a flavor punch with fresh garlic and herbs like parsley, basil, chives or cilantro. Use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil and some acidity from fresh lemon or lime juice or vinegar like red wine, balsamic or sherry.
Read more »
- Robin Miller's refreshing tomato-basil gazpacho.
By the end of summer, I start to crave soup. But hot soup doesn’t sound appealing on a sweltering August afternoon. Check out my three favorite, and refreshing, cold soups. The first is my gazpacho, crammed with nutritious vegetables with an extra sweet flavor because I make it with grape tomatoes and canned fire-roasted tomatoes. The Mexican-inspired ceviche is a seafood soup that requires no stove-top cooking because the acid in the fresh lime juice actually cooks the shrimp and tilapia. It’s “Mexican-inspired” because I added jalapeno pepper, green chilies, chili powder, cumin and tortilla chips. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The last soup is a lightened-up version of vichyssoise. It’s lighter because I skip the step where you sauté leeks and garlic in butter or olive oil (or a combination) and I used half and half instead of heavy cream. The soup is still creamy and rich but isn’t artery-clogging like the original.
Gazpacho with Fresh Basil
You can certainly make this soup with ripe beefsteak tomatoes – just make sure they’re vine-ripened so they boast their true sweetness. Classic gazpacho has cucumber but I love the flavor zucchini adds to my version.
20 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
2 (14.5-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium zucchini, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup minced white onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or garlic-flavored red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine grape tomatoes and fire-roasted tomatoes in a food processor and process until finely minced. Transfer tomatoes to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes (and up to 24 hours).
Read more »
Who needs to be slaving over a hot stove in this summer heat? Try some of these no-cook soups, main dishes and desserts that are a healthy — and cheaper — alternative to dialing up some takeout. They’re packed with fresh fruits and veggies, which means more vitamins and minerals on your plate.
Get the recipes »