Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: grapes

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Looking for a quick snack or an easy dish to make for a picnic, barbecue or party, fruit salad is a great option.

A few additions to a fruit salad can go a long way in adding color, flavor and uniqueness. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice prevents browning in some fruits and adds a bright flavor that will help balance out the sweetness of the fruit. Similarly, a chiffonade of fresh herbs (like mint, basil or cilantro) elevates and enhances a dish of fruit.

When making a fruit salad think about flavors that will complement and balance the sweetness (or sourness) of the fruit you are using. Smoky, spicy and salty flavors work well with very sweet fruits like berries or melon. A homemade simple ginger syrup complements tart fruits like pineapple.

To make the ginger syrup:

Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 piece (about 4 ounces and 10 inches long or use several small pieces) of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin rounds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard ginger. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

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Fruit and Herb Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 1 half-pint raspberries
  • 1 half-pint blueberries
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, julienned, for garnish

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions

Combine all of the fruit in a large attractive serving bowl. Refrigerate.

For the syrup:

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and then the mint. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Strain through a colander into a bowl. Let the syrup cool.

Gently combine the cooled syrup with the fruit just before serving.

Garnish with mint and serve immediately.

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Wine Soaked Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups rosé wine
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, tops removed and halved
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • Mascarpone cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Grand Marnier and both wines. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Next, add in all of the fruit, making sure that all the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve:

Use a slotted spoon to remove the wine soaked fruit to individual dessert bowls. Top with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and serve.

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Basil Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
  • 3 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

In a large bowl combine the watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and honey and drizzle over the fruit. Stir gently to coat.

Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.

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Melon, Berry and Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced preserved lemon peel or lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 honeydew melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cantaloupe melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, parmigiano-reggiano or feta cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, preserved lemon, crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the melon slices and blackberries on a large serving platter.

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit. Garnish the salad with cheese, snipped chives and serve.

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Red Fruit Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 pound seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 pound strawberries, cored and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Mint for garnish, optional

Directions

Combine the fruit in a large bowl.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant in a dry skillet, then crush in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until finely ground. Work the sugar into the coriander one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the fruit along with the lemon zest and toss gently with your hands. Season with the lemon juice.

Set aside for at least ten minutes or even overnight before serving.

Add mint if you like it before serving.


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Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs. Pliny the Elder, in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that “needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready” (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.

The food writer, Marcus Apicius, of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for bread salad:

Cover the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then add layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finish with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and white wine is poured over the salad. 

Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine and other ingredients.

Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum (fermented fish sauce), olive oil, chopped onion and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue (herb), dates, pepper, honey, cumin and vinegar.

With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a “Salad Bar” laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their individual salad.

While we may not want to make Apicius’ salad, adding some different ingredients can bring new life to your old salad.

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Insalata Nizzarda – Italian Version of Nicoise Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
  • Two 7 oz jars or cans of tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 3 ripe plum, cores removed, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup pitted green or black olives
  • 4 cups arugula
  • Extra virgin olive oil added to drained tuna oil to equal 6 tablespoons
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs, and boil for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water.

Drain the oil from the tuna and add enough olive oil, if needed, to the tuna oil to measure 6 tablespoons. Break the tuna into chunks or coarse flakes.

Whisk the tuna oil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the capers in a large deep salad bowl, one that gives you enough room for tossing once you have layered all the ingredients.

Add the tuna to the dressing and turn to coat everything. Lay the anchovy fillets on top, then the tomatoes and the olives.

Pile the arugula on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place.

To serve, shell and quarter the eggs. Gently turn the salad over a couple of times and arrange the eggs on top.

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Pea Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 slices crusty bread, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups fresh torn lettuce leaves
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

If using frozen peas just defrost them. Do not boil.

Boil fresh peas 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well.

Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan. Toss bread cubes in drippings and cook until crispy.

Combine peas, lettuce, vinaigrette and bread cubes. Top with cheese.

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Strawberry Salad with Pine Nuts and Avocado

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, preferably Hass variety, peeled, pitted and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (heaping) strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Combine avocado with lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Add berries, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and combine well. Place arugula on a serving plate. Top with avocado mixture and pine nuts. Serve.

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Spinach, Grape and Feta Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup red grapes, cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, skin-on almonds, toasted
  • 2 green onions (light green and dark green parts only), finely chopped

Directions

Whisk mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil; add salt and pepper.

Toss spinach, grapes, feta, almonds and green onions in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine and serve.

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Chicken Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves

Directions

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and cherries and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the minced shallot with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Add the chicken breast halves, turning to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade, scraping off the shallot. Slice the chicken on the bias 1 1/2 inches thick and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken slices and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow serving bowl and let cool slightly. Add the marinated zucchini, toasted pine nuts, arugula and toss lightly. Serve immediately

 


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One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.


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Self-portrait red chalk on paper.

Born out-of-wedlock to Piero da Vinci and Caterina in a region of Florence, Leonardo received his early education in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his working life was spent in the service of Ludovico in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice and he spent his last years in France at the home awarded him by Francis I. Little is known about Leonardo’s early life. He spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, then in 1457 he went to live in the household of his father in the small town of Vinci. His father had married a woman named Albiera, who loved Leonardo but she died young. When Leonardo was sixteen his father married again, but it was not until his third and fourth marriages that Piero produced legitimate heirs.

Leonardo was and is renowned primarily as a great painter. Among his works the Mona Lisa is his most famous and The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the Euro coin, textbooks and T-shirts. Only fifteen of his paintings have survived over time together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams and his thoughts on the nature of painting.

Leonardo was also revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a tank, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, the double hull and a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, were manufactured during his time. He made important discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optic, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.

Milan was once filled with canals and they were used to ship rice to the outer territories and bring marble from the lake quarries into the city center. Canals were its lifeline and linked the city to everywhere else. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, invited Leonardo da Vinci to be the state’s war, arms and engineering consultant for 20 years. While Milan’s canal system existed as early as the 12th century, da Vinci took it upon himself to improve its locks, which at the time were of the older ‘portcullis’ or ‘blade’ type that required two men and enormous amounts of effort to operate. Da Vinci came up with the miter gate (see drawing below) which works against the natural pressure of the water, so that only one person is needed to easily swing the doors open or closed. Da Vinci’s invention (two doors that meet at a 45 degree angle, pointing upstream, with a smaller gated culvert for flow) is still in use today. All the massive locks on the Panama and Suez canals, for example, use miter locks.

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Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In the spring of 1485, Leonardo travelled to Hungary on behalf of Ludovico to meet Matthias Corvinus, for whom he is believed to have painted the Holy Family. Leonardo was employed on many different projects for Ludovico, including the preparation of floats and pageants for special occasions, designs for a dome for a Milan Cathedral and a model for a huge equestrian monument.

At the start of the Second Italian War in 1499, the invading French troops overthrew Ludovico Sforza and Leonardo with his assistant, Salai, and a friend, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, fled Milan for Venice where he was employed as a military architect and engineer, devising methods to defend the city from naval attack. In 1500, he and his household were guests of the Servite monks at the monastery of Santissima Annunziata in Florence and were provided with a workshop, where Leonardo created The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, a work that won such admiration that men and women traveled long distances to see it. In 1502 Leonardo entered the service of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, acting as a military architect and engineer, travelling throughout Italy with his patron.

Despite the recent awareness and admiration of Leonardo as a scientist and inventor, for the better part of four hundred years his fame rested on his achievements as a painter and on a handful of works, either authenticated or attributed to him that have been regarded as among the masterpieces. These paintings are famous for a variety of qualities which have been much imitated by students and discussed at great length by admirers and critics. Among the qualities that make Leonardo’s work unique are the innovative techniques which he used in laying on the paint; his detailed knowledge of anatomy, light, botany and geology; his interest in physiognomy and the way in which humans register emotion in expression and gesture; his innovative use of the human form in figurative composition and his use of the subtle gradation of tone. All these qualities come together in his most famous painted works, The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and The Virgin of the Rocks.

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The continued admiration that Leonardo commands from painters, critics and historians is reflected in many other written tributes. Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Cortegiano (“The Courtier”), wrote in 1528: “… Another of the greatest painters in this world looks down on this art in which he is unequalled …”, while the biographer Anonimo Gaddiano wrote, c. 1540: “His genius was so rare and universal that it can be said that nature worked a miracle on his behalf.” The interest in Leonardo’s genius has continued unabated; experts study and translate his writings, analyse his paintings using scientific techniques, argue over attributions and search for works which have been recorded but never found. Liana Bortolon, writing in 1967, said: “Because of the multiplicity of interests that spurred him to pursue every field of knowledge … Leonardo can be considered, quite rightly, to have been the universal genius par excellence, and with all the disquieting overtones inherent in that term. Man is as uncomfortable today, faced with a genius, as he was in the 16th century. Five centuries have passed, yet we still view Leonardo with awe.”

The Cuisine of Milan

Like most cities in Italy, Milan and its surrounding area has its own regional cuisine, which uses more rice than pasta and butter instead of oil. Milanese cuisine includes “cotoletta alla milanese”, a breaded veal (pork and turkey can be used) cutlet pan-fried in butter. Other typical dishes are cassoeula (stewed pork rib chops and sausage with Savoy cabbage), ossobuco (stewed veal shank with gremolata), risotto alla milanese (with saffron and beef marrow), busecca (stewed tripe with beans) and brasato (stewed beef or pork with wine and potatoes). Season-related pastries include chiacchiere (flat fritters dusted with sugar) and tortelli (fried spherical cookies) for Carnival, colomba (glazed cake shaped as a dove) for Easter, pane dei morti (“Deads’ Day bread”, cookies flavored with cinnamon) for All Soul’s Day and panettone for Christmas. The salame milano, a salami with a very fine grain, is widespread throughout Italy. The best known Milanese cheese is gorgonzola from the namesake town nearby.

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Walnut Gorgonzola Crostini

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces gorgonzola, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 20 fresh sage leaves, washed and patted dry
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ciabatta loaf, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • Kosher salt or fine sea salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup red grapes, sliced in half
  • 1 large pear, sliced thin

Directions

Combine gorgonzola, cream, walnuts and Parmesan in a medium-sized bowl. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until a creamy spread forms.

Pour olive oil into a heavy saute pan, about a 1/4 inch full. Heat over medium high heat, but not smoking.

Place sage leaves in oil and fry on each side about two to three minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.

Sprinkle the sage lightly with salt. Repeat until all sage leaves have been fried. Once cooled, crumble the leaves.  Save the oil for cooking other foods.

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Place ciabatta slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.

Slice garlic in half. Rub each slice of crostini with garlic. Spread a layer of gorgonzola walnut mixture on to each crostini. Garnish with grape halves and pear slices.

Sprinkle the top of each crostini with fried sage leaves and serve.

Gorgonzola walnut mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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Brasato

Beef

  • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Italian dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups water

Potatoes and carrots

  • 2 1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots

Equipment: a wide 6-to 8-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid
Accompaniment: crusty bread

For the beef:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Heat butter or oil in the pot over medium heat until it melted, then brown meat, without crowding, in 3 batches, turning, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.

Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 12 minutes. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to the cleared area and cook paste, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir into vegetables. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, bay leaves and thyme and boil until wine is reduced by about two-thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add broth to pot along with water, beef and any juices from the platter and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

For the potatoes and carrots:

While the beef braises, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Slice carrots diagonally into 1-inch pieces.
Add potatoes and carrots to the stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer in the oven, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 40 minutes more.

davinci 8

Biscottini di Milan

If you have bread flour, it will be perfect here. Since it’s denser than white flour, you’ll need less volume — 4 cups minus a tablespoon — for 500 g.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/5 cups (500 g) unbleached white flour or bread flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, broken up into bits
  • 4 egg yolks
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Directions

Combine the flour and the sugar on a pastry board, make a mound and scoop a well into it. Drop the yolks and the water into the well together with the butter and the zest and work the dough until it is smooth and homogeneous.

Roll the dough out into a moderately thick (1/4-inch or 1/2-cm) sheet and cut it into rounds using a round cookie cutter or into squares/rectangles with a sharp knife.

Put the cookies on greased and floured cookie sheets and bake them in a 350 degrees F (170 C) oven until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

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Lamb is a favorite meat for grilling around much of the world, but not so much in the U.S. Lamb has had a tough road, here. The history of lamb in the U.S. dates back to the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom kept flocks of sheep. In the 19th century, immigrants from Greece, Spain and elsewhere brought their sheep farming traditions with them to the western U.S. During the industry’s height in the 1940’s and 50’s, some 55 million sheep grazed on U.S. grasses. Most of them were raised not for their meat, but for their wool. As synthetic fabrics took over, those numbers dropped, and by 2012 only 5.3 million sheep remained, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We lost a lot of producers,” says Angelo Theos, a third-generation Colorado sheep rancher whose grandfather came from Greece. Add to that a perception of lamb as strong-flavored and gamy, which dates back to World War II, when soldiers were fed government-issued canned mutton (adult sheep). Competition from Australia and New Zealand, which account for 50 percent of lamb consumption in the U.S., has also taken its toll.

Sirloin Chops from the Leg

“Americans eat less than a pound of lamb per person per year, compared with 54 pounds of beef”, says Megan Wortman, executive director of the American Lamb Board. Forty percent have never even tried it. “This disconnect exists”, Wortman says, “despite the fact that many of us have roots in parts of the world in which lamb is a staple—Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, the Middle East and Spain, to name a few. The thought of Easter dinner without lamb is, for many, as inconceivable as Thanksgiving without turkey.” “Even so,” Wortman says, “many consumers are put off by lamb’s price (it is generally more expensive than beef, pork or chicken) and are intimidated by the thought of cooking it. They aren’t familiar with everyday, less-expensive cuts such as shank or sausages or shoulder chops. It’s just not on their radar.” The board also has started a “shepherd-to-chefs” campaign that connects local lamb producers with high-profile chefs in an effort to tap the growing awareness for local and sustainable food. In spite of the challenges, many ranchers and farmers remain optimistic. The number of small producers is actually on the rise, with many now keeping “farm flocks” of a few dozen to a few hundred sheep. In eastern states such as Tennessee, some farmers have replaced tobacco with sheep. And demand from chefs and new immigrants from lamb-centric cultures is changing the face of the business. Source: American lamb Board.

Chef Marjorie 1

Chef Marjorie Meeks-Bradley of Ripple, in Washington, D.C., prepares a signature dish of lamb tartare. “We sell out of it every night,” she says./AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

See Related articles below for sources of grass-fed lamb.

The rich, full flavor of lamb benefits from smoke and fire more so than other meats. Grilling mellows and softens the flavor of lamb, so that even folks who think they don’t like it become converts. The first step in cooking lamb is to select the right cut. This requires careful examination of the label and possibly a short conversation with the butcher. Loin, rib or sirloin cuts are tender and are perfect for grilling. Shoulder or leg cuts need a marinade to make them tender. The meat you choose should have light red, finely textured meat with smooth, white fat. Dark red cuts of lamb are usually older and less tender. Marbling is not as important with lamb as it is with beef, but the fat on the lamb should be evenly distributed. Also, lamb chops should be an inch thick for best grilling. The second thing you need to do is select your flavors. Lamb is excellent seasoned with garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, fennel, lemon and mustard. Any rub, marinade or sauce made with these ingredients will enhance the flavor of your lamb cuts. Begin with a thin coating of olive oil and then a light sprinkling of seasonings, but you don’t need to go overboard. You don’t want to cover the flavor of the meat; you only want to add to it.

Lamb chops should be grilled on a covered grill over a medium-high heat. Ideally, you should grill them to medium rare or medium. Keep a close eye on them and remove the meat from the grill when you reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. And as always, let the meat rest for a few minutes before you serve it; five minutes is usually good. 

For safety, the USDA recommends cooking ground lamb mixtures like burgers and meatloaf to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. However, whole muscle meats such as roasts, steaks and chops are safe to eat at 145 °F (medium rare) or cooked further to 160 °F (medium), if you prefer. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy. Lamb is now leaner than ever. While this is certainly good news for health, leaner meat requires special attention to the cooking time and temperature to prevent overcooking and toughness.

The basic major cuts (primal) of lamb are shoulder, rack, shank, breast, loin and leg. Ideally, packages of lamb should be labeled with the primal cut as well as the retail name of the product, such as “shoulder roast” or “loin chop.” Primal cuts explain which part of the animal a piece of meat originally came from, which can be helpful when deciding how to prepare the meat. For example, a tough cut like the shank should be braised for more than an hour, while tender cuts like rib chops (from the rack) or loin chops can be quickly grilled or broiled. For groups of 6 or fewer, consider individual rib chops or smaller loin roasts. And for everyday meals, there are a wide variety of delicious, reasonably priced cuts such as the blade and arm chops (from the shoulder) or sirloin chops (from the leg).

Lamb Loin Chops

Lamb loin chops grill to perfection over direct heat in a matter of minutes. Just be sure to trim excess fat before grilling to avoid flare-ups.

To grill lamb loin chops:                   

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Brush lamb chops with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and any herbs of your choosing.

Place chops on preheated oiled grill grates.

Grill lamb chops, covered, over medium heat about 8-9 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into chops registers 145 degrees F for medium-rare to 160 degrees F for medium, turning once. Don’t overcook the lamb chops or they will dry out.

 

Lamb Kabobs

Lamb kabobs are one of the most popular methods of preparing lamb worldwide. Lamb kabobs are made from well-trimmed boneless leg of lamb. For an even easier method, you can buy lamb precut for kabobs.

To grill lamb kabobs:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Cut lamb into 1-1/4-inch pieces with large chef’s knife.

lf using bamboo skewers, soak in cold water 10 to 15 minutes first to prevent burning.

Alternately thread lamb and other ingredients onto skewers.

Place kabobs on preheated oiled grill grates.

Grill kabobs, covered, over medium-hot heat 5-6 minutes.

Turn; continue to grill, covered, 5 to 7 minutes for medium or until desired doneness is reached.

Lamb Burgers

Like other ground meat, ground lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F for food safety reasons.

To grill lamb burgers:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Shape seasoned ground lamb into patties, about 1/2 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter.

Shape patties on a cutting board or cookie sheet so you can easily carry them right to the grill.

Brush one side of the patties with oil; place on preheated grill, oil side down. Brush other sides with oil.

Grill burgers, covered, over medium-hot heat 8 to 10 minutes for medium or until desired doneness is reached, turning halfway through grilling time.

 

Leg of Lamb

Grilling a butterflied, boneless leg of lamb is quite simple. A whole bone-in leg of lamb is delicious, grilled, too, but it takes longer because it must be cooked over indirect heat. Leg of lamb is often sold in two pieces — the sirloin or center-cut portion and the shank portion (the part with the bone sticking out).

To grill leg of lamb:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Season butterflied boneless leg of lamb on both sides.

Insert meat thermometer into center of thickest part of lamb.

Place lamb on preheated oiled grill grates.

Grill lamb, covered, over medium heat 35 to 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 145-160 degrees F or until desired doneness is reached, turning every 10 minutes.

Transfer lamb to carving board; tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving. Slice leg of lamb thinly across the grain.

Lamb Sausage

Place thawed sausage over a medium to low fire and cook slowly for 20 or 30 minutes, turning as needed. The internal temperature should reach 160 ºF (insert the thermometer into the link from the end to get an accurate reading). Slowly cooking the meat insures that the inside is cooked without burning the outside.

All Purpose Marinade For Lamb

This is enough marinade for 1 1/2 lbs. of lamb.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Stir together honey, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper and transfer to a sealable plastic bag. Add lamb, then seal bag, pressing out excess air and turning to distribute marinade.

Marinate lamb in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, 1 hour. Bring lamb to room temperature before cooking. 

Be sure to brush the meat with olive oil before grilling. You can also add your favorite minced herbs to the meat before grilling.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Summer Squash

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3/4 pound)
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3/4 pound)
  • 6 (5-ounce) lamb loin chops, trimmed (about 1 inch thick)
  • Olive oil

Directions:

To make parsley sauce:

Place garlic, parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, shallots, oregano, sherry vinegar, lemon juice and red pepper in a food processor; process 1 minute or until almost smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; pulse 2 times. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450° F. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine squash, zucchini and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl; toss well. Arrange squash and zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Bake for 16 minutes or until tender, turning after 8 minutes. Alternately, you can wrap the squash in heavy duty foil and roast on the grill with the meat.

Lightly brush lamb with olive oil. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place lamb on grill rack coated with oil; grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Place grilled lamb and squash on a serving plate and top with the parsley sauce.

Grilled Lamb Brochettes with Lemon Marinade

This lamb is best if you can marinate it overnight. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 20 to 30 minutes before threading with lamb.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Grated peel from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds boned leg of lamb, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, 1/4 cup dill, garlic, salt and pepper. Add lamb and mix to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill overnight.

Thread cubes of lamb onto 7 or 8 skewers.

Lay skewers over a solid bed of medium-hot coals or medium-high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4 seconds); close lid on the gas grill. Cook, turning skewers as needed, until lamb is browned on all sides but still pink in the center (medium-rare), 5 to 6 minutes, or just barely pink in the center (medium), 6 to 7 minutes.

Transfer skewers to a platter. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon chopped dill and serve with lemon wedges for a final squeeze of juice. Brochettes are delicious with an Arugula Salad topped with Parmesan cheese strips.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Grape Sauce

Grilled eggplant slices are are a great side dish for this recipe. They won’t take any longer to cook than the lamb chops.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 frenched lamb chops (ones with meat trimmed from bones; 1 1/2 lbs.)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a spicy green chile, roughly chopped
  • 3 tomatoes (12 oz.), quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes, divided
  • Eggplant Slices, about ¼ inch thick
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Heat a grill to high (450° to 550°). Rub lamb with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Set aside.

Pulse chile, tomatoes, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and half the grapes in a food processor until smooth. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Add remaining grapes; cook 2 minutes. Set aside.

If grilling eggplant. brush slices with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and grill on one side of the grill, while you cook the lamb chops on the other side.

Grill chops, turning once, 5 minutes total for medium-rare. Plate lamb and eggplant and pour sauce over both. Serve with rice, if desired.

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Feta Sauce

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

One 5 1/2- to 6-pound butterflied leg of lamb

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, ground
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse the mint with the parsley, garlic and coriander until finely chopped. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into yogurt.

Spread the lamb on a cutting board and, using a paring knife, poke the meat all over on both sides. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper and coat with 1 cup of the yogurt sauce and transfer to a glass dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Meanwhile, stir the feta cheese into the remaining yogurt sauce, cover and refrigerate.

Before grilling, bring the marinated lamb to room temperature (about 1 hour).

Light a grill and oil the grates. Grill the lamb over a medium-high fire, turning occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 125° (150° in the thinnest part).

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice the lamb and serve with the feta yogurt sauce.

Mini Lamb Burgers with Cucumber Sauce

 Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground lamb (grass-fed, if possible)
  • 1/2 minced onion (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped, (1 teaspoon dried)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 pieces pita bread (6 inches)
  • Lettuce, Kalamata olives and 2 sliced tomatoes

Directions:

Heat grill to high and oil grill grates.

Squeeze cucumber in a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

Make Cucumber Sauce:

In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, mint, oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make Burgers:

In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine lamb, onion, parsley and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Gently form mixture into 16 small patties, about 3/4 inch thick.

Grill until medium-rare, 3 minutes per side.

To serve, warm pitas on the grill turning occasionally. Cut pitas in half. Fill with lettuce, burgers, tomato and sauce. Serve with Kalamata olives on the side.


Grape Vineyard

The history of the grape is at least as old as the history of mankind. The earliest grape consumers were probably hunter/gatherers who included the wild fruit in their diet along with such savory delicacies as woolly mammoth and wild boar. Grapes didn’t remain wild for very long. Archaeologists tell us that grapes were, in fact, one of the earliest cultivated fruits on earth. The grape that became known as “vitis vinifera” originated in the Black Sea region and spread rapidly southward to the Middle East. According to the best estimates, grapes were being cultivated in Mesopotamia as early as 6,000 BC. From there, the vinifera grape spread eastward to Phoenicia and Egypt and by 2,000 BC, Phoenician sailors were ferrying grapevines across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece and many other countries in this region.

Wine making was a primary use for grapes from the beginning, but the ancient Greeks were the first civilization to make a serious practice of grape growing and winemaking. The Greeks even had a god of the vine – Dionysus (later Bacchus). Early efforts to make a drinkable beverage out of grapes were mixed. With no refrigeration, uncontrolled fermentation, and lack of proper sanitation, ancient Greek wines were, at best, an acquired taste. Because of spoilage, the thick, dark, and syrupy Greek wines were usually diluted with water and “flavored” with herbs, honey, white barley, and even grated goat’s milk cheese.

Roman wine-making

It was the Romans who refined the art of grape-growing and processing. They introduced pruning by knife and proper filtering and storage. The Romans also understood how much climate, soil, and pruning style could affect grape flavor. The art of grape-growing declined along with Roman civilization after 400 AD. Only the Catholic Church kept the practice alive through Medieval times, particularly the Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys of France and Germany. Their wines led to a gradual resurgence in wine cultivation.

As knowledge of plant biology, grafting, and hybridization expanded over time, so did the varieties of grapes and their uses. Soon there were “table” grapes grown especially for eating. Dessert grapes. Raisin grapes. And of course, the many varieties of wine grapes, from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. However, it wasn’t until pasteurization and the pioneering work of Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch in 1869 that unfermented grape juice became a popular beverage.

The grapevine is a climbing arbor which requires a strong support for its growth. Grapes grow in clusters ranging from 6 to 300. They can be crimson, black, dark blue, pale yellow, purple, green or pink in color and contain natural sugar and dietary fiber along with potassium and iron. They taste sour when unripe because of the malic acid they contain. As the grapes ripen, the malic acid content reduces and they taste sweet. 

There are more than a thousand varieties, out of which only around 50 have commercial significance. Some of them are- Alicante, Barsana, Alphonse Lavallee, Calmeria, Cardinal, Catawba, Chasselas/Golden Chasselas, Concord, Delaware, Emperor, Hanepoot (Honeypot), Italia, Kishmish, Malaga, Niagara, Ribier and many more. Both red and green grapes are different species of grapes, which belong to the genus of fruits known as Vitus and are found in abundance, all over the world. Green grapes are also known as white grapes and wine made from either red or green grapes is extremely popular and consumed worldwide.

The question most frequently asked when comparing both these species of grapes – What is the difference between red and green grapes?

Red Grapes

The reddish black color of red grapes is due to the flavonoids, an antioxidant compound that it contains. Red grapes are known to have a number of health benefits due to the high content of nutrients, especially vitamins C and B, proteins, copper, anthocyanins, manganese and potassium, that it contains. It is also low in calories and high in the content of dietary fiber. A cup of red grapes will have just 61 calories which makes it an ideal snack, especially for those looking to lose or maintain their weight. Red grapes and red wine contain an important flavonoid, known as resveratrol, which imparts important health benefits, as explained further in the next section.

Green Grapes

They are the species of grapes that are available all year round and have a high nutritional value. They are rich in carbohydrates and vitamin C and vitamin K, low in calories, saturated fat and sodium and absolutely free of cholesterol. Flavonoid antioxidants known as Catechins are also present in the white or green grape species.

Difference between Red Grapes and Green Grapes

Most nutritionists and health experts would recommend consuming more red grapes than green grapes. The reason for this would be the high content of antioxidants red grapes contain, as compared to the green ones. Also, if we compare the calories, the latter contains a slightly higher amount of calories as compared to the former. Green grapes also lack anthocyanins, which red grapes contain in high amounts. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that have been shown in recent research studies to act as a “sunscreen”, protecting cells from high-light damage by absorbing blue-green and UV light.

As mentioned above, red grapes contain flavonoid antioxidants like Resveratrol, Catechins and Quercetin while green grapes contain just small amounts of catechins. Flavonoid antioxidants are what give red grapes their reddish-purple color and the darker the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoid antioxidants. Of these, Resveratrol and Quercetin are the most important antioxidant compounds and they have important health benefits which include lowering high blood pressure, prevention of heart related disorders and protecting good cholesterol. Resveratrol is known to aid the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and also has antifungal and anticancer properties.

However, since both are good for health and taste good too, why not enjoy the benefits of both rather than choosing one over the other.

Selection tips: Select grapes that are plump, full-colored, and firmly attached to their stems. Look for a slight pale-yellow hue on green grapes, while red grapes should be deeply colored with no sign of green.

Storage tips: Unwashed grapes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week, although their quality diminishes the longer you keep them.

How to eat them: Remove grapes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to get them to their ideal temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Before eating, wash them thoroughly (most supermarket grapes have been sprayed with insecticide – you may want to buy organic grapes) and blot dry. Table grapes aren’t just meant for eating out of hand; you can use them fresh in salads, pies, or other desserts; or frozen, as a garnish or frosty snack.

Peak growing season: You can buy grapes year-round, although the North American versions (mostly from California) are only available from July to December.

Grapes Across The Menu

Breakfast

Grape Ricotta Breakfast Pizza

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. skim ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the oil on a 12-inch round pizza pan. Place dough on pan and turn to coat with the oil. Gently stretch dough to fit pan.

Scatter grapes on top of dough and sprinkle fennel over all. Bake in oven, rotating the pan halfway through, until dough is brown and grapes reduce in size, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper over all. Place tablespoons of ricotta evenly around the pizza.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Slice into eight wedges and serve warm.

Lunch

Arugula Salad with Shrimp and Grapes

4 servings (serving size: 2 cups)

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of white pepper

Salad:

  • 3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
  • 5 cups trimmed arugula
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

 Directions:

To prepare dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.

To prepare salad, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add shrimp; cook 1 minute. Add celery; cook 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water; pat dry.

Place shrimp, celery, arugula, grapes, and basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Top with cheese and walnuts.

Dinner

Cocktail

Italian Spritz Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • Ice Cubes (approximately 3 or 4 ice cubes)
  • 2 to 3 ounces Prosecco or any sparkling wine
  • 1 1/2 ounces Aperol*
  • Splash of soda water, sparkling water, mineral water, or Club Soda
  • Orange wedge or slice
  • Green Olive 

* Aperol is an Italian orange liqueur. It has become Italy’s most popular light spirit. Aperol Spritz is one of the lightest cocktails having only 7 to 8% alcohol by volume

Directions:

Fill a glass (white wine glass) 1/4 full with ice cubes (you want to chill the drink but not water it down). Pour in the Prosecco and then top with Aperol. Add the soda water. Stir gently until mixed.

Garnish with an orange slice a green olive.

Makes 1 serving.

Appetizer

Fresh Green Pea Soup with Grape Salsa

Ingredients:

 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cups sweet onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cups fennel, chopped, fronds reserved
  • 3/4 cups leeks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounce) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 3/4 cups red seedless grapes, halved (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 ounces low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the sweet onion, fennel, and leeks and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, lower heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas and simmer for 5 more minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender (or you can use an immersion blender) and puree the soup until smooth. Add up to 1/2 cup water to thin. Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and chill.

Make the Grape Salsa: Combine grapes, 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds, lemon zest, remaining salt, and pepper in a small bowl. To serve, whisk yogurt, 1/4 cup water, and lemon juice into the chilled soup. If necessary, thin with water to desired consistency. Serve soup cold, garnished with seasoned grapes.

Entree

Chicken Cutlets with Grape Shallot Sauce

Serve with brown basmati rice and Sauteed Greens

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian dried herbs
  • 4 chicken breast cutlets, trimmed of fat (about 1 1/4 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 cups halved seedless red grapes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Place flour in a shallow dish and add Italian dried herbs. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour (reserve excess flour). Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until golden on the first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, turn the chicken and cook until the other side is golden, 2 to 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add grapes and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 5 teaspoons of the reserved flour; stir to coat. Add wine and broth; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in parsley.

Return the chicken to the pan, turning to coat with sauce, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce on top.

 

Dessert

Roasted Red Grapes with Mascarpone and Rum

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. seedless red grapes, left on the stems and cut into small clusters
  • 4 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.

In a large bowl, gently toss the grape clusters, 2 teaspoons of the honey, the oil, and the salt. Spread the grapes on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast, flipping halfway through, until collapsed, juicy, and somewhat caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the mascarpone, rum, zest, and remaining 2 teaspoons honey in a medium bowl.

Transfer the roasted grapes to serving dishes and serve warm, with a dollop of the sweetened mascarpone.



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