Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way.
Today: Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper shows us how to do more with grapes than just snack on them by the handful (not that we're going to stop doing that anytime soon).
The arrival of fall at the markets is typically signaled by heaps of apples and all manner of winter squash, but for a few weeks each year, if you look closely, you'll also stumble on a pile of Concord grapes. Their intense purple hue, their overwhelming fragrance that seems more like a grape lollipop than a grape itself, and their distinct ochre leaves are all such lovely indicators of the cool weather ahead. Typically used in sweet preparations, these purple beauties can also spark some savory magic when paired with tangy cheeses, rich meats, or pleasantly acidic tomatoes.
Before you get started, keep in mind that removing the seeds from Concord grapes isn't always easy and it's best to start with fresh, firm grapes. Halve the grapes and use a sharp paring knife to flick out the seeds. For ease you can also incorporate a mix of red or purple seedless grapes; keep an eye out for Thom-Cord hybrids, which have some of that huge Concord flavor without the seeds.
Tomato and Concord Grape Tart with a Cornmeal Black Pepper Crust
This easygoing tart features sweet Concord grapes, bright late season cherry tomatoes, and a simple crust with a touch of masa harina for texture. I topped it with a mix of Concord grapes, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and feta. Though it's wonderful right out of the oven, I found that the flavors settle beautifully after a few hours, so consider making it ahead of time. Serve a slice with a big salad of bitter greens for a perfect fall dinner.
Skillet Chicken with Tomatillo Grape Salsa Over Grits
Chicken fat, tomatillos, and Concord grapes make for a jammy, savory salsa that complements chicken thighs and grits beautifully. To make this, sauté generously salted chicken thighs in a deep skillet and remove them to a plate. Then stir a diced red onion, a half cup of halved, seeded Concord grapes, and one cup diced tomatillos into the chicken fat, and cook everything over medium heat until soft. Consider adding some heat or a splash of Champagne vinegar to enhance the flavors. Nestle your chicken thighs into a bowl of buttery grits, and finish with several spoonfuls of salsa.
Sausage with Grapes and Kale
A few spicy links of sausage, cooked with kale and grapes, make for a very comforting meal. Cook several sausages and a sliced red onion over medium heat until cooked through, and then remove from skillet. Pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat, and add one cup strained Concord grape purée. Reduce, stirring often, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Slice sausages into thirds, and add back to the pan, along with several handfuls of kale ribbons; heat until the sausage is warm and the kale has wilted a bit. Serve over quinoa or your grain of choice.
Grilled Cheese with Parsley and a Simple Concord Grape Jam
The bold flavor of homemade Concord grape jam makes a wonderful addition to grilled cheese. For this one I went with a sharp cheddar, minced parsley, caramelized onions (they make grilled cheese totally fancy!), and a generous dollop of jam.
Concord grape jam is easy to make and will brighten your meals for at least a few weeks. For the simplest approach, I use a technique inspired by Healthy Green Kitchen. Gently purée four cups of whole Concord grapes, just enough to separate the seeds from the grapes -- then press the mixture through a mesh sieve or food mill. (You'll have about 3/4 cup of purée.) Pour the grape mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir in a 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Heat over medium heat, just enough so that the mixture bubbles, and then turn heat to low. Cook for 1 to 2 hours, more for a thicker jam and less for a thinner one, stirring often. Jam should keep well in the fridge for several weeks.
Quinoa Kale Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Concord Grapes
Sometimes the best dinners are assembled rather than cooked. For this beautiful early fall plate, I threw together several handfuls of leftover quinoa, leftover caramelized onions, kale ribbons, halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta, salty toasted pepitas, and halved Concord grapes, and then drizzled everything with a simple vinaigrette.
For the cornmeal black pepper crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup masa harina or finely ground cornmeal
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons ice water
For the toppings:
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
1/4 cup Concord grapes, halved and seeded
1/4 cup seedless red or purple grapes, halved
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup feta, crumbled