If you’ve been to Las Vegas in the summer, you know what “oven-hot” feels like. I remember summers there would render us desperate to escape the afternoon heat. Brilliantly, my sister came up with the idea of a daily “Grape Escape.” Simply wash, dry and freeze grapes. During the hot afternoon, indulge yourself in the grape escape. Eat them, hold them to your temples, roll one or two over the back of your neck, or as my young niece tried to do, stuff one in your belly button for an immediate cooling effect! When you hit the bottom of the batch, be prepared to get grape-greedy. Grapes are among the oldest cultivated fruit — possibly cultivated in Asia as far back as 5,000 B.C. Even ancient hieroglyphics depict Egyptians involved in grape production and wine making. These days, grapes are grown all over the world. Although California has been producing grapes for over 300 years, growing more than 50 varieties, Italy takes the number-one spot for production of table grapes. Depending on their use, grapes are classified as either wine grapes, which are small, sweet and ornamental looking, or table grapes, the varieties most of us are familiar with. Within these two classifications, there are numerous varieties. My personal favorite is the Concord grape, a sweet, astringent deep purple grape commonly used to make grape juice. Fresh grapes should be dry and firm, no soft spots or molding. Be sure to wash well before eating. Enjoy cold or room temperature for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner. Remember to freeze them for your own grape escape, or gratify your grape needs with these fresh ideas:
- Serve grapes as an appetizer. These Blue Cheese and Walnut Dusted Grapes will impress all your guests!
- Add grapes to green salads. Try this cooling Summer Fruit and Spinach Salad or this refreshing Salad with Red Grapes and Feta.
- Add grapes to tuna, chicken, shrimp or egg salad. Here’s a delicious trio: Chicken and Grape Salad with Cashew-Tarragon Dressing, Quinoa Salad with Chicken, Grapes and Almonds and Shrimp and Grape Salad.
- Add grapes to juice, ice cream, yogurt, frozen yogurt or favorite non-dairy frozen dessert. Here’s an idea for Double Grape Slushies.
- Add grapes to cooked whole grains.
- Add grapes to baked goods such as cakes, quick breads and muffins. Here’s a Grape Harvest Cake perfect for afternoon tea.
- Garnish pancakes, waffles and toast with a variety of colorful grapes. Try these Fruity Flapjacks.
- Add chopped grapes to salsa and serve over fish or your favorite grilled meat or meat-substitute.
- There’s peanut butter and (grape) jelly, and then there’s Peanut Butter Toast with Grapes.
- This Wine and Cheese Plate with Honeyed Walnuts and Fruit makes an elegant and tasty display.