As we approach the final weeks of summer, we make the transition into fall…my favorite season, not only for the rich colors, but also for comfort foods, most notably: soup. While I tend to lean towards soups that provide warmth in a bowl, this blend of cucumbers and grapes is refreshing and loaded with flavor. Here in the Napa Valley where the grape is king of agriculture, I’m always looking for ways to use them beyond a glass of wine (although, that’s just fine, too.)
Smoky Grape and Cucumber Gazpacho
2 garlic cloves
4 1/2 cups (1 1/2 lbs.) organic seedless green grapes, divided
1 cup toasted sliced almonds, divided
4 to 5 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
About 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin or smoked olive oil (from The Smoked Olive)
About 1 tsp. kosher salt
3 green onions, green and white parts separated, then thinly sliced
4 cups chopped small Persian cucumbers, plus 1/4 cup quartered and thinly sliced
One extra Persian cucumber
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Avocado, diced (optional)
In a food processor, whirl garlic to mince. Add 4 cups grapes, 1/3 cup almonds, 4 Tbsp. vinegar, 1 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp. salt, and white parts of green onions; pulse until it becomes a nice chunky blend. Transfer to a bowl. Put chopped cucumbers, 1/3 cup almonds, and 1/4 cup water in food processor; whirl until almost smooth and add to bowl.
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Stir soup to blend, then chill, covered, at least 2 hours.
Cut remaining 1/2 cup grapes in half. Season soup to taste with more vinegar and salt if you like. Divide among four bowls and top with a little sliced cucumber, green parts of green onions, some of remaining grapes and almonds and paprika. Drizzle with oil, squeeze lime and serve remaining toppings on the side.
Make ahead: Through step 2, up to 1 day, chilled.
And while we still see berries at the farmer’s market, here’s another favorite dish which will satisfy the sweet tooth and nutritionist at the same time.
I know by now you all have a stash of chia seeds on hand. Those tiny beads pack a nutritious punch. They are high in omega 3s which help our brains, hearts and skin. Plus, just one ounce provides 18 percent of daily calcium and 42 percent of your fiber. I use them as a “booster food” by adding them to smoothies, granola, salads and steamed veggies. And the bonus is you don’t have to grind them first.
Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
The other beauty of this recipe is its versatility. You can use different types of milk but the coconut makes it really creamy. Other options: a teaspoon of espresso powder and Kahlua; honey instead of syrup; Amaretto in place of vanilla. And it’s even a great boost at breakfast!
1 1/2 cups organic coconut milk (Native Forest) – not ‘lite’
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 Tbsp. raw cocoa powder
Approx. 4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or a few drops of liquid stevia
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Extra coconut milk for whipping (optional)
Mix all with a whisk or immersion blender for just a few seconds. (Any more and the pudding becomes rubbery.) Chill for at least two hours but bring to room temp. 15 minutes before serving. For fun, place in martini glasses and garnish with whipped coconut milk and fresh berries.