Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes from the Boulder Farmer's Market (c)2012 La Domestique

The thought of grapes hadn’t even entered my mind as I passed through the crowded farmer’s market, eying the mysterious Japanese eggplant and passing my fingers over plump tomatoes. Amongst the regular cultivars I’d grown used to seeing over the summer, my eye halted at the sight of a newbie – midnight blue grapes coated in white dust. Could it be? Concords! I couldn’t hide my excitement from the farmer, eagerly (but tenderly) gathering up a couple pounds of the delicate grapes. Here in Colorado, the season for such fruit seems to pass with the blink of an eye. Feeling like I’d struck gold, I headed home with my riches. Most of the Concord grape’s flavor is concentrated in its thick skin, and an abundance of pectin means this fruit is well suited to preserving as a jam (find Rachel Saunders’ recipe over at Tasting Table). My first desire was to bake a Concord Grape Focaccia, which you’ll find here on the blog later this week. A few of you who follow Ladomestique on instagram had some great suggestions for cooking with Concord grapes. Talley of House to House blog was kind enough to steer me towards Melissa Clark’s recipe for grape focaccia in the New York Times. Joelle of Home Sweet Homemade suggested grape juice. Gail likes Concord jam. Tori had a fantastic idea for incorporating the fruit into a strudel, and @bablanch pickles the grapes.

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (c)2012 La Domestique

I seem to be going through a purple period. I just can’t get enough of plummy colors. Last week there was the Grilled Mission Fig Salad, followed by that post on aubergines, and today I’m grilling plums and placing them on a bed of purple lettuces and purple basil dressed in winey balsamic vinaigrette. Do you ever find yourself attracted to a certain hue which inspires the food you prepare in your kitchen? Figs, eggplant, plums- and I’ve got to warn you that next week it will be Concord grapes and purple potatoes! Now I’m realizing I may be out of control here with the purple.

Cooking with seasonal ingredients found at the farmer’s market brings awareness to the colors of each season. In spring it’s all green- asparagus, broccoli, spinach. Summer is fiery red and orange with peaches, berries, tomatoes, and peppers. As summer fades into fall the purples come out- cabbage, eggplant, kale, and glorious plums. It’s been a stellar year for plums here in Colorado. I’ve never thought too much about this stone fruit – peaches always seem to steal the show – but this year I bit into a ripe and juicy Santa Rosa plum from the farmer’s market and it was like tasting the fruit for the first time. I was blown away by the tart flavor matched with just the right amount of sweetness. Never one to eat plums out of hand (before this I mostly baked with them) I was surprised and delighted by this discovery.

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For Everything there is a Season

Eggplants from the Boulder Farmer's Market (c)2012 La Domestique

Summer lingers here in Colorado, but autumn is nipping at her bare feet. The days are definitely getting shorter and a cool breeze swept through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains last week. Mornings are crisp and I need a light sweater to take Minnie the dachshund for her walk before breakfast. Summer won’t let go just yet, and her bright sunlight warms the day slowly, but she just can’t seem to coax the mercury into the 90′s as she has done in weeks past. The farmer’s market is bursting with produce: tomatoes, beans, peaches, and eggplant. I feel the need to grab as much as I can. The frost will arrive soon, bringing an abrupt end to our summer. Our grief will be soothed with the arrival of autumn and her apples, pears, root vegetables, squash, and pumpkins. Though I’ve reveled in summer this year, fall is my favorite season. Enlivened by the smell of change in the air, I feel the year has begun anew. January first means little to me. The beginning of fall has always felt like my New Year.

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Fig Salad with Blue Cheese, Thyme, and Walnuts

Grilled Fig Salad with Blue Cheese, Thyme, and Walnuts (c)2012 La Domestique

Here at La Domestique I celebrated Labor Day by taking a rest. Though there’s no ingredient of the week, I wanted to share a recipe for cooking with figs before their season comes to an end. Sweet and juicy black mission figs caramelized on a hot grill make for a delicious late summer/early autumn salad with tender greens, thyme leaves, crunchy walnuts, and tangy blue cheese. Use mixed salad greens or a crisp head of lettuce for this dish. Walnut oil adds depth of flavor to the vinaigrette, but feel free to vary the ingredients based on what you’ve got in the pantry, as even a simple red wine vinegar and vegetable dressing would be just fine.

I hope you have a fantastic week, and plan to return Monday, September 10th with a new ingredient of the week. Thanks for reading La Domestique!

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Cook in the Moment: Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Okra

Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Okra (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve spent a lot of time with okra during the past couple of weeks. At this point, we know each other pretty well. After stewing, roasting, and frying it I can say with full confidence my favorite way to cook okra is to slice the pods in half and sear them in hot olive oil till caramelized and crispy. I could eat a plate of crispy okra simply seasoned with sea salt as an appetizer, and to be honest it’s tempting to pluck the hot pods from the skillet and gobble them up before they reach the plate. Crispy okra lends a nice texture to rice dishes, and this earthy vegetable pairs well with fragrant jasmine rice. Reading the September issue of Food and Wine Magazine, I came across a genius recipe for Butternut Squash Basmati Rice in the article, “A Lesson in Indian Flavors.” Asha Gomez tosses diced squash into her rice, killing two birds with one stone by cooking the rice and steaming the squash in one pot. This was a revelation for me, a new way to make my rice dishes more interesting and flavorful. I used the technique with diced sweet potato for a creamier, richer, sweeter flavor to pair with the fluffy popcorn-scented rice. The Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Okra recipe was developed for The Louisiana Project, so I reached for Creole spices to toss in the pot, but you could use a teaspoon (or more) or your favorite Curry, Moroccan spice blend, or Za’atar seasoning.

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