Get a load of these grapes.
How can you not notice these beauties that sport such an unusual tubular shape that do give them a rather otherworldly appearance?
They are juicy, sweet and with just enough tannin from their inky purple-black skin to keep everything in balance.
Moon Drops was developed by the Grapery in Bakesfield.
After buying a bunch, I ate quite a few just right out of hand. But I also saved some for this recipe, “Haloumi with Grapes.”
After all, a grape this unique deserves to be paired with a cheese equally uncanny. Haloumi, a goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese, doesn’t melt. It tastes like a creamier, more compact feta. Indeed, both are brined. But haloumi can be grilled or sauteed without falling apart.
The recipe is from “Jack’s Wife Freda” (Blue Rider Press), which is the whimsical name of two New York restaurants all about Jewish comfort food. The book, of which I received a review copy, is by Maya and Dean Janelowitz, the co-owners of the Jack’s Wife Freda restaurants.
The couple met while working at New York’s Balthazar, before opening their first restaurant in 2012, then their second in 2014. Both are named for Dean’s grandmother.
Jack’s Wife Freda is a beloved New York institution. In fact, actress Piper Perabo, an early investor in the business, once ordered every dish on the menu to-go to bring to her elderly grandmother in Florida.
Thanks to this cookbook, you don’t have to go to those lengths to enjoy satisfying recipes such as “Rose Water Waffles,” “Matzo Ball Soup,” and “Lamb and Eggplant Lasagna.”
This favorite Greek mezze comes together with ease. Slices of haloumi get pan-fried until golden on both sides. Then halved grapes are tossed in the hot pan with garlic, before being spooned over the cheese. Fresh mint and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil complete it.
The warmed, slightly salty cheese takes on an even creamier texture, almost like mozzarella without the stretchiness. Cooking grapes intensifies their wine-y character, while garlic adds a hit of sharp savoriness to balance the fruity sweetness.
It’s a showy first course or appetizer good enough for company. Serve it with crusty bread, crostini or artisan crackers. You could even make the grapes and cheese the centerpiece of a leafy green salad for a light dinner or vegetarian entree.
Feel free to use whatever grapes you like. But this dish becomes a real conversation piece with Moon Drops.
Haloumi with Grapes
(Serves 2 to 4)
1/2 cup green grapes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup red or black grapes, cut in half lengthwise
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package haloumi (8 to 9 ounces)
1 tablespoon packed chopped fresh mint leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Place grapes in a small bowl with the garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
Cut the haloumi crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Heat a cast-iron or nonstick pan over high heat. Once hot, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sear each piece of haloumi on each side until golden brown (20 to 30 seconds per side). Arrange in a line on a platter, overlapping slightly.
Once the haloumi is cooked, keep the saute pan on high heat and cook the grapes and garlic for 2 minutes, or until just the color of the grapes begins to fade. Spoon the grapes on top of the haloumi. Finish with chopped mint and extra-virgin olive oil.
From “Jack’s Wife Freda” by Maya and Dean Jankelowitz
More Grapey Goodness: Minute-Oatmeal Puffs with Anise and Grapes