Along with the delicious food, gift giving and cheer of the holiday season, getting together with friends and family is also cherished. Whether it’s a cozy weekend dinner with friends or time for festive merrymaking, you can enhance any gathering with unique small plates and appetizers.
Make the season special with California grapes, which are abundant into January, as an ingredient in your favorite dishes or by decorating with them for colorful pops of red, green and black. If time is of the essence, they also offer an easy, fresh, healthy snack or side dish that adds color and flavor to your table.
As a versatile ingredient that adds taste and visual appeal, grapes can help you create memorable appetizers that will surprise and delight friends and family. For easy and delightful hors d’oeuvres, turn to Tricolor Grape Pizza with Goat Cheese and Thyme or Smoked Chicken and Grape Bruschetta, each offering simple yet flavorful ways to please a crowd.
Send guests home with Easy Grape Compote, or give it as a fun host or hostess gift for friends and family, so they can enjoy a little taste of the holidays even after all the excitement winds down.
Tricolor Grape Pizza with Goat Cheese and Thyme
1 pound prepared pizza dough
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups halved green, red and black California grapes
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Position rack in bottom of oven and place inverted baking sheet on top of rack; heat oven to 500 F.
On lightly floured surface, press pizza dough into 10-inch round circle and cover with towel while preparing toppings.
Sprinkle large baking sheet lightly with flour. Stretch pizza dough into oval, about 14-by-10 inches, and place on sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with grapes, thyme and walnuts. Place baking sheet on top of sheet already in oven and bake until crust is bubbling and golden, 8-10 minutes.
Remove pizza from oven. Sprinkle with goat cheese and Parmesan. Season with pepper, to taste. Transfer pizza to board, cut into pieces and serve warm.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 350 calories; 10 g protein; 47 g carbohydrates; 14 g fat (36% calories from fat); 2.5 g saturated fat (6% calories from saturated fat); 5 mg cholesterol; 580 mg sodium; 1 g fiber.
Smoked Chicken and Grape Bruschetta
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces smoked chicken breast (1 3/4 cups), shredded or cut into bite-size strips
1 1/2 cups red, green or black seedless California grapes, halved
12 ounces fontina, port salute or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chives, snipped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat broiler to 550 F.
In small bowl, combine garlic, olive oil and salt. Set aside. Slice baguette on bias into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush baguette slices with garlic-oil and place on cookie sheet. Toast in broiler about 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from broiler.
On each bread slice, place about 1 tablespoon chicken breast and three grape halves then top with 2 tablespoons grated cheese.
Place cookie sheet about 8 inches away from broiler and broil 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Place on serving platter and sprinkle with snipped chives and pepper.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 125 calories; 7 g protein; 9 g fat (68% calories from fat); 3 g carbohydrates; 24 mg cholesterol; less than 1 g fiber; 154 mg sodium.
Prep time: 5 minutes, plus cooling
4 cups black or red California grapes
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 strips fresh lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon high-quality balsamic vinegar (optional)
In bowl of food processor, finely chop grapes and sugar using one-second pulses. Transfer to deep, medium skillet or wide saucepan; stir in lemon peel, salt and water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover pan with lid, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 18 minutes until fruit is tender.
In small bowl, stir lemon juice and cornstarch then stir into grape mixture with butter; simmer 6 minutes, or until desired consistency. Stir in vinegar, if desired. Serve warm or cool.
Cooled jam can be stored in covered glass jar in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 160 calories; 0 g protein; 41 g carbohydrates; 0 g fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 170 mg sodium; 1 g fiber.
Naturally beautiful, fresh grapes make for an easy, classic way to decorate for the holidays. Consider these ways to enhance your home and table:
n Drape bunches of red, green and black grapes in decorative bowls and alternate with candles for dazzling centerpieces.
n Fill a flower vase with grapes and water for color and texture to complement and support the flowers in the arrangement.
n Bedazzle your ham or turkey platter with small bunches of grapes and fresh herbs.
n Accent a perfectly cooked steak with grape rosemary skewers for a colorful, fragrant sidekick.
n Adorn dessert plates and trays with sugar-frosted grapes to add a special sparkle.