This week I saw some things at the grocery store that I’d never seen before. They were in the produce department, right next to the cartons of black mission figs (buy one get one free this week! yay!). They were big, round, purple and the label said they were grapes. Muscadine grapes. But, these were unlike any grape I’d ever seen before.
First of all, they were huge. About the size of a big gumball, I’d say. The skin looked more like the skin of a plum than a grape. And they were very, very dark purple — almost black. I bought some because I was intrigued, and because they were half price. I was so intrigued that I ate one as soon as I got home and immediately googled them. According to Wikipedia and the label on the inside of the carton, Muscadine grapes are native to the U.S. and reach their peak during the hottest months of the summer. They thrive in hot and humid places, which explains their appearance at my local grocery store. Muscadines are used to make wine and preserves and are full of healthy goodness.
And the taste? Delicious. Same juicy sweetness of a purple grape, but much meatier, like an apricot. The only downside is their size. Muscadines aren’t very conducive to popping in your mouth like regular grapes. These are definitely 2-bite bad boys, which rules them out for snacking in my book.
I contemplated using them to make a sauce for pork chops, but didn’t have any pork in the fridge. I did have some fresh greens and goat cheese, though. So I candied some pecans and made a salad. A really good salad. The sweet and juicy grapes were a perfect contrast to the tangy goat cheese, and the spiced and candied pecans added just the right amount of sweet crunch. I could eat this salad every day.
Muscadine grapes get an A+ in my book, but this salad would be just as delicious with your standard red or purple grapes. I think the pecans steal the show anyway…
Green Salad with Grapes, Goat Cheese & Candied Pecans
Note: The recipe for candied pecans yields enough for 4 to 6 salads. Store any extra nuts in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They won’t last that long anyway :)
For the pecans:
8 oz. Pecan halves
1 tbsp. natural cane sugar
1 tbsp. honey (I used some great, raw and unfiltered local honey)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of cardamom (optional, but recommended)
For the salad:
4 handfuls of mixed greens
10 muscadine grapes, quartered and seeded
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
For the Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
pinch coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
First, candy the pecans. Preheat the oven to 300°. Place the pecans on a parchment or foil-lined cookie sheet and sprinkle/drizzle with the sugar, honey, cinnamon and cardamom. Use your fingers (or a spoon if you must) to mix everything together and make sure the pecans are coated. Bake for 20 minutes, then let cool.
While the pecans are candy-ing, prep the ingredients for the salad and make the vinaigrette by whisking the dressing ingredients together until emulsified.
Dress the salad greens, divide among 2 plates and top with the grapes, goat cheese and pecans.
Makes 2 salads.