Super Foods?: The Appetizers

Today we tested out two of the recipes from “Cuisine Lite” magazine, employing super foods. It would only make sense to start with the appetizers, so we began our adventure by preparing Pistachio-Coated Grapes and Pickled Green Bananas. If these concoctions sound just the tiniest bit peculiar to you, well you’re not alone. However, these hor d’oeuvres were just strange enough to peak our interest and we had to give them a go.

We started by preparing Pistachio-Coated Grapes, with chèvre and honey. Chèvre, in case you were wondering, is simply goat cheese. This dish is described in the article as “a pleasant mix of salty and sweet flavors.”

The recipe calls for:

  • 3oz chèvre
  • 1.5oz cream cheese
  • 1.25 cups crushed pistachios
  • 0.5 lb. seedless grapes
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • and ground black pepper

We began by combining the cream cheese and chèvre in a small bowl. This took a bit of muscle, but after much folding and stirring, we finally had a smooth mixture. The end result is something akin to  a tacky Play-Dough.

Next came the fun part! We dug our hands into this cheesy clay, pinching out small sections, and folded it over each individual grape. We rolled the cheese covered grapes in our hands to create a smooth, even surface around the entire fruit.

Then, each cheese smothered grape was given a tumble through a plate of crushed pistachios, which embedded in their soft, gooey surface. The article recommends that you put your pistachios in a food processor and grind them to “the size of peppercorns.” We happen to be big fans of using mallets, and our dealings in the kitchen are no exception. There’s something so rewarding about smashing those tiny green morsels into dust. It’s a feeling that no food processor can ever truly replicate.

We set our assembly of pistachio dusted spheres in a dish and let them chill in the freezer. We rolled a few of our grapes in crushed almonds, just to have a little variation, and set these grapes on a separate plate to chill.

Next, we turned our sites to pickling bananas. According to the article, pickled bananas are a Puerto Rican appetizer, brought out on special occasions. The recipe advises to look for the greenest bananas you can find. Normally, this isn’t a problem. When we have bananas on the shopping list, it seems that green bananas abound! We wind up bringing home these premature specimens, and letting them ripen for a day or two. However, now that we’re actually on the hunt for a green banana, they’ve suddenly become illusive. We settle on a bunch that has a greenish cast in the right light, but are most certainly ripe…what can you do?

This recipe calls for:

  • 1.25 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 0.5 cup distilled vinegar
  • 0.5 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 0.5 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 0.25 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 lb. unripe (green) bananas, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

We had to raise an eyebrow at the thought of onions, olives and bananas all mingling together in harmony. It’s not a taste combination we would have come up with, but what’s the harm in giving it a try, especially when this dish is so easy to prepare!

You combine the oil, vinegar, olives, onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper. We chopped our olives and onions using our trusty Slap Chop. Laugh all you want, but Vince really has something here. The Slap Chop save you time, and minimizes the risk of loosing a finger whenever slicing or dicing are thrown into the mix.

This strange and pungent brew is then to be poured over the banana slices, covered and refrigerated for an hour ( riper bananas need only 20-30 minutes.)

We waited and after about 30 minutes, we strained the bananas, and discarded the marinade, as the recipe advised.

We returned to our pistachio grapes, which had by this point been chilled to our satisfaction. We added a drizzle of honey over the nut encrusted orbs, but skipped the sprinkling of “pepper to taste” suggested in the recipe. We then nervously sampled our creation. While in appearance, they looked a bit like something you’d find on a platter at your crazy aunt’s Christmas soirée, the pistachio covered grapes were really quite excellent, and unfortunately, very addicting. We found that we kept going back for “just one more” until there were no more left.

When you bite in to these little treats, your tongue is first greeted by the warm sweetness of pistachio. The crunchy exterior gives way to the savory flavor of chèvre, an exquisite union of tastes and textures. When your teeth finally penetrate to the grape enveloped within, the burst of tart succulence is truly the piece de resistance! Though small, this appetizer is a journey and of itself.

We then sampled the pickled bananas. After letting them marinade, we can certainly see the rationale behind using unripened bananas. The slices were a bit mushier than we would have liked, but not so soft that they lost their shape. We should warn you that while we enjoyed this dish, it is certainly not for everyone. The bananas pick up a tangy, vinegar tinge with a distinct saltiness, detectable accents of lemon, and faint echoings of olive. The onion was not as vibrant as we would have originally guessed, but instead served to neutralize the potentially explosive knitting of flavors.

For the less adventurous palate, I’d surmise that this dish could be potentially traumatizing. We’re raring to give pickled bananas another go, next time with an appropriately green bunch.

So, what’s so super about these endeavours in amuse-bouche? Well bananas are bursting with both potassium and vitamin B6. Potassium aids in muscle control, blood pressure and even nerve function. Increasing the intake of potassium in your diet can help ward off hypertension.

Grapes offer benefits to the coronary system, by delivering antioxidants called flavonoids. These flavonoids, though mainly found in darker colored grapes,  lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots, and even decrease the risk of heart disease.

Pistachio Covered Grapes (per 2 grapes) :

  • 65 Calories
  • 4g Total Fat
  • 1g Sat./2g mono/1g poly
  • 4mg cholesterol
  • 22mg sodium
  • 5 5g carbohydrates
  • 1 1g fiber
  • 3g total sugars
  • 2g protein
  • 0mg iron
  • 16mg calcium

Pickled Green Bananas (per 2 pieces) :

  • 55 calories
  • 2 2g Total Fat
  • 0g sat/2g mono/ 0g poly
  • 0mg cholesterol
  • 1 164mg sodium
  • 9g carbohydrates
  • 1g fiber
  • 5 5g total sugars
  • 0g protein
  • 0mg iron
  • 2mg calcium

To your health!

-Sharon & Sarah Marcotte

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