- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I never thought of grapes as much more than the basic ingredient in wine while I was growing up with a father who dreamed of having his own vineyard. But fall table grapes are abundant in local stores now, both the sweet and tart varieties, and it’s hard not to buy a bunch.

Any flame-colored grapes that make it past the afternoon snacks become a favorite dessert that’s cool to look at and cooling to eat: a tangy ice, a parfait or a grape tart.

A long-ago issue of Sunset magazine inspired my idea for a lightened grape tart. A cook had mounded the crimson-hued grapes in a golden tart shell, topping them with a layer of creamy filling, then glazing with homemade port wine jelly. It was chilled to set the jelly, then sliced into thick wedges. I found it easy to make and a very impressive offering for fall entertaining.

All of these recipes have met with rave reviews, but over time I decided to slim the recipes down. For example, in the grape tart, both the creamy filling and the tart shell were too high in fat for regular consumption. So evaporated skim milk easily took the place of the whipping cream in the original recipe. I used Neufchatel cream cheese as a substitute for regular cream cheese. My guests couldn’t tell the difference.

A store-bought graham cracker crust was a lower-fat alternative to the original buttery tart shell, but I missed the smooth texture of the pastry. So I settled for a lower-fat short crust made with reduced-calorie margarine. Chilling the crust briefly before blind baking it (baking it without filling) helped preserve the flakiness.

Grape tart

You might want to make two of these.

1 cup flour

Pinch of ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons chilled butter

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

cup honey or sugar

1 cups red grape juice or port wine

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 ounces Neufchatel or fat-free cream cheese

cup chilled evaporated skim milk

cup confectioners’ sugar, honey or maple syrup

1 quart (about 2 pounds) red seedless grapes

In medium bowl, combine flour and nutmeg.

Cut in butter with a fork or pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.

Sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at time, over mixture and stir with fork until dough is moistened. Press into bottom and up sides of removable-bottom 9-inch tart pan, trimming off any excess pastry.

Wrap tart shell in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill dough.

In 2-quart saucepan, combine gelatin, honey or sugar and grape juice or port. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Chill until consistency of egg whites, about 25 minutes. Remove plastic wrap from tart shell and line it with aluminum foil to prevent puffing while baking.

Bake in 400-degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or until tart shell is golden. Remove from oven, uncover and let cool.

Place Neufchatel or cream cheese in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat until soft, then add evaporated skim milk and confectioners’ sugar, honey or maple syrup.

Beat at high speed until well mixed but still firm enough to spread. (If mixture thins or becomes runny, place in freezer for a few minutes to thicken.)

Spread over bottom and sides of baked crust. Set grapes on cheese. Spoon thickened gelatin over grapes. Chill until gelatin sets, at least 2 hours or overnight. Remove pan sides and slice into 8 wedges. Makes 8 servings.

Flame grape ice

The flavor of the grapes will make or break this recipe, so be sure to taste after pureeing and add more lemon juice or sugar as needed.

2 cups (about 1 pound) red (flame) seedless grapes

cup sugar or honey, or to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste

In blender or food processor, puree grapes, sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and add more sweetener or lemon juice, if desired. (Mixture should be sweet but slightly tangy; flavors will dull a bit when frozen.) Strain, discarding pulp. Pour strained mixture into container, cover well and freeze until firm, about 4 to 6 hours. Using ice cream scoop, divide among 4 dessert dishes. Makes 4 servings.

Grape, raspberry and kiwi parfaits

1 cup (about pound) green seedless grapes, halved

1 cup (about pound) red seedless grapes, halved

1 cup raspberries

2 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced

2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt

6 amoretti cookies, crushed

In 6 dessert glasses, alternate layers of green and red grapes, raspberries, kiwi fruit and yogurt. Top each parfait with crushed cookies.

Makes 6 servings.


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