Grapes and Grappa, Figs and Olives

Since I’ve been working on my cookbook, which is all about modern Asian cooking, almost everything edible that comes out of my kitchen has been Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian or Korean. Yes, it can be tiring and I’m considering starting a new blog called “Steamy Kitchen, UnAsian” just to break the monotony. Gimme some Brazilian! Moroccan! Australian!

My family has been begging for something different, and everytime that I ask the kids, “so what do you want for supper tonight?” They chime excitedly, “McDonald’s HAPPY MEALS! Hip, hip, HOORRAYYYY!”

Which is fine. I give in. Because I do love me some McD french fries dipped in soft serve ice cream. I know, You’re groaning. It’s a leftover habit and craving from my pregnancy days.

Please tell me that I’m not alone in this craving! Please tell me that you, too have strange culinary cravings and secret flavor combinations that just make other people squirm uncomfortably in their pants.

Tell me and I’ll enter you in the drawing to win one of three gorgeous Cooking Light The Complete Cookbook – this baby is MASSIVE, weighing in at 4.4lbs with 1,200 recipes, 630 color photographs and a companion DVD. Plus I think there is an offer for 1 free year of Cooking Light magazine subscription inside.

OHOHOH! And there’s a bonus…at the end of this post.

Perks of Being My Friend

I get many cookbooks and products for review. Things I don’t like, I don’t mention on the blog and just give it away. The things that I do like, I review, write about it and give you all a chance to win the product for free. One of the many perks of being in close proximity of my mailbox each day at 4pm when I check my mail is that you can be the first to call “dibs,” as I often give the book or product away when I’m done with the review.

MiMi (grandma), visiting from Buffalo, just happened to be there right as I was opening the box from Cooking Light’s PR agency. She called dibs and happily flipped through the book as if it was hers already.

But then later that evening, I finally had a chance to flip through it. HOT DAMN!! I love the book! And I’m keeping it. There’s no way I’m letting this baby go! (Sorry, Mimi, you’ll just have to enter in the contest and see if you can win it!)

The reason I love this book so much is the variety of flavor combinations that I normally wouldn’t have come up with myself. See recipes below.

adapted from Cooking Light The Complete Cookbook. The recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks. What I did instead was use whole bone-in chicken thighs, had Scott grill them outside on the BBQ grill, and just made the sauce separate to pour over when the chicken was done grilling. I love this recipe- this is definitely a keeper and all my dinner guests raved about it.

Moroccan Chicken: Figs, Olives and Honey

Prep : 12 min. Cook : 16 min. Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 lbs chicken skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into large 1-1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup quartered dried Calimyrna figs
1/4 cup chopped green olives
3 tablespoons sweet Marsala or Madeira wine
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Stir in chopped parsley and next 9 ingredients; reduce heat to medium and cook 8 minutes; stirring occasionally. Garnish with parsley sprigs if desired.

Grapes and Grappa, Figs and Olives

inspired by Cooking Light The Complete Cookbook. Original recipe was Grapes and Grappa with Quail. But I didn’t have a quail handy and craved a warm salad instead. The original recipe called for Prosciutto, but when I went to the market, Prosciutto was *#$@!* $8.00 for 6 paper-thin slices. WTF? So I know this cookbook is cooking LIGHT. But I wasn’t about to pay that kind of money for crappy prosciutto. So I used bacon instead.

I think I just upped the caloric intake by a hundred or so. Feel free to slap me.

Grappa is an Italian liquor distilled from grape pressings left over after winemaking; cognac is a good substitute.

Grapes, Grappa and Bacon: A Warm Salad

serves 6-8

1 bag of salad greens
1/2 lb grapes, cut in half
4 slices of turkey bacon, bacon or prosciutto
2 ounces grappa
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

OPTION #1: I’m gonna give you a choice. If you’re gonna use bacon or turkey bacon, the cooking light way would be to crisp in the microwave on paper towels. Once it’s cooked, crumble and set aside. Heat a medium, nonstick skillet over high heat and add 1 tbl olive oil. When oil is hot, add the grapes and cook for 15 seconds. Add cider vinegar, grappa, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 seconds and pour over salad greens. Top with crumbled bacon.

OPTION #2: Using prosciutto. Cut prosciutto into small, bite-sized pieces. Grab a large skillet, add 1 tbl olive oil and heat over medium heat. When hot, Add prosciutto. Fry crisp. Add grapes, let the grapes sizzle in the olive oil for 15 seconds. Add grappa, vinegar, sugar, S&P, and mustard. Let simmer on low for 30 seconds. Pour over salad greens. Eat and then go jogging around the block.

OPTION #3: The shameful, sinful method that I used. Cut bacon into small, bite-sized pieces. Grab a large skillet and add bacon in skillet. Cook bacon over medium heat. until crisp. You should have about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan. (wince!) You can spoon some of the fat out if there’s a lot. Add grapes, let the grapes sizzle in the fat for 15 seconds. Add grappa, vinegar, sugar, S&P, and mustard. Let simmer on low for 30 seconds. Pour over salad greens. Eat and then go jogging around the block.


Drawing for the free Cooking Light cookbook!

All you have to do is comment below. Tell me a flavor or ingredient combination that isn’t mainstream. It doesn’t have to be strange or exotic – just maybe a little different, innovative or…ok, strange is cool too. p.s. I like pickles + pate in a baguette too.

Here are mine:

Seaweed sprinkled with salty/sweet plum powder (li hing)

Canned smoked oysters + apricot jam

Winners have been announced!!! See who won.


I will really regret typing this…

But for shits and giggles, when I announce the 3 winners of the cookbook in a couple of weeks, I will let YOU vote for which strange flavor concoction for met to try. I will make it and videotape myself eating it, all for your sick and twisted enjoyment.

You’ll decide in a couple of weeks. And maybe…just maybe I might do this on television.

Now, that’s web-ertainment. Beat that, Zimmern.

Contest is over, but come vote for which strange flavor concoction that I will try (and whoever you pick also gets a nice Steamy Kitchen care package.