When our lovely hostess, Emily, selected grapes for the secret ingredient in our next Iron Chef, some people had their doubts. It’s understandable because while the grape is a common food, for whatever reason, it’s not the most common ingredient out there in actual recipes. But after tasting the food on Saturday, I think at least a few minds were changed. Most of the grape dishes were things we had never tasted before, and I think that was really exciting. The ingredient pushed us to be creative and try new things, and that’s what these competitions are all about! Well, that and hanging out with good friends. Oh, and wine.
We started the night with Greta’s Grape Sangria, which was packed full of boozy fruit (which was nice to eat after the drink itself was gone). It was a tasty, buzzy way to begin, and we also discovered that Grand Marnier is actually a whiskey and not an orange liqueur like I (adamantly) believed. Who knew?
Next we moved on to appetizers, and our Iron Chef Grapes champion, Kim! She served her Grape Salsa on sweet potato waffle fries and topped them with a sprinkle of goat cheese. They were really surprising! A little heat and some sweet in the salsa, paired with the crunch of the waffle fry made for a really delicious little hors d'oeuvre and earned Kim a well-deserved win!
My appetizer of Pesto Grape Flatbread came next, and I thought it turned out pretty good, although I wish I had put more pesto and a little more feta cheese on it. I had been worried the feta would be too strong but cooking mellowed it out so much that I couldn’t even taste it. I made cilantro-pistachio pesto, which is my favorite, and I think it had some nice zip to it.
We moved onto the sides and mains next, starting with Emily’s Grape Salad. It was packed full of goodies like dried cranberries, sliced pears, pistachios and grapes (of course). She also used Manchego cheese, which is one of my favorites. I loved the mix of flavors and textures in her salad.
Morgan made an Orange and Grape Pasta Salad, which sounds a little strange (grapes and pasta are not a traditional Italian combo) but turned out to be really tasty. She used tortellini, which are so good in a cold salad, plus red and green grapes, onions, and mandarin oranges with white balsamic. Definitely a great pasta salad for summer.
Chelyen made chicken cutlets with a sort of Grape and Shallot Sauce that was a little like gravy. I admit, it was not the prettiest looking dish. But its homely looks didn’t affect the taste. It was very savory with little pops of slight sweetness when you bit into a grape.
Our second main was Cara’s Grape Pizza (not to be confused with flatbread!). We were a little worried that the flatbread and pizza would be too alike, but Cara used really different flavors so they didn’t feel too similar. Hers was crispy and cheesy, and the grapes worked really nicely with the romano cheese. I also liked the hint of rosemary in the combination.
The last dish of the night turned out to be our Iron Chef Grapes runner up: Shu’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream with a warm Grape Compote. She served it between two waffles as a play on peanut butter and jelly! It was a tried and true combination, but with a playful twist that made it really innovative. And crazy delicious too. The peanut butter ice cream was so good I went back for seconds. This was Shu’s first time placing in an Iron Chef competition, so congratulations!
We haven’t picked our next ingredient yet, but I am already looking forward to another night of fun with these crazy ladies!