(BPT) - When the warm weather finally arrives, it’s easy to get excited about leisurely days spent in the company of friends and family, enjoying delicious, fresh, seasonal foods. At the top of the list are crisp, juicy and delicious California grapes, which are always a favorite snack. For the home cook, grapes are also a versatile ingredient for summertime entertaining — a simple way to elevate any dish.
For a crowd-pleasing meal, go Mediterranean. Experts agree that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best for overall health and long life. Greek Chicken and Grape Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing captures so many classic flavors, textures and colors of the Mediterranean — lemon, sesame, grilled chicken, grapes, feta cheese, hummus and fresh, crisp vegetables.
Asian-inspired cuisine also is festive, fun and flavorful. Green Beans with Grapes in Wasabi Dressing is an easy side dish that complements all things grilled, making it a backyard barbecue basic — with a twist. This dish kicks up the flavor with a dressing made from soy sauce, wasabi horseradish, oil, mustard and shallots. The touch of spiciness from the wasabi gives a surprisingly cooling effect.
Finish the meal with finesse by setting out a colorful platter of fruit, chocolate, cookies or ice cream for a no-fuss, delicious end to a perfect meal.
Greek Chicken and Grape Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse ground pepper to taste
1/3 English cucumber, trimmed, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 1/3 cups halved red California grapes
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup hummus
16 romaine heart leaves
1 large whole wheat pita round, quartered
In a blender, combine tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, water, garlic, honey and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; puree and set aside.
Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Season the chicken with olive oil, remaining salt, and pepper. Place chicken on grill and cook, without flipping, for 4-5 minutes on the first side. Flip and then cook for another 4 minutes on the second side. Allow the chicken to rest for 3-4 minutes, then slice.
In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, grapes, scallions, feta and chickpeas; add 1/3 cup salad dressing and toss to combine.
To serve: Portion 1/4 cup hummus on four separate serving plates and place four romaine leaves in the hummus. Top with the cucumber-grape salad mixture and sliced chicken and serve with a triangle of pita bread.
Nutritional analysis per serving, without pita: Calories 540; Protein 37 g; Carbohydrate 47 g; Fat 24 g (40% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 5 g (8% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 75 mg; Sodium 720 mg; Fiber 2 g.
Green Beans with Grapes in Wasabi Dressing
Prep time 15 minutes. Cook time 10 minutes.
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 cup halved California grapes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, wasabi, mustard, oil and pepper. Stir in the shallot and set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil; add green beans and cook until beans are crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to the bowl with wasabi dressing. Add in the grapes and toss with the dressing; sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 90; Protein 3 g; Carbohydrate 15 g; Fat 3.5 g (35% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 0 g (0% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 290 mg; Fiber 4 g.