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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cheese Grapes and Champagne Gelee

You can't have too many appetizer recipes, you just can't. Hummus is great but it isn't exactly elegant, and how many times do you feel the need to 'take watch' to ensure no double-dipping is going down?

These adorable little cheese-stuffed and covered grapes are cute and require one bite, a bonus for those times you don't want to carry around a plate with you (you need those hands for drinks and shaking.)
When I put this tray together I wanted something special on it - like edible flowers. But since we are in the midst of a polar vortex, even non-edible petals are hard to come by, that wasn't going to happen.  The tray didn't really need more food on it, but it needed just a little something to set it apart. The guest of honor and I have a penchant for Champagne, I began to look for ways to incorporate.

Yes it was a fancy and stylish party and yes, jello shots (or in this case gelee) fits right in. These aren't the nasty little neon jello shooters you get from a half-naked girls at the local club. These Champagne gelee cubes are light, tender and the perfect accompaniment to the grapes. Just a little square or two is needed; though a couple of us polished off the remainder of the pan in record time later in the night.

Below I've listed two flavor options for the grapes and a couple of options for how to put them together too. My goat cheese and lemon with toasted pine nuts version is super lovely while the more traditional blue cheese and walnuts arrangement is just a classic taste combination. In both cases, the grapes are a wonderful sweet vessel for the ingredients.

Take your next appetizer tray to a new level with Fat and Happy Grapes and Champagne.

Fat and Happy Food Blog Tips and Techniques: Always cook with a wine/Champagne/liquor that you would drink. Champagne gelee is not the time to use that bottle of Cold Duck you 'won' at a White Elephant gift exchange a decade ago.

Cheesy Grapes and Champagne Gelee

Champagne Jello Shots

1 1/2 cups Champagne
1 tbls St Germain
2 packets of  raw sugar
1/2 cup water
juice of 1 lemon

Combine 1 cup of Champagne, the St Germain, sugar and water in a sauce pan, heat to just below, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat once the sugar is dissolved and cool.

Add in the remaining 1/2 cup champagne and the juice of 1/2 lemon, stir lightly. Pour into a shallow dish, place in the refrigerator overnight or until set. Cut into small squares or use a small cookie cutter for shapes. Enjoy!

 Goat Cheese, Lemon and Black Pepper Grapes

Large red grapes
1 cup toasted pine nuts
4 oz goat cheese
1 tbls lemon zest
couple of turns of fresh ground pepper

Toast the pine nuts and set aside to cool.  Mix together the goat cheese, lemon zest and black pepper; I found the best way to mix this is to smash it together with the back of a fork.

Chop up the pine nuts using small food processor, blender or just a good knife. Leave some big chunks so the nuts don't turn to powder.

Pinch up a bit of the goat cheese and literally pinch it together around a grape. Roll it in your hand to make it smooth and then roll it in the pine nuts. The process is a little messy, so I found it best to cover all the grapes with the cheese first then roll them in the nuts second.

Set in the refrigerator for a spell to chill and firm up. Enjoy!

Blue Cheese and Walnut Grapes

Large green grapes
1 cup toasted walnuts, pecans or a mix of both
4 oz cream cheese
1 oz blue cheese

Toast the nuts and set aside to cool. Chop up the nuts using small food processor, blender or just a good knife. Leave some big chunks so the nuts don't turn to powder.  

Mix together the blue and cream cheese; I mixed this version in my blender until smooth. This mixture is softer than in the goat cheese version above so I found it best to make sandwich grapes or to just top the grapes with the cheese

For topping a grape: Place the cream cheese mixture in a ziplock bag and cut off a corner to create a piping bag.  Cut a grape in half, pipe some cheese mixture on it, dip the cheese end in the chopped nuts.

For a sandwich grape: Place the cream cheese mixture in a ziplock bag and cut off a corner to create a piping bag.  Cut a grape in half, pipe some cheese mixture on it, dip the cheese end in the chopped nuts and sandwich with another cheesed grape half. These are harder to put together because the cream cheese doesn't always stick to the grapes.

You can also cover these in the cheese mixture and roll in the nuts like in the version above, just use a small knife or offset spatula to spread the cheese on the grape.

Set in the refrigerator for a spell to chill and firm up. Enjoy


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