August 17, 2010

Scuppernong grapes- yummy sweet inside, with a tough, chewy hull.

A little trivia-

It’s North Carolina’s state fruit, it tastes delicious and it’s an emerging nutrition superstar. Native to North Carolina, scuppernong and other muscadine grapes are grown in the backyards of many Eastern North Carolina homes. They are among the richest sources of antioxidants found in nature. Muscadine grapes are a leading food source for a potent cancer-fighting substance called resveratrol. A theory about why resveratrol is protective in humans and animals is that our genes respond to plant defensive chemicals in a beneficial way. Plantings of native muscadine grapes, also known as scuppernongs, are relatively pest resistant and thrive in the hot, sandy conditions of the coastal region. The coastal climate necessitates resistance to disease, viruses, bacteria, pests and mold. The plant’s adaptation to these conditions has developed unique properties that have significant health benefits for those who consume the muscadine grape.

The scuppernong is a greenish, or bronze, variety of muscadine. At first it was simply called the Big White Grape. During the 17th and 18th centuries cuttings of the mother vine were placed into production around Scuppernong, a small town in North Carolina. The name Scuppernong originally comes from an Algonquin Indian name, Ascopo for the sweet bay tree. Ascupernung, meaning place of the Ascopo, appears on early maps of North Carolina as the name of a river in Washington County that runs into the Albemarle Sound. By 1800 the spelling of the river had become Scuppernong. Soon the name of the town and river came to be applied to the grapes grown in the area. In this roundabout fashion, ascopo, the Algonquin word for sweet bay tree became scuppernong, the word for a variety of wild grape.

Here's the best way to enjoy these delicious grapes:
Pinch the grape between your fingers, with a firm grip and hold the scuppernong with the blossom end inside your mouth, (the indented side), a little more than halfway in. Push down with your top and bottom teeth. This will pop the pulp out of the skin. Enjoy the sweet, juicy fruit and throw away the seeds and the hull.

August 16, 2010

Chicken and Shiitake Alfredo

1 share (4 oz) Shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper
8 ounces boned and skinned chicken breasts (cutlets), thinly sliced
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup frozen green peas
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces capellini (angel hair) pasta, freshly cooked and drained

Remove stems from Shiitake mushrooms (use in stews, to flavor broths, etc.); cut each cap in half, then into 4 to 6 slices; set aside. In a large skillet melt butter. Add red pepper; cook and stir until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add chicken and reserved mushrooms; cook and stir until chicken is tender, about 3 minutes. Add cream, peas, salt and black pepper; boil, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Spoon over pasta; serve immediately.
Yield: 2 to 3 portions about 5 cups
Shiitake and Wine Sauce

1 share (4 oz) Shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Remove stems from Shiitake mushrooms (use in stews, to flavor broths, etc.); slice caps; set aside. In a small saucepan melt butter. Add onion; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook and stir until onion is tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in vermouth, cream, tarragon, salt and black pepper; bring to a boil; boil until sauce is reduced to 1 cup, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over chicken, fish, veal, and vegetables or in baked potatoes.
Yield: 1 Cup

August 15, 2010

Spinach & Shiitake Salad with Citrus Dressing

1 share (4 oz) Shiitake mushrooms
6 cups lightly-packed trimmed spinach leaves, torn into in bite-sized pieces
1 cup chopped field or Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Trim stem ends of Shiitake Mushrooms; cut mushrooms into thin slices, through the caps and stems. In a large serving bowl place mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes; set aside. In a small bowl whisk together grapefruit juice, oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Just before serving pour over vegetables, tossing gently.
Yield: 4 portions