In my field I planted a vineyard. I cleared the stones and tilled the earth and planted the choicest of vines and installed irrigation hoses and tended it until the vines crept up and clung to the taut wires and leaves bloomed and clusters of juicy grapes ripened beneath them. And very early one morning I even spied a pair of foxes frolicking there among the vines, and I was happy for them and for myself.
There is no fence around my vineyard, and no gate, and anyone who wants to can come and help himself to a taste and pick what he needs to cheer his soul and cool his body, and sit and rest in the shade of the fig tree. I purposely planted more than I’d be able to harvest, so there would also be plenty for the sparrows and foxes, with whom I have no desire to fight over the fruit. I planted the vines in rows, according to the month in which the different types of grapes would ripen and according to their flavor and color – all spread out down the sloping field, with fragrant and colorful rosebushes planted below each row.
So lovely and sweet is my vineyard in summer, and so bare and melancholy come autumn – when it sheds its leaves and the last clusters rot and ferment at its feet. Its sweetness and crimson blush fade away, and the only trace of the warm summer is to be found in the good wine that remains. This is the nature of the vineyard, and the nature of the hot season – foxes frolic there at dawn, and sparrows fill their beaks and visitors freely wander amid the greenery. For some, the pleasing taste of the grapes brings nothing but contentment. Alas, I am not one of the fortunate ones; every time a grape bursts between my teeth I can’t help thinking of the winter to come.
Grape and cinnamon cake
Photo by Dan Perez
This is a light, delicious cake that enfolds the grapes in a sweet, crumbly dough flavored with vanilla and cinnamon. Whipping the egg whites separately from the egg yolks is the trick to achieving the airy texture, while the butter in the dough adds a moist creaminess. If you’re going to leave the cake undisturbed while baking then add all the grapes to the dough. If you’re going to stick close to the oven and keep checking on the cake, keep a handful of grapes aside and scatter them atop the cake when it’s about half done, so they remain whole and floating on the top.
200 gr butter
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
vanilla seeds from one pod,
or 1 tbsp natural vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
300 gr flour
1 tbsp baking powder
400 ml real sour cream
3 cold egg whites
100 gr powdered sugar
1 cup red grapes
1 cup green grapes
Cut the butter into cubes and place in the bowl of a mixer. Add the sugar and mix at medium speed until the mixture is light and airy. Continue mixing and add the yolks one after the other, until a smooth mixture is obtained. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and then sift in the flour and baking powder. When the consistency is uniform, add the sour cream by the spoonful until well combined. If needed, use a spatula to scrape bits of dough from the sides of the bowl and continue mixing.
Transfer the mixture to another bowl and rinse and dry the first mixing bowl. Put the cold egg whites in the bowl of the mixer and whip them at high speed. When the froth grows and stabilizes a bit, add the powdered sugar and continue whipping until the meringue is dense and stable.
Gently fold the meringue into the butter and egg-yolk mixture. Generously grease a wide, deep baking pan with butter and pour in the mixture. Sprinkle the grapes on top and bake in a preheated 180-degree Celsius oven for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with crumbs on it. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and a glass of cold lemonade.
Grape fattoush with goose breast
Photo by Dan Perez
You can enjoy this summer salad with or without the goose breast – just toast the pita with a little olive oil. You can also add seared halumi cheese or strips of smoked salmon. As always with fattoush, the taste relies on the contrasts between cold and warm, soft and crispy, salty and sweet.
2 cups green and red grapes
2 celery stalks
1 small red onion
6 sprigs parsley
fresh goose breast
¼ cup olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
coarsely ground black pepper
Slice the grapes in half lengthwise and place in the serving bowl. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then slice each half into diagonal slices and add to the bowl. Slice the celery and the scallions and add those too. Chop the onion and parsley and add to the bowl as well, but do not mix.
Trim the layer of fat from the goose breast and put the fat in a heavy skillet. Heat over a medium flame until the skillet is filled with melted goose fat. Remove the piece of fat that remains from the skillet, cut the meat in thin slices, turn up the heat and sear the slices of goose meat in the fat. Season with salt and pepper.
When the pieces of meat are lightly seared but still juicy in the center, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Tear the pita in pieces and place these in the skillet. Fry until crisp and golden brown, then turn off heat and transfer the pita pieces to the paper towels.
Add the slices of goose breast and the pita pieces to the bowl of grapes and vegetables, season with salt and pepper and pour on the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss and serve immediately, when the meat is still warm and the pita crisp.