I’m not sure what’s going on, but lately, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic about my pre-college days.
Maybe it’s the brilliant red flags proclaiming “Cornell Homecoming” that conjured up past images of blue and gold high school pep rallies.
Maybe it’s one of my best friend’s twin siblings — whom I’ve known since they were in diapers — tweeting about their freshman biology classes and homecoming dresses that are making me feel prematurely old.
Or maybe it’s the realization that I’m in that dreaded junior year of college — you know, the year when Everything You Do From Now On In College Will Influence Your Career Prospects — that’s reminding me that, just four years ago, I was in a similarly dreaded junior year of high school when Everything You Do From Now On Will Influence Your College Prospects.
Whatever’s causing this random bout of nostalgia has made me think of my high school days especially the times when I’d come home from school and head straight to the kitchen because I hadn’t eaten anything since “lunch” at 10:48 a.m.; two foods that we always seemed to have around were corn and grapes.
Now, I never eat corn as a snack, but in my household, corn is basically its own food group. I’ll admit, I’ve eaten my fair share of canned corn because it was the most convenient vegetable to cook and eat after coming home from soccer practice. However, there’s nothing better than corn on the cob that’s so fresh and sweet that you don’t need to put anything on it. This week’s healthy, insanely delicious recipe — a lighter version of corn pudding — only needs some fragrant sage and cracked black pepper to complement the corn’s natural flavors.
When it comes to grapes, I’ve always been a fan of eating them plain as well, enjoying the crunchy and juicy bite of each grape. But this week’s indulgent recipe — a warm grape cake drizzled in a ginger-spiced honey sauce — introduced me to the heightened sweetness of cooked grapes, proving that a little twist on a classic ingredient can lead to wonderful results.
So here you go: two simple foods of my pre-college days that have become two delicious dishes. And all it took was a little time and transformation.
Warm Grape Cake with Ginger Grape Sauce
Recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli
For the cake:
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon, sifted and divided
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 cups fresh red seedless grapes, stemmed, washed, dried, and halved, divided
Nonstick baking spray
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer until they lighten in color, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add lemon zest and eggs, one egg at a time, and slowly beat.
4. Sift flour into the bowl and add baking powder and salt, using a spatula to gently fold the mixture until combined.
5. Add olive oil and milk and use either a spoon or spatula to combine. (I found it easier to start with the spoon and then switch over to the spatula to fold the liquids into the mixture.)
6. In a separate bowl, combine the raisins and 1 cup of the grapes with 1 tablespoon of flour.
7. Add fruit mixture to batter and stir only until blended.
8. Spray a 9-inch springform pan or baking dish with the nonstick baking spray. Pour batter into pan and place pan in the middle of the oven.
9. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 40 - 45 minutes. (I left my cake in the oven for about 45 minutes).
10. Remove cake from the oven and let it sit until it’s cool to the touch. Then remove the cake from the pan.
For the sauce:
¼ cup honey
1 small ginger knob, peeled and grated, approximately 1 heaping tablespoon (If you want a stronger ginger flavor, increase the ginger to 2 tablespoons)
The remaining 1 cup of grapes from the cake
1. Add honey to a small sauté pan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
2. When it bubbles, thickens, and slightly darkens, approximately 3 - 5 minutes, add ginger and the remaining cup of grapes.
3. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool slightly.
4. Serve on top of slices of cake.
From The Best Life Diet Cookbook by Bob Greene
1 cup water
1 cup fat-free milk (You could also use almond or soy milk.)
½ cup cornmeal (If you can find whole grain cornmeal, even better.)
2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
1 cup corn, preferably cut off the cob
1/8 teaspoon salt
Black pepper as needed
1. Bring water and milk to a boil in a medium pot.
2. Gradually add the cornmeal while whisking the mixture.
3. Stir in the sage.
4. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remember to stir constantly.
5. Add the corn, salt, and black pepper and serve.