Late summer and early fall make me think of the Fiestas de la Vendimia - harvest clebrations at wineries around the world, and specifically reminds me of a visit to the oldest winery in the Americas: Casa Madero. A few years back, I spent a few days at la Casa Grande, at Hacienda San Lorenzo in Parras, Coahuila, in northeastern Mexico.
My gracious hosts explained the whole process of making wine, from planting the vines to the harvest and then the pressing, fermenting and ageing process. The result is the most spectacular and award-winning wines you could ever taste.
Aside from the wines, they also have a full parcel of land where they grow all their fruit and vegetables, so the hacienda is pretty self-sufficient. Among all this bounty, of course there are table grapes, and I remember picking the most succulent and juicy grapes I have ever tasted - straight from the vine.
This recipe is in part inspired by those wonderful grapes. I love a good salad in late summer, and this one is delicious combining sweet and savoury on the same plate. The grapes impart sweetness, the tart Granny Smith apples give it some tang, and the pepitas a nice crunch. Jamaica infusion stands in for vinegar in a spectacular vinaigrette. Use your favourite combination of greens, decorate with a few of the Jamaica flowers, and you will have a feast of colors on your plate.
Jamaica, or hibiscus, is used for making aguas frescas, but I like to find other uses for common ingredients. Hibiscus is tart by nature, so it easily takes the place of vinegar in the dressing. Just make sure the infusion is nice and strong. Whatever is left can be used for a glass of Jamaica agua fresca. Just add water and sugar to taste and you can enjoy your drink as you prepare your salad.
ENSALADA VERDE CON MANZANA, UVAS, PEPITAS Y VINAGRETA DE JAMAICA
Leaf lettuce salad with green apples, grapes, pepitas and hibiscus vinaigrette
1 head red or green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 green apple, cored and very thinly sliced
1 small bunch of green or red seedless grapes, washed and halved (about 2 cups)
½ cup pepitas, toasted
1 cup water
1/2 cup hibiscus flowers
4 Tbsp jamaica infusion
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
Combine water and hibiscus flowers in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Strain and cool completely, reserving jamaica flowers.
Makes a bit over 1/2 cup.
In medium bowl, combine jamaica infusion, mustard, salt and pepper. Make sure salt is dissolved. Start whisking in olive oil very slowly until dressing is emulsified. Correct seasonings.
In large bowl, arrange lettuce, green apple, grapes and a few of the reserved jamaica flowers. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss very well. Sprinkle with pepitas and serve immediately.
** Hibiscus infusion keeps in jar in fridge for 1 week. You can use it to make Hibiscus Agua Fresca by adding enough cold water and sugar to taste.
Serves 4 - 6
This recipe was first published at www.thelatinkitchen.com