I finally signed up for the October Unprocessed 2012 challenge hosted by Andrew Wilder, and yes I know the month is already one-third gone (how is that even possible?). But better late than never, I always say.
My delay didn’t stem from not believing in the concept. It’s a good one, and the right one; I think we all know that our diet – as a society – leans way too far on the side of processed foods. There have been books written about it by Michael Pollan; Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution campaigns at the schools; televised special reports on 60 Minutes; and a Michele Obama heavily publicized White House garden in an effort espousing the benefits of whole foods as part of her Let’s Move program for kids; along with a lower fat message being thrown in as a side kick. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have become the new hip food. Kale chips are now commonplace, hummus has replaced the French onion dip of my childhood.
I own that my own diet has migrated over the last few years to one that is more vegetarian, lower fat, and less processed in general, and yet when I took the October Unprocessed challenge last year, I honestly didn’t do so well after the first couple of days. I was completely defeated by sugar and wheat flour, my two biggest nemeses.
I love sugar. And there’s no controversy here – granulated sugar is processed, with few if any redeeming characteristics. But muffins, cinnamon rolls drizzled with icing, cookies, and cakes – sign me up. White granulated, brown, confectioners, turbinado / raw I love them all. There are substitute options of course: maple syrup, molasses, agave, honey, coconut nectar, and brown rice syrup which may or may not be better for you depending on what article you read. The point is, sugar is big business and this only scratches the surface.
So the challenge I’m taking this month in connection to October Unprocessed is to reduce my overall sugar intake by 50%, and perform some serious recipe tasting to develop recipes with sugar substitutes for the sugar I DO eat. Along the way, I’ll share what I learn from my research into sugar, and its substitutes, and from my experiments in the kitchen.
My question for you is: Do you think you can take the October Unprocessed challenge? Even for one day? Think about it and if the answer is yes, sign up, and either way check out Andrew’s site and read the daily posts he’s hosting on ways to do it.
I’ll lead it off with this simple little dessert that’s easy to make. The fruit flavor of the grapes deepen through a roasting process, slightly sweetened with a touch of honey. They are unequivocally the star of the show, the ricotta and mascarpone dollop a perfect accompaniment slightly sweetened with honey.
Balsamic Glazed Roasted Grapes With Lemony Ricotta
Serves 2 – 4
- 2 cups large red seedless grapes
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon honey (I used blackberry honey)
Lemony Ricotta and Drizzle
- 3 tablespoons ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese (or [make your own!
- 1 teaspoon honey
- zest from ¼ lemon
- pinch salt
- balsamic vinegar reduced to a syrup
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Wash and thoroughly dry the grapes. Lay them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the dried herbs over the grapes, drizzle the honey on top, and roll the grapes around with your palms to coat them.
Roast for 45 minutes or until noticeably softened. The honey will be starting to caramelize around the grapes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Combine the ricotta, mascarpone, honey, lemon zest, and salt together in a small bowl. Mix well until smooth. Set aside.
Pour one cup of balsamic vinegar (not your best balsamic vinegar!) in a pot and bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until the vinegar is reduced by at least half and reduced to a syrupy consistency. The best way to know when enough simmering is enough – watch the bubbles. When the bubbles start to get larger, mixed with smaller bubbles, you’re done. If the balsamic vinegar reaches the point of large lazy bubbles, you have gone a little too far.
Spoon the grapes onto a plate, placing a dollop of lemony ricotta on top. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic.