Greek salads, tapenades, and martinis all have one thing in common: olives. A little bitter, a little sour, and a little salty, olives add three of the five tastes to any dish or drink they touch — they're a culinary triple threat! And neither your happy hour nor your Nicoise salad would be the same without them.
But with my low-sodium diet, olives and the many recipes they star in got cut out of the rotation. And while I played with the idea of oil-curing my own, two truths finally set in: (a) that was never going to happen and (b) there is a much better substitute: the cocktail grape.
How to Make Cocktail Grapes
In place of bottled cocktail olives (or curing your own), a quick pickle in vinegar and spice adds the same tang to the grape.
I used a formula of 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, and 2 teaspoons sugar. Bring this pickling liquid to a boil and then let it cool slightly.
Meanwhile, stuff your grapes (I like the black and green variety for their looks) into a large canning jar or heatproof container. You can also add in whole black peppercorns, chili peppers, orange peels, and garlic for extra flavor.
Add the pickling liquid to the grapes and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours. Then, it’s cocktail time.
Play Around with Spices
And because you’re making these cocktail grapes yourself, you can add any spices you want to the pickling liquid: turmeric and curry, cinnamon and orange, or most definitely fennel and rosemary. This means that your craft cocktail grapes don’t just pair with the traditional martini, but will land happily in your next Dark and Stormy, Sazerac, or Old Fashioned.
- Get another recipe: Spicy Pickled Grapes
Old Ingredients, New Tricks
As someone who constantly makes over dishes for dietary and health needs, I'm used to using total creative license when it comes to food. And the good news is we already live in a culinary world where zucchinis can be noodles, beets can be chips, and cucumbers can act like baguettes. So let me be your guide as we dust off some standard items from the produce aisle and give them a chance to show off a little. It’s an exercise in recipe liberation (not limitations) that will not only lighten up those eating habits but also give new life to old favorites.
So whether you’re trying to ditch the gluten, sugar, or just a pant size, let’s forget about pledging to take on a new diet. And let’s pledge instead to break some rules and teach a handful of old ingredients some new tricks.