Sometime between 2007 and 2008, Sam and I went to a lovely French Bistro in Meridian, Idaho for a late lunch. It was a quiet restaurant, dark, and little bit lonely. I don’t remember what I ordered, but I remember what it came with: a grape and walnut salad with a honey mustard dressing. The grapes were split in half and lent their own sweetness to the salad. The walnuts added a crunch and a robustness missing from everything else. And the cilantro, apparently out of place in a French restaurant, sidled up right next to the grapes and walnuts like they were all best pals.
I can make this, I said.
You need to make this, Sam said.
We finished our lunch, ordered a cheesecake made with Gorgonzola (an amazing idea, and, unfortunately, one I haven’t tried to replicate) and headed to the grocery store to buy grapes.
The salad was that good.
I made it a few times, worked at it, and turned it in to something that became a bit of a staple, especially for the pot lucks at Sam’s KungFu studio back in Boise. These potlucks required a vegetarian dish. And not a cheater vegetarian dish that doesn’t have meat but does use a bit of bone broth or bacon grease; something with no meat. This grape salad fit the bill, and would guarantee I couldn’t forget what I was making and use a bit of chicken stock.
This is a recipe that’s hard to share because I really don’t measure a thing. I base the quantities on the number of grapes I’m using, which is based on the number of people I’m serving. Just my family and I’ll use a couple of bunches of grapes at the most. A potluck with 30 people attending and I’ve spent most of an afternoon slicing grapes to prepare. (Be smarter than me though: use this cherry tomato slicing technique instead of slicing the grapes in half one at a time. It’s a bit harder with grapes since they’re smaller. A shallower plate is helpful. Same concept though).
Grape and Walnut Salad with Cilantro and Tarragon
- 3 tbsp each mustard (dijon, stone-ground, or other high quality, high flavor mustard is best) and honey
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh tarragon to taste
- 1 shallot
- 3 cups grapes sliced in half
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Finely chop the tarragon and shallot. Mix all the dressing ingredients except the olive oil well. Drizzle in enough olive oil to emulsify the dressing. Set aside.
Slice the grapes in half. Chop the walnuts so they’re no more than 1/4 the size of the grape halves. Chop the cilantro. Add all of this to a bowl and drizzle the dressing over it until everything is very well coated. For a large, potluck size bowl, I find I need about 1/3 cup of dressing total.