So this little series is going to be my attempt to keep myself posting, because what’s easier to write about than what I did at work!  I currently work at a banquet hall, which typically means set menus, however hors d’oeuvres and desserts are my section and there is a little more wiggle room there.

This weekend included a Muslim and an Indian wedding. A slower weekend for us at 550 people, but filled with special requests and dietary restrictions.

Halal foods were something I rarely encountered until moving to Toronto.
As part of the Islamic religion there are dietary laws ( much like Kosher for orthodox Jewish that many people are at least more familiar with in name) and Halal means foods and products which are permitted under these laws.  Haram is the designation given to foods which are not permitted.  Being a Chef, means understanding these restrictions, showing respect and in some cases finding a way to make your usual recipes without the use of certain ingredients. Once we see Halal on a menu we automatically know there is no pork or alcohol permitted and any meats must be certified.  There are other restrictions as well including things which can be a hidden ingredient and sometimes only the big three I mentioned above are what matter. But Halal or Kosher you have to consider carefully what products you are reaching for, be educated about not only the restrictions but the ingredients in prepared products.

The Halal menu included hors d’oeuvre  this weekend, off the standard list we did a caprese, mini boccincini and cherry tomato with pesto, I also put out smoked salmon rolls on cucumber, artichoke and assiago crosini and roasted grape with lemon Greek yogurt crostini. 

Roasted grape you say!? Oh yes they are delicious and I am going to tell you how I make them.

Roasted Grape and Lemon Greek Yogurt Crostini:

1/2 lb greens seedless grapes
1/2 lb red seedless grapes
1.5 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
20 crostini

Preheat oven to 450°F
Remove both kinds of grapes from their stems and wash, dry by patting with a clean towel or paper.
Place grapes in a roasting pan and toss with thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roast grapes in oven for 4-5 minutes or until  most of the skins are just on the verge of splitting, its okay if some do.
Set aside to cool.
Prepare your yogurt by mixing together very well the yogurt, lemon zest and juice. When you are ready to serve ( or up to 20minutes before) start assembling by spreading the yogurt mix on the crostini, don’t go too thick but have a good layer. Slice your cooled grapes in halves and place cut side down on top of the yogurt, mixing green and red.

For an added touch to the presentation bundle together a dozen or so sprigs of thyme and lay across one corner of the plate you will be serving on. Toss a small bunch of fresh grapes with a few drops of olive oil (makes them shiny) and set on top of the thyme. Serve and enjoy!

For this recipe it is important to use Greek yogurt which is very, very thick and has a bit of tang to it. For a short time it will protect the crostini from going soft due to the grapes as well.

Over cooked grapes? Lots of liquid in the roasting pan after cooking? Don’t panic. Crush those grapes down to get the juice out, combine just the liquid with that in the pan, add a touch of honey a little white balsamic vinegar a dash more of oil and you’ve got a really nice dressing for a spring mix salad. The grapes are also excellent as a salad topping and in chicken salad.

Enjoy and dine fine!