Right Off the Vine

For so long I've been posting about the wonders of our vegetable garden out in the backyard. The tomatoes, the peppers, the carrots and even the rhubarb have filled countless posts on here, and undoubtedly tired many a FlickR viewer. But since the first year of the gardening adventure after moving to our current home (Summer 2008), I haven't really mentioned the fruit portion of what we grow. After all, I was so proud of those little cherries, peaches and figs that they should be front and centre here, right?

Not quite. The fruit trees (except for my fig, thankfully) are... well... dead.

It's not as though we didn't try to grow tree fruit. We babied the saplings, fertilized, shooed away birds, everything we could. But you can't mess around with Mother Nature's plans, and we were smacked over the head with bark-eating squirrels and a devastating (but oddly pretty) fungus that attacked 3 of our trees and forced us to remove them all. But not all was lost in this sad tale. We still have backyard fruit. Enough fruit to warrant two (more, if you count the purees) posts. And it's right off the vine.

We've got grapes.

Which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows us, given that my stepfamily is very Italian and loves their wine. Every year we get at least one wine-making variety growing (this year we have Cabernet), and this year we also had a grape-loving, juice-and-jam-maker's bounty of Concords. But those Concords are going to wait for another post. My first culinary exploration with our backyard grapes is all about the winies.

And what could you guess - it was a cake! Unlike the Vegan Torta Al Vino I made before, this one doesn't have any wine in the batter (although I'd be tempted to try it with a sweet white). It is still a moist, single-layer, almondy cake which doesn't need any type of frosting to be enjoyed to it's fullest, especially with a glass of sherry after a nice Proven├žal style meal like what my mom prepared out of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The original recipe came from Patricia Wells' At Home in Provence, and I modified it to remove the eggs, cut down the sugar and make it a little bit more whole-grain based - all while fully emphasizing the delicious pairing of buttery almond and tangy grape flavours. It isn't overly sweet, which is perfect after the rich food of a dinner party, and the different notes of citrus lighten up the rich cream, butter and olive oil batter while the tiny seeds in the fruit add a bit of dimension.

Proven├žal Winemaker's Grape Cake
Serves 10
5 oz silken tofu, pureed
1/3 cup sugar
8 packets stevia (or 3 tbsp sugar)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup 18% (table) cream
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon
10 oz (about 2 cups) small, fresh wine-making grapes, with seeds - washed and stemmed 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, grease a 9" springform pan.
  2. Beat the tofu, sugar, stevia, butter, oil, cream and extracts until blended (I used my food processor for the whole recipe).
  3. Add the flours, ground almonds, baking powder, salt and zest. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir grapes into the batter (keep a few for the top if you'd like).
  5. Bake 55 minutes.
  6. Cool 10 minutes, then remove the side of the springform pan and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 208.9
Total Fat: 13.5 g
Cholesterol: 17.5 mg
Sodium: 36.7 mg
Total Carbs: 19.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.7 g
Protein: 3.3 g

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