These grapes coated in cream cheese and nuts are absolutely delicious. They make a light and healthy appetizer and you could even serve them after your meal. I served this as an appetizer tree but they are equally good served on a platter.
The grapes are a bit tricky to make but worth the effort. I can make about 30 grapes in a half hour. So get your ingredients ready and set yourself up in front of a good TV show and you won't even notice the time.
Three things to be absolutely sure of
- make sure the grapes are totally dry. I keep them on a paper towel -even the condensation that forms when they come out of the fridge will make them slippery. So wash them and dry them on paper towel thoroughly.
- the cream cheese must be at room temperature. If it is too cold it will not spread properly.
- the grapes must be seedless. Grape seeds are bitter and tannic and will not be pleasant.
To coat the grape with cream cheese use a small spreader knife. Take a pat of cream cheese almost like a small pat of butter. Don't smear the cream cheese, rather start in the middle of the pat and press it with your knife so it spreads and thins. Work your way out from the center of the pat and work the cheese until it has spread out all around the grape. Tamp it down so it seamlessly meets the coating from the other side(s). You only need a very thin coating, enough for the nut coating to stick.
When the grape is coated in cream cheese roll it in the nut meal to coat. At this point it should not be sticky because the nut meal will be a dry outer coating. Either add to your serving platter or put aside if you are going to assemble the appetizer tree.
My favorite combination is green grapes with almond meal but green grapes and pecan meal runs a close second. I also really like black grapes with pecan or walnut meal. Be sure to use seedless grapes. Feel free to mix up the grapes with your favorite nut.
You will also want to make sure the nuts are finely ground - not just pieces. I used almond meal the texture it was in the store but I had to crush the pecan pieces into a finer grind to use it.
It takes about an hour and a bit to make 60 grapes and and it takes another hour to assemble the tree. It is absolutely stunning in a buffet setting. The good news is you can make the grapes a day ahead.
For the Christmas themed appetizer tree I got a 12" styrofoam cone from a craft store. You will also need green cellophane or foil wrap, scotch tape, duct tape and some sturdy, sharp toothpicks. I used bamboo toothpicks from the dollar store. It took about 60 grapes to cover it so you may want to consider a smaller cone if you don't want to make that many.
First, I wrapped the cone in green cellophane wrap, folded over the top and the bottom and secured the cellophane with scotch tape. Trim the ends if need be so they are not too bulky, especially the bottom because you want the cone to stand flat and be sturdy. The tape and wrap make it a bit tougher to poke toothpicks into so don't use any more than you have to.
When your cone is wrapped take a good strong tape ( I used duct tape) and make 4 tape loops ( a circle of tape that is sticky all around on the outside). Put one tape loop on each side of the bottom of the cone and secure to your serving platter. Make sure it sticks well so the tree doesn't topple when guests are pulling out a grape.
I used 2 different types of nuts to roll the grapes in so I made a 2-tone tree. Once your grapes are all rolled in nuts and ready to go, start with one type of nut. Spear a grape with the toothpick and stick the toothpick securely into the cone. Leave a tip of the toothpick on the outer edge so the guests can use the tip to pick up the grape. Angle a row of grapes of the same type top to bottom. Then create the second row tight beside the first row. Continue until you cover the tree all around. Position a few on the top to fill in the top of the cone.
I couldn't pierce the cone in some places where there was tape and cellophane so I used a sharp nut pick to pierce the tape/cellophane and then I could insert the toothpick.
Since the grapes may be different sizes, use the smaller ones at the top of the tree and the larger ones at the bottom. I had some small spaces in between so I speared a few dried cranberry pieces on a toothpick to fill in the little gaps. I also slid a pomegranate seed onto some of the grape balls to give a bit of a jewelled, ornamented look. (Remember to leave enough toothpick clear for your guests to actually pull the grape off the tree.) Do these steps at the very last to 'finish' off the look of the tree.
The pomegranate seeds were a bit of an after thought for me but they turned out to be a delicious addition. The sweetness of the pomegranate seed, the nut coating and the sweetness of the grape is what made me add this to the Dessert category as well!
- 60 seedless green grapes rinsed and thoroughly dried
- 10 oz light cream cheese at room temp
- ½ cups almond meal or nut of your choice
- ½ cup dried cranberry for tree filling
- ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds optional
- Rinse grapes and dry thoroughly on paper towel. Keep paper towel handy to wipe off any residual moisture or drips.
- Coat each grape with a thin layer of cream cheese. (Works best if you use a spreader knife and a pat of cream cheese. Just press the cream cheese to spread and thin it out til it covers the grape. Do not try to 'spread' it with the knife.)
- Roll the grape in the nut meal.
- At this point you can either transfer to a serving platter or set aside to assemble the tree. (See notes above for tree assembly).