A grape catch-up with celebrity chef Roger Mooking

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Just recently I had the pleasure of spending time with famed celebrity chef Roger Mooking. We were both judges at a local culinary event, a special charitable cause near and dear to Mooking’s heart. But I’ve always known this award-winning chef, TV celebrity, restaurateur, cookbook author and Juno-winning musician (yes, he wears many hats) to always give back to the community.


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The Trinidad-born, Canadian-raised chef, familiar on many food shows, including Food Network Canada, says giving back is how you pay it forward, enriching one’s life in the process.

And, just like everyone else on the planet, his life has been impacted by the global pandemic – but for the positive: “I’ve been enjoying spending time with my family and the outdoors much more than I’ve been able to in previous years,” he said recently. “It’s been good.”

Has the pandemic impacted his work? “I’ve managed to stay busy. Twist by Roger Mooking (restaurant) at Pearson International Airport has been serving essential travellers. I’ve also been busy shooting a few different television projects, so all good there.

“And, you know … I’ve always got a few things up my sleeve.”


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One of Mooking’s partnerships is with California Table Grape Commission, where he creates amazing recipes, and helps spread the word on the versatility of cooking with grapes. “I love how grapes seamlessly transition from a travel-friendly snack food, to a raw kitchen ingredient. They can be eaten frozen, bubbling hot, or any temperature in between. The character is unique in each use.”

What special attention should people be taking when cooking with them? “It’s important to understand the end use. Sometimes you want that blistered grape skin with the oozing juices bubbling hot. Other times you want the sweet crunch of a quarter frozen grape for a textural and temperature dynamic in a dish. I love that they are versatile and inherently delicious.”


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As a snack, in a recipe, on a charcuterie board, grapes get the job done! The following recipes were created by Mooking (rogermooking.com) for the California Table Grape Commission (grapesfromcalifornia.com.)

All photos courtesy of the Commission. All recipes serve 4.

Harissa Pork and Black Grape Skewers.
Harissa Pork and Black Grape Skewers. Photo by supplied /the California Table Grape Commission

Harissa Pork and Black Grape Skewers

1 lb. pork tenderloin

2 Tbsp. Harissa paste

20 quartered red onion pieces

20 fresh mint leaves

20 black seedless grapes

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste

1 Tbsp. EACH honey and water

Remove silver skin on pork with a thin, sharp knife and discard. Dice pork into roughly 1-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl (approx. 20 cubes of pork). Add Harissa paste and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.


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Heat a grill to medium-high heat. While grill is heating, prepare skewers. Using 4 (12-in.) stainless steel skewers, skewer ingredients starting with marinated pork, then onion, mint and  black grapes, placing 5 of each of ingredients on each skewer. Season skewers with salt and pepper and place them on hot, clean grill grates; cook on all sides for approx. 10 minutes.

While skewers are cooking, combine honey and water in a clean dry bowl. After 10-minute cooking time, brush  honey mixture over skewers on all sides and let cook for another minute or until meat is fully cooked. Make sure  honey is added at end to prevent burning.

Kale and Grape Caesar Salad.
Kale and Grape Caesar Salad. Photo by supplied /California Table Grape Commission

Kale and Red Grape Caesar

Caesar Dressing (Egg-Free)

1/4 tsp. crushed garlic

1 filet of cured anchovy


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1/8 tsp. yellow mustard

1/4 tsp. nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp. freshly-grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 Tbsp. sour cream


1 1/2 cups halved, red grapes

6 cups packed, shredded or chopped kale, centre stem removed

3 cups thinly julienned fennel bulb

Caesar Dressing (above)

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Grilled baguette slices (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix garlic, anchovy, mustard, yeast, and Parmesan; combine until it forms a smooth paste. Using a whisk, slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking vigorously. Whisk in lemon juice, until well combined. Add sour cream and whisk until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine grapes, kale, fennel and dressing. Toss gently to ensure dressing coats all fruits and veggies in bowl. Divide salad evenly across 4 plates. Top salad with grated pecorino cheese and serve immediately with a piece of crusty toasted grilled baguette.


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Grape, Rosemary and Prosciutto Flatbread.
Grape, Rosemary and Prosciutto Flatbread. Photo by supplied /California Table Grape Commission

Prosciutto, Rosemary & Green Grape Flatbread


1 pkg. (755 grams) prepared pizza dough, divided into 4 balls


1 1/2 cups halved green grapes

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

250 grams Chevre goat cheese (about 1 cup)

8 pieces prosciutto

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

1/4 tsp. dried red chili flakes (optional)

Heat a grill with a lid to medium heat. While grill is heating, add grapes, rosemary, black pepper, and olive oil to a bowl and toss well until grapes are evenly coated.

Form each ball of dough into a log about 3-in. long. On a lightly dusted board, roll out the dough into a thin long oval that is 1/8-in. thickness.

Oil grill well before placing an oval of dough on hot grill. Close lid and let dough cook on one side for about 3 minutes or until grill marks appear on underside of dough and it has set in shape. Flip dough over and distribute 1/4 of goat cheese, then 1/4 of grape mixture evenly over dough, leaving a small rim of crust. After about 4 – 5 minutes, carefully remove dressed flatbread from grill and place on a cutting board.


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Cut flatbread on a diagonal into 6 equal pieces. Top with 1/4 of prosciutto and finish with dried red chili  flakes, if desired. Drizzle some olive oil around crust and over flatbread.

Repeat assembly and cooking with the remaining dough and ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine grapes, kale, fennel and dressing. Toss gently to ensure the dressing coats all fruits and veggies in the bowl. Plate salad evenly across 4 plates. Top salad with grated pecorino cheese and serve immediately with a piece of crusty toasted grilled baguette.


California grapes come in three colours – green, red, and black – and are available May through January. Grapes can keep for up to two weeks with the following tips:

– Always refrigerate for maximum shelf life

– Store unwashed and dry; rinse before serving

– Avoid storing compressed or squeezed

– To avoid odor absorption, do not store grapes next to onions or leeks



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