grapes in sun

Did You Know: Versatile Grapes

As we ring in the New Year, I can’t help but think of sparkling wine and its progenitor: the grape. In fact, while we are on the subject of Champagne and sparkling wines, here are a few “did you know” facts you may find interesting. First, you can make sparkling wines from any grape or fermentable fruit. However, real Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. The two major gapes used in making Champagne are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while everything else is a sparkling wine. Also, 25% of all sparkling wine sales occur in December, so if you want a good deal, February is a great time to buy!

But enough about Champagne and wine. Let’s move on to grapes and some other “did you know” facts:

  • The average person eats eight pounds of grapes a year.
  • The Red Globe grape, which is the size of a small plum, is peeled with considerable ceremony and eaten with a fork and knife in Japan.
  • Grapes do not continue to ripen after they have been harvested.
  • Grape juice was first made by Dr. Thomas Welch, a prohibitionist who offered it as an alternative to communion wine.

grapes in sun


Have you ever wondered how many varieties of grapes exists? The answer might surprise you, as no one knows (and while researching, I found several different answers). The number is somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 varieties of grapes in the world. Many of these varieties are new hybrids developed through grafting and other methods. Often, certain types of grapes are popular in certain countries.

Grapes are among the oldest cultivated fruits. Fossil evidence indicates grapes were consumed and possibly cultivated as early as 8,000 years ago near the Black and Caspian Seas.  There are two major categories of grapes: Old World European (Vitis vinifera), mostly used for making wine, and New World, (Vitis labrusca), which are native to America and mostly used for eating. While we know Spanish settlers brought Old World grapes to California, we don’t know how the New World grapes got here. Grapes have a history in every country and in every civilization from the Egyptians to the Romans and Greeks. In fact, both the Romans and the
Greeks worshiped their own God of Wine, Bacchus in Rome and Dionysus in Greece.

Grapes are one of the most versatile fruits on the planet.  They are great when fermented into adult beverages or made into a juice for kids. They can also be used as a natural sweetener and are a great substitute for refined sugar. A lesser known use is that grapes can substitute yeast as a natural starter for bread production. Grapes are delicious in jellies and jams or included in desserts. They enhance savory dishes, are excellent paired with cheese, and are refreshing when blended in a drink. Grapes can be frozen and eaten as a satisfying, healthy snack or just eaten in their fresh, natural state. Even the leaves can be eaten. If you feel adventurous, look up a few recipes for stuffed grape leaves, which are popular in the Middle East and Greece.

Most people go to a supermarket and buy either green or red grapes.  BORING!Especially for those of us who live in California where 97% of the US table grapes are grown. Did I mention there are thousands of varieties? Please go explore new varieties and break the green-and-red-grape-only buying habit. Stop picking grapes by color and instead choose them by name, or go out to local farms and explore different varieties. Just to name a few types of grapes there are Perlette, Thompson Seedless (which are found everywhere), Exotic, Flame Seedless, Ribier, Superior Seedless, Ruby Seedless, Emperor, Red Globe, Christmas Rose, Calmeria, and Concord. Every wine grape variety you can think of, from Chardonnay to Zinfandel, are all delicious to eat fresh as well.

Fresh grapes are not just delicious but also very healthy, containing natural sugars and essential nutrients. The most important nutrient in grapes is Vitamin C. Depending on the variety, ten grapes have approximately 5 mgs of Vitamin C.  Also, grape skins, pulp, and seeds contain the antioxidant flavonoid resveratrol, one of the naturally occurring compounds in wines appears to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Purple grape juice contains more of this antioxidant than red grape juice, which in turn contains more than white grape juice.

To put it simply, let’s celebrate grapes– either in a glass, by the handful, or from a box of raisins.  Here is a recipe to get you started!

Spicy Grape Chutney

– Serves 4-6 –

(Great served with chicken or fish.)


1 Cup Green Seedless Grapes (sliced)

1 Cup Red Grapes (sliced)

1 Cup Black Seedless Grapes (sliced)

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil

1 Dried Chili Pepper

1/8 TSP Cumin Seeds

1/8 TSP Mustard Seeds

1/8 TSP Fennel Seeds

1/8 TSP Caraway Seeds

1/8 TSP Fresh Medium Ground Pepper

1 TSP Finely Minced Ginger

2 TBSP Lemon Juice

1 Cup Water

¼ Cup Agave

½ TSP Salt


  1. In a nonstick sauce pan on medium heat, add vegetable oil.
  2. Add all the dry spices and the ginger to the pan and sauté for about one minute, stirring continuously so that the spices do not burn.
  3. Add all other ingredients, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens.
  4. Set aside to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.



Al Ferrone is the senior director of Food & Beverage at UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services. With extensive years of food and beverage/hotel experience, Al Ferrone manages all areas of F&B for UCLA including Dining Services, Lake Arrowhead Conference Center, the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center, and UCLA Catering.  Prior to UCLA as the Vice President of Food & Beverage, he played a significant role in the guidance of hotel and F&B strategies at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Hilton, and Interstate Hotels Corporation. He has worked with a wide-ranging family of hotel and casino brands.  He also developed and independently managed the Hilton Restaurant Group, which consisted of freestanding restaurants with over eight concepts.

BPlate 1

Bruin Plate Dining in the Comfort of your own Home

Any person who eats at Bruin Plate for the first time is immediately aware that this is no regular college dining hall. The menu reads like one you might find at a 5-star restaurant, with dishes like “Rosemary, Gorgonzola, & Roasted Grape Flatbread”, and a variety of ingredients completely foreign to typical dining hall cuisine, from wheat berry, to jicama, to seitan. The aptly named residential restaurant sets itself apart from other college dining options and represents potentially the first dining hall in the country in which all menu items are made from scratch, with a focus on health, sustainability, and flavor.

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Fresh Fig, Feta, and Jalapeño Salad, page 19, Bruin Plate Cookbook

At just under five years old, Bruin Plate has already established itself as a distinguished dining hall, with awards including the FM Best Concept Award for Best Menu in 2012 and a four-star Certified Green Restaurant designation in 2017, making it the third dining hall in the nation to receive the highest award given by the Green Restaurant Association. It also boasts a rating of five stars on Yelp, and contributes to the rating of UCLA dining halls as best in the nation for the past two consecutive years.

Maddie Cashel, a sophomore, endorses the restaurant,  “I love healthy options right at your fingertips. I love eating healthy food that’s not just salad, and [Bruin Plate] has so many vegetable options with protein that you don’t find at other dining halls.” Those who often choose Bruin Plate over other dining halls share this sentiment that healthy eating should be both easy and interesting– there exists more nutritious food than uninspired salads and flavorless steamed vegetables.

Limited Time at Bruin Plate

Students savor the taste of Bruin Plate for as long as they live on the Hill, but the difficulty lies in the fact that this usually lasts only a year or two. Students tend to move into apartments off-campus for their third or fourth years as undergraduate students, where they must either begin to cook for themselves, or rack up charges by ordering take-out for every meal. In both cases, these meals are often much less nutritious and less sustainable than their Bruin Plate counterparts. One student planning to live off the Hill next year laments, “What am I going to do without the salad bar and the chocolate peanut butter?”  Other Bruin Plate fans, such as staff and faculty, may hear much about the award-winning cuisine but comprise a miniscule percentage of people who actually eat at the dining hall on a regular basis.

The Bruin Plate Cookbook, released only a few weeks ago, aims to solve these problems. Pete Angelis, Assistant Vice Chancellor of UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services, endorses the motive behind the cookbook, “the Bruin Plate cookbook is the culmination of Housing & Hospitality Services’ efforts to make the healthy choice, the easy choice, for our students, staff and faculty. We are pleased to be able to share these nutritious AND delicious recipes with others through the publication of the Bruin Plate recipes in the cookbook.”The message is clear: anyone who enjoys healthy, delicious cooking with a side of environmental stewardship can benefit from the cookbook.

Over 200 Pages of Recipes

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Aromatic Spiced Chicken with Snap Peas and Forbidden Rice, page 146

The cookbook highlights not only dishes actually served at Bruin Plate, but also dishes inspired by the residential restaurant that don’t often make it onto the menu, such as Fresh Fig, Feta, and Jalapeño Salad1 and Aromatic Spiced Chicken with Snap Peas and Forbidden Rice2. Each recipe was scaled down by Bruin Plate chefs, from portions to feed hundreds to portions to feed only one or two hungry mouths. Each recipe also includes nutritional information per serving.

Two sample recipes, taken directly from the cookbook, are pictured below.

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BPlate 3

The cookbook is now sold at the UCLA Store for $34.95, with an additional 30% discount for UCLA students, staff and faculty when UCLA ID is shown. With this discount, the cost reduces to less than $0.20 per recipe.

All proceeds from the book sales support the elimination of food insecurity for UCLA students and for the Los Angeles community through the Semel HCI Center at UCLA and the UCLA Basic Needs Committee. Here’s to Bruin Plate dining, now accessible to anyone! For more information about how to support food insecure students at UCLA and/or to access resources please click here.

Those seeking cheaper ways to eat nutritiously off campus can find resources in other EatWell blog posts:

To register for Imperfect Produce deliveries:




Patience Olsen is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Civil Engineering. In addition to blogging for the EatWell Pod, she volunteers at the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden on campus, and is a member of the ASCE Environmental Design project.


Cooking with Apicius: A Mediterranean Kitchen in Westwood

The trans-disciplinary course Food and Medicine in Antiquity, taught by Alain Touwaide during Spring Term, culminated with a Roman dinner organized in collaboration with The Huntington in San Marino. In keeping with the theme, a centuries old text took center stage: an ancient cookbook known as Apicius, De re coquinaria (On the culinary art). Though attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, a wealthy 1st century BC/AD Roman gourmet, the cookbook is a 4th/5th century compilation that includes some recipes possibly dating back to Apicius.

On Sunday June 3, students enrolled in the course who come from a vast array of disciplines (including but not limited to classics, history, anthropology, biology, microbiology, environment studies, economics, communication, design, arts, and theater), enjoyed a 5-course menu in the Mediterranean tradition. Student and apprentice chef Sophia Denison-Johnston created this menu: for appetizer a cheese- and garlic spread with olives; for the main course, chicken in red wine and garum, fish with a pesto-like mix of herbs and spices, and asparagus with a mousseline; for dessert, dried fruits.

1 June 3 dinner

This experience of applied history was a truly unique opportunity to bring the classics to life and to explore the roots of the Mediterranean diet. Not only did student enjoy its health-promoting benefits, they also engaged with a cultural approach to nutrition and the human dimension of collaboratively preparing and enjoying a meal.

The Semel HCI Center invited Sophia Denison-Johnston and Andrea Zachrich, students in the course, to share their experience of preparing Apicius’ dishes.


Hors-d’oeuvre of apricots

with Andrea Zachrich


2 Preparing passum

Apicius’ text

Apicius IV.5.4

Take firm, early or undersized fruits, wash them, remove the stone and put them (to cook) in cold water and then arrange them in a dish. Pound pepper, dried mint, pour on liquamen, add honey, passum, wine, and vinegar; pour over the apricots in a dish, add a little oil and let it come to heat over a gentle fire. When it is simmering, thicken it with starch, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

This recipe does not give the cook much to work with, and some of its ingredients do not exist anymore, such as the garum. I attempted to find ingredients as close as.


5 Apricots

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon mint

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons sweet raisin wine

2 tablespoons red wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch


  • Apricots: Apricots existed in antiquity, but the Romans classified them as a kind of plum they called an “armenian plum” or “prunus armeniaca”.
  • Pepper: Similar to apricots, pepper in a form close to the modern form existed in antiquity as well. It was traded from India, and was very expensive. During the time of Pliny the Elder (1st AD)  it could cost as much as 12 denarii per pound, which was around 2 weeks pay for a soldier.
  • Mint: Peppermint grows widely around the Mediterranean. While the species for this recipe is not specified, we gain a clue from Pliny when he states that peppermint is used for dishes at “entertainment” or dinner parties.
  • Fish Sauce: The Romans had a unique fish sauce called garum or liquamen which was usually made from mackerels fermented in big barrels in the sun for months. This is not made anymore, but similar types of fish sauces exist in Southeast Asia. The one I used was called “Red Boat Fish Sauce”, a nous nam sauce from Vietnam made from fermented anchovies.
  • Honey: Honey was widely used in antiquity, and almost every estate had its own beehives. The Romans thought it was a gift from the gods that was similar to the the nectar drunk by the gods on Mount Olympus.
  • Sweet Raisin Wine: In antiquity, this kind of wine was called passum. It still exists today in the form of a wine called straw wine, but it is very expensive at around 20 dollars a bottle in its cheapest form. As such, I made some based off of a recipe from Columella, De Re Rustica, a 1s –century AD book about agriculture. This involved soaking raisins in wine for a few days until they were saturated, mashing them into the wine, and then straining the wine through a cloth. Photo 2 here
  • Red Wine: Wine was widely drunk in antiquity, usually mixed with water. Unlike water, wine was guaranteed to be free of bacteria. Today’s wine, however, is different from ancient wine. The process to make the wine, however, would have been similar.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: This also would have been similar to how it was made in antiquity because modern and ancient vinegar are both made with old wine. Vinegar was widely used in antiquity, both in cooking and in a drink called posca, which was water mixed with vinegar that was popular among soldiers and lower classes.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is probably the closest ingredient we have to the ancient one because it is still made in the same way today. According to the USDA guidelines, extra virgin olive oil must only be the juice from a pressed olive without any modifications from heat, etc. Ancient olive oil would have been made in the same way.
  • Cornstarch: The ancient starch most similar to this was called amylum, although this kind of starch was made from wheat instead of corn. It was a fine starch used to thicken sauces, or could also be used by itself with milk as a kind of pudding.


  1. Take the apricots and wash them and remove the pits. Put the apricots in a bowl of cold water while you make the sauce.
  2. For the sauce: Mix the pepper, mint, fish sauce, honey and sweet raisin wine. Set aside.
  3. Cut the apricots in half and put them in a cast iron pan. Pour the sauce over the apricots. Put them on the stove on low heat and add a little olive oil.
  4. When the sauce starts to bubble, add the cornstarch and stir the sauce.
  5. Heat the apricots until soft. Take off the fire, sprinkle with pepper, and serve.

3 The apricots


Boiled fish with a sauce of herbs and spices, and  peas

with Sophia Denison-Johnston


Apicius’ text

Sauce for Boiled Fish

Apicius X.1.2

Pepper, lovage, cumin, onion, oregano, pine nuts, date, honey, vinegar, liquamen, mustard, a little oil. Serve the sauce hot. If you want, add raisins.


Apicius V.3.4

Cook the peas, stir them and put the pan in  cold water; when it has gone cold, stir again. Chop onion finely with cooked white of egg, season with oil and salt, and add little vinegar. Pass cooked egg yolk through a sieve on to the peas in their serving dish. Poor green oil on  top and serve.

Ingredients (with substitutions for modern times)

  • Peas: Use frozen peas.
  • Fish: Use a white fish.
  • Oil: Extra Virgin Olive oil is best.
  • Salt: Use kosher sea salt.
  • Lovage: When researching this herb, I learned that it is no longer commonly grown. It has a sharp bitter flavor, and is almost always paired with pepper. My substitute was a combination of celery leaves and parsley, which has grown popular as a a modern, milder substitute for lovage. The celery leaves were used to add back in a sharper bitter note that lovage was known for (Faas 2003: 151)
  • Vinegar: Use white wine vinegar if possible. If necessary, substitute for red wine vinegar.
  • Liquamen: Liquamen, or garum, is no longer produced in the Mediterranean today. It is a fermented fish sauce created by combining whole fish with herbs, water, and sometimes wine, and allowing them to ferment for a whole summer in large stone vats. To substitute for this no-longer used ingredient, I used fish sauce from an asian foods market. exception of herbs or flavorings that could have been added in the mediterranean region.

Preparation: While Apicius lists the ingredients and sometimes will refer to method, usually the methods are assumed to be known. Here, I have outlined in greater detail the methods I used when cooking these two dishes.


  1. Boil egg: Place egg in saucepan with water. Bring water to boil. Once boiling, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Place in ice water to cool. Once cooled, peel.
  2. Boil peas: Place peas in 1/4 cup boiling water per 1 cup frozen peas. Bring back to a boil. Once boiling, turn down heat, cover, and let simmer for 6 minutes.
  3. Chop 1/4 onion and egg white, season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, mix.
  4. Press yolk through strainer into pea mixture. Add a touch more olive oil, and serve.

Fish with sauce

  1. Cook fish: Steam the fish and season with salt.
  2. The sauce: Traditionally, the sauces are prepared with a mortar and pestle, however I did not have access to one so I used a food processor. Begin by pulsing the herbs and pepper, followed by adding dates and honey. Finally, add vinegar, and olive oil, tasting as you go along to ensure the right amount is added. Finally, add the liquamen, only 5 drops at a time, so that enhances the flavor that is already there without overpowering it.

4 Fish with peas


The peas were delicious! The peas themselves were sweet, with a more salty and savory flavor that balances out the sweetness of the peas. The dish was very light, yet filling, and satisfying along with the fish.

The fish itself was quite plain, but this is intentional in order to highlight the sauce. The sauce tastes much like a pesto; the strongest flavors coming through were the herbs and nuts, with the sweet dates and honey balancing out the sharper vinegar, bitter herbs, pepper, and fish sauce.



Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger (eds and trs.), Apicius. A critical edition with an introduction and an English translation of the Latin recipe text Apicius. Totnes: Prospect Books, 2006, pp. 203, 213 and 301.

Patrick Faas, Around the Roman Table. New York, NY, and Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, pp. 131, 151, 153



Alain Touwaide has taught several courses at UCLA over the years 2015-2018, on topics such as the History of Medicine, Food and Medicine, and Venoms and Poisons. A Classicist, he has co-founded the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions, which fosters the trans-disciplinary study of  past medical and culinary legacies for possible renewed applications. A Historian of Science at the Smithsonian for 15 years, he is now based at The Huntington in San Marino.