Late summer makes me think of the Fiestas de la Vendimia, harvest celebrations at wineries around the world, and specifically reminds me of a visit to the oldest winery in the Americas: Casa Madero. A few years back, I spent a few days at la Casa Grande, at Hacienda San Lorenzo in Parras, Coahuila, in northeastern Mexico.
My gracious hosts explained the whole process of making wine, from planting the vines to the harvest and then the pressing, fermenting, and aging process. The result is the most spectacular and award-winning wines you could ever taste.
Aside from the wines, they also have a full parcel of land where they grow all their fruit and vegetables, so the hacienda is pretty self sufficient. Amongst all this bounty, of course there are table grapes, and I remember picking the most succulent and juicy grapes I have ever tasted straight from the vine.
This recipe is in part inspired by those wonderful grapes. I love a good salad in late summer, and this one combines sweet and savory on the same plate. The grapes impart sweetness, the tart Granny Smith apples give it some tang, and the pepitas a nice crunch. Jamaica infusion stands in for vinegar for a spectacular vinaigrette. Use your favorite combination of greens, decorate with a few of the Jamaica flowers, and you will have a feast of colors on your plate.
Jamaica, or hibiscus, is used for making aguas frescas, but I like to find other uses for common ingredients. Hibiscus is tart by nature, so it easily takes the place of vinegar in the dressing. Just make sure the infusion is nice and strong. Whatever is left can be used for a glass of Jamaica agua fresca. Just add water and sugar to taste and you can enjoy your drink as you prepare your salad.