Recipe: High heat gives grapes a delicious depth of flavor
When table grapes show up in the stores and at the markets, I usually pass them up. They're nice for an occasional snack, but if I want to indulge in summer fruit, plums and peaches and nectarines are still in season, and all those are so versatile. (Torte! Cobbler! Salsa!)
Grapes by comparison seemed so limited: Good in fruit salad, and ... what else?
But I stand corrected. In the middle of this last heat wave, I turned my oven up high and discovered a wonderful thing: Grapes are amazing when they're roasted. Even better, they work in savory dishes as well as sweet ones.
I couldn't decide which way to go in this recipe test, so I divided up a 2-pound-plus bag of red seedless grapes and tried both sweet and savory. The recipes below each are written for the full amount, however. Each serves 4.
Do use fresh herbs if you can; I hope you have some growing in your garden.
Grapes roasted with pears and rosemary
Inspired by several sources
2 to 3 pounds seedless grapes, any color
2 firm, almost ripe pears (Bartlett preferred)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Position two oven racks in the middle of the oven, so there is the same amount of space from the top to the upper rack as from the bottom to the lower rack. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cover two sheet pans with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Remove the grapes from the stems and place in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil over the grapes, and then add the rosemary, plus salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir so grapes are equally coated.
Core and slice the pears, and scatter the slices over the two prepared pans. Divide the grapes between the two pans, scraping out onto the pans any oil and herbs left behind.
Roast the grapes and pears 30 minutes, switching the pans between the upper and lower racks after 15 minutes.
Remove the pans and let the fruit cool for only about 5 minutes. Scrape the fruit and all the juices into a bowl.
From here you can use it to:
-- Top bowls of pasta (or stir it in)
-- Use it as a condiment with cooked chicken or pork
-- Top toasted baguette slices for crostini
-- Spoon it over soft cheese for an appetizer with crackers
Now, here's a sweeter way to roast grapes.
Grapes roasted with thyme and wine
Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 to 3 pounds seedless grapes, removed from the stem (red or black grapes preferred)
4 tablespoons sweet dessert wine such as port, Madeira or muscat
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme's a good choice if you have it)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and stir well.
Pour the mixture into a high-sided 9-by-13- inch ceramic baking dish (roughly 2 1/2-quart size).
Bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring a few times, until the grapes have caramelized and the liquid has become syrupy.
Allow grapes to cool a bit before using, or chill them thoroughly, depending on what you plan to use them for.
-- Top good vanilla ice cream or gelato
-- Spoon over slices of pound cake or cheesecake
-- Stir into yogurt for a brunch dish
-- Serve by themselves as a sophisticated poached fruit dessert; a shortbread cookie or slice of good cheese on the side would be a nice touch.
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For week of Dec. 10:
Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!
* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.
* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.
* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.
* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.
* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.
* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.
* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.
* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.
* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.
* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.
* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.
* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.
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