Publisher's Note from Full Circle—A Special Feature Issue
If you're anything like me, you've already eaten your weight in grapes this season, possibly thrown them into your green salad and chicken salads, and maybe even frozen a few for a chilled snack. While these are great options, if you've never cooked with grapes, you're missing half the fun. Bake them with pungent gorgonzola or salty pancetta, make a luscious topping out of them for pancakes and ice cream, there are seemingly endless ways to enjoy this summer treat.
Here are five cooking methods inspire a new chapter in your love affair with local grapes.
Herb Roast Them
Roasting grapes deepens and mellows their natural sweetness, making it a perfect start to a sweet-savory dish. We like to spoon thyme-roasted grapes over ricotta-topped toast.
To roast grapes, preheat oven to 450ºF. Spread grapes onto a sheet pan and drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add thyme leaves, rosemary, or any other hearty, fresh herb you like. Toss gently and then spread into one layer on the pan. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until grapes just begin to burst.
Combine 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 star anise pods (if you have them), 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons orange juice, and 1/4 cup water in a medium bowl or glass jar and stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Add 1 cup seedless grapes and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to three days. Use the grapes on a salad of peppery arugula or radicchio with some creamy goat cheese or feta and crunchy almonds. Or use them to top grilled fish or chicken. There is basically no wrong way to eat a pickled grape.
Bake Something Savory
Sure, you can throw these bad boys into your cake batter, into muffins, or any other sweet baked goods you'd normally put berries in, but grapes also make an amazing addition to savory breads, like this simple focaccia.
Measure two cups of bread flour and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt into your stand mixer with the dough hook (or in your food processor) and mix on low to combine. Add a packet of active dry yeast to one cup of warm water and set aside for five minutes. Then slowly add the yeast mixture into your dough. Continue to knead on a higher speed until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl. On a lightly floured surface, hand knead your dough, making a ball, for a couple minutes. Place dough ball into a bowl coated in olive oil, cover with a towel, and leave to rise for about an hour.
Oil a sheet pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Punch down and spread your dough across the pan, leaving about an inch gap from the sides of the pan. Top with pieces of brie, fresh chopped rosemary, and grapes (press them into the dough slightly). Finish with a sprinkle of cores salt. Cover with a towel and let rise again for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake bread for 10 minutes, rotate pan, bake another 10 minutes. The bread is done when the cheese is melted, and the grapes are beginning to burst. Cut into 15 slices and serve immediately.
Wine-poached grapes almost sounds redundant, but the resulting reduction is such an easy, elegant topping for anything from custard to ice cream to pound cake, we're sure the grape-on-grape action is only going to make you love it more.
Combine one 750-ml bottle of dry or off-dry Riesling, 4 cups of seedless grapes, and 4 tablespoons of sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for around an hour, stirring occasionally, until mixture measures 2 cups.
Make a Sauté
Want an easy weeknight dinner with wow-factor? Try throwing grapes in your skillet along with some high quality spicy or sweet sausage and serving the sauté over polenta along with garlic greens. Not a sausage fan? Try using pancetta.
Heat 1 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add 1 pound of sliced or whole sausages, and cook, turning until browned all over, about 8-10 minutes. Add 1 pound of seedless grapes and cook, stirring occasionally, until grapes begin to soften, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add some balsamic vinegar or a splash of red wine and salt and pepper to taste.