Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Roasting Grapes!

This past weekend was a nice break from the scorching Texas heat we have had all summer. An old friend was in town and we decided to check out the farmers market and get something to fix for dinner, have a cocktail and enjoy the outdoors for the first time in a few months.

As we strolled along the walkway we couldn’t decide on what produce to pick up and then I spotted a tray of beautiful red and purple grapes. We started to pick off a piece to eat but the farmers were not too happy with that so they offered us a sample from their batch. These were so sweet and plump, I knew I had to do something with these. So we bought a few clusters and headed home.

At first we thought we would just use in a salad and make a nice dressing, but then I thought, lets, roast these suckers with some herbs and have it with some nice Gorgonzola cheese and grilled baguettes. That sounded perfect since we knew we wouldn’t eat a full meal until late for all the drinking and talking.

Roasting grapes bring out their natural sweetness and intensifies the flavors. Fresh thyme was the perfect herb to toss with them, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. I just threw them on a baking sheet and roasted on 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. I didn’t want them to break down too much because I can’t stand raisins, just a little bit of a wrinkle and softness to the touch.

I mixed a little heavy cream with Gorgonzola cheese to make it spread a little easier, sliced some French baguette bread and brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled on each side. Then the moment of love…We couldn’t get enough of these. They were so good! Sweet – Savory – Salty – Tangy…OMG these were a flavor explosion in our mouths.

We couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of this before. We were thinking up different ways to use these roasted grapes, sliced and sautéed with a port sauce, served with grilled or roasted poultry, in our holiday stuffing, mixed with wild rice and toasted almonds, a hearty winter salad with walnut oil, aged Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts!

While we were roasting, drinking and enjoying our new found treat I told a funny story of my youth. I have always loved grapes and I remember when I would walk to school, I knew of several places along the way that had grapevines growing on the sides of houses, on the fence lines. I remember in the spring when the vines would just start to bloom and the white flowers would sprout. I would watch the process of blooming and couldn’t wait for the grapes to start to form. Every day when walking to school, I would check those grapevines waiting for the grapes to get larger and larger. One time I decided to go ahead and pop a green unripe grape in my mouth and boy was I excited. These were so good, sour and fun for a kid to eat! I would snack on those green grapes until my stomach would ache. Then when the grapes started to turn purple and soften they would be so sweet and unlike anything we ever brought home from the store. Those were some fond memories and something I hadn’t thought of until we started the process of roasting these grapes.

Grapes have been used for medicinal and nutritional purposed for thousands of years. The Egyptians ate grates 6000 years ago and several ancient Greek philosophers praised the healing power of grapes, usually in the form of wine. (Well of course!) However European healers would make ointment from the sap of the grapevines to treat skin and eye disorders. Grape leaves were used to stop bleeding, pain and inflammation brought on by hemorrhoids. Unripe grapes were used to treat sore throats. Round, sweet grapes were used to treat health problems such as smallpox, kidney and liver diseases.

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