You know the season is shifting when sweet, plump red, green and black grapes appear on the vine. They signal harvest time and colder weather. Although grapes are generally eaten raw, they are also excellent roasted and tossed into salads, simmered up into condiments, salsa, used to top pizza, flatbread and focaccia, or tarts and pies.
Grapes are primarily grown in California and Washington state. There are many types — from purple-hued Concord grapes to red and green table grapes and many varieties of wine grapes. They also grow wild all over the country, dripping from the ends of long vines that grow from bushes to trees.
One of the great treats of late summer/early fall is to pick wild grapes and make a simple jelly to serve with cheese platters or use for an elevated pairing of the classic PB and J.
When shopping for grapes look for plump, firm fruit with unbroken skin. Grapes should be firmly attached to the stems and the color — whether green, red or purple — should be bright. Grapes are best stored in the fruit or vegetable drawer of your refrigerator and will generally keep for up to a week.
"We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry." – E.B. White
Master Recipe For Roast Grapes
This is the simplest recipe of all but one that really intensifies the flavor of grapes and makes for a dramatic presentation. You can keep the grapes on the vine if you're serving them with a cheese platter or alongside a charcuterie plate.
Use in salads, serve with chicken or grilled pork or lamb chops, with cheese plates and more. Toast thin slices of baguette or crusty bread, spread with softened blue cheese and top with a few roasted grapes.
1 pound green and red and /or black grapes, on the vine or stemmed and off the vine
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the grapes in a small ovenproof skillet or shallow baking tray and drizzle with the oil. Roast on the middle shelf for about 15 minutes, or until the grapes seem to be almost bursting. Remove and cool. Do NOT discard the juices in the bottom of the skillet; set aside.
Roast Grape Salad With Celery, Almonds And Feta Cheese
An ideal salad to welcome a shifting season: Red and green grapes are roasted until almost bursting and sprinkled on a bed of buttery lettuce, then scattered with feta cheese, almonds and celery. The vinaigrette is simply made from the grape juices and olive oil you used to roast the grapes mixed with wine vinegar. Serve with warm crusty bread.
It's very dramatic to present this salad with the grapes still on the stalk/vine in a cluster. Add a poached egg or roasted mushrooms for a more substantial salad.
Serves 2 to 4.
½ pound roasted red and or green grapes on or off the stem (see master recipe above)
1 small head of tender lettuce, like Bibb or butter lettuce
2 stalks celery, cut into ½-inch size pieces
½ cup crumbled or small squares of feta cheese
⅓ cup almond slivers, or Marcona almonds or walnuts, pine nuts, or pistachios
1 tablespoon white or red wine or balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
On a large salad plate arrange the lettuce. Place the still warm or cooled grapes in the center. (You can leave them on the vine or separate them and scatter across the greens). Sprinkle on the celery, feta and nuts. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper to the skillet you roasted the grapes in and mix. Pour over salad and serve.
Grape, Bacon And Cheese Flatbread
This is not pizza and it's not quite a focaccia. It's a quick, easy flatbread dough. The dough is formed and then allowed to sit and rise for 1 ½ hours. You can make the topping while the dough rises, roll it out, top it and then bake it for 15 minutes. You can also easily substitute your favorite pre-made pizza dough to cut down on time.
If you want to make a vegetarian flatbread, omit the bacon and add 1 cup caramelized onions; cook 1 large thinly sliced onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil on low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes.
The inspiration for this flatbread came from my good friend and cookbook author, Katherine Alford.
Serves 4 to 6.
For the crust (or 1 pound prepared pizza dough):
2 ½ cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
4 pieces bacon (or 2 medium or 1 large onion and 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil for a vegetarian version)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup green seedless grapes, stemmed and cut in half
½ cup red seedless grapes, stemmed and cut in half
1 cup goat cheese or blue cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Make the crust: Whisk the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the water and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, draw the dry ingredients into the wet ones to make a shaggy dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour-dusted work surface and knead the dough, adding just enough flour to your hands to prevent sticking. If the dough feels wet, use a bench scraper to fold and turn the dough until smooth, about 4 minutes. Form the dough into a ball. Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with reusable or plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm spot and let it double in size, about 1 ½ hours. Once the dough has doubled, punch the dough down and gently reform into a ball. (The dough can be wrapped and refrigerated overnight if you like.)
At least 20 minutes before you're ready to bake the flatbread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Add a pizza stone if you have one or an inverted cookie sheet to the middle shelf of the oven.
Make the filling: In a large skillet, cook the bacon until almost crisp; you don't want to overcook it and let it get too brown. Remove and drain on paper towels; crumble into ½ inch size pieces and set aside. If making a vegetarian version, thinly slice 2 medium or 1 large onion. Cook in 1½ tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized and softened. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.
Lay a large piece of parchment paper onto a work surface and lightly flour the paper. Stretch out the dough (homemade or premade pizza dough) by hand or a rolling pin into a 12 x 10 inch rectangle or a 12 inch circle. Slip a baking sheet or pizza peel under the parchment paper. Sprinkle 1/2 of the Parmesan on the dough. Scatter the green and red grapes all over the flatbread, gently pressing them into the dough. Sprinkle the goat or blue cheese on top and finally sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle on some pepper and drizzle with half the oil.
Place the flatbread and the parchment paper it sits on into the oven and slide it onto the preheated pizza stone or inverted cookie sheet (it bakes on the paper). Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Sprinkle the remaining half of the oil and the parsley and cut into wedges. Serve warm.
Concord Grape Jelly
Tart and only slightly sweet, this simple jelly will make the best PB and J sandwich of your life. It can also be served as a condiment with cheese plates, roasted chicken or meat, or alongside pate and pickles.
You can make this jelly using any type of grape, but Concord grapes tend to produce the most flavorful jelly with a stunning deep purple color. You could also use wine grapes. If you have a candy thermometer it will be useful to tell when the jelly is properly jelled. If not, you can test it with a kitchen spoon. Also, the jelly may need liquid pectin which helps it thicken. Pectin is sold in grocery stores in the canning section or is often found in hardware stores in the canning section.
The jelly will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a month. It can also be sterilized in canning jars for 5 minutes and will keep for a year. Click here for more tips on canning and canning safety.
Makes about 2 to 2½ cups.
2 pounds (about 5 cups) wild grapes, Concord grapes or wine grapes, removed from the stems
¾ cup cold water
About 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
About 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons liquid pectin, optional
Rinse the grapes and make sure there are no stems or leaves attached. Place the grapes and water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil use a potato masher to mash the grapes. Partially cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Place a piece of cheesecloth into a fine strainer and pour the grapes and any liquid from the pot through the cheesecloth. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to gently press on the grapes and extract as much juice as possible. You should end up with about 2 to 2 ½ cups of juice, depending on the variety of grape. Discard the grapes and pulp.
Return the grape juice to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1 cup of the sugar to the grape juice and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to moderate and add the lemon juice. Taste for sweetness. I don't like overly sweet jelly but you can add the extra half cup of sugar if you like a sweeter jelly. Boil, stirring, frequently, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture reaches around 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. If the jelly doesn't thicken naturally, stir in the pectin and cook for another 6 minutes until thickened.
Skim off any foam that rises as the jelly cooks. If you don't have a candy thermometer the jelly should be thick enough to just coat a kitchen spoon. Place in a half-pint or pint-size canning jar and refrigerate for about a month. If you want to can the jelly you'll need to sterilize the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 8 minutes. For more information about canning and canning safety, click here.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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