Saturday, September 26, 2015

Rainy Girls Night In (Roasted Grapes with Rosemary, Thyme & Garlic)

One of my fondest memories from my friendship with my bestie Sheryl was an afternoon that we spent with our friend Julie at the Bower’s Museum in Santa Ana.  

It was supposed to be a cultural affair. We’d have a bite of lunch under the olive trees at the al fresco restaurant at the Bowers, then tour the museum --  which had some sort of mummy exhibit that was all the rage.  Maybe we’d hit the museum store afterward.  Who knows?
Done in 15 minutes and crazy good.
Pretty, too, on my grandmother's peacock plate.

Well.  Let’s just say we never made it to the museum. 

Nope.  Sheryl ordered a “wunnnndaful” Spanish Pinot Grigio, and as I recall we all spotted the roasted grapes and manchego cheese appetizer, and agreed that we had to have it.  A bottle or two later, we said to heck with the mummies, did some tipsy shopping in the museum store and called it an afternoon.

That day and that dish was my inspiration when my friend Norma stopped by this evening with a bottle of a yummy white.  Our men are in California for golf and a car race (playing and watching the former, and just watching the latter - thank you, Lord).  It’s been raining here all day – perfect chance to try my hand at roasting some grapes.

Oh yes.  They were as good as I remembered.  And this would be a perfect appetizer if you are having folks over.  I know it was the perfect light dinner for the two of us to catch up.

Here’s how you do it.

Roasted Grapes with Rosemary, Thyme & Garlic
Heat the oven to 375 degrees – I used my convection roast setting, but it’s not necessary

  • 1  big bunch of grapes, removed from the stems, washed and dried. We used a mixture of seedless red and green.  We preferred the red, but the green were awesome, too. 
  • 1 stem fresh rosemary
  • 1or two large stem fresh thyme
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A couple glugs of olive oil - seriously, I don't know how much.  Just coat the grapes and be done with it. 
  • Big pinch of kosher salt
  • Bunch of grinds of pepper – I used a pepper mix I got in Barcelona last winter.  Red, black, green and even some allspice thrown in.  But plain black pepper would be just fine.

  • Cheese to serve with the grapes. I'd go with Manchego or other firm, mild cheese.  I didn’t have manchego, so I used a firm queso fresco (also sometimes called queso blanco).  A nice hard goat cheese – like Drunken Goat (you'll find it at Whole Foods and many cheese stores)– would be great too.
  • I'm sure crusty bread would be nice.  We started to have crackers and then decided that the grapes and cheese were perfect on their own.

  • Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from their stems, and peel the garlic.
  • Mince the rosemary, thyme and garlic to a very very fine dice. 
  • Toss all of the ingredients in a big bowl.
  • Scatter the grapes on a baking sheet, so they are in an even row.
  • Put in the oven. 
  • Set the timer for 15 minutes.
Open a bottle of nice, crisp white wine. Go ahead, have a sip.  Or two.
  •  After 15 minutes, check the grapes.  
  • They should be just about to pop, and some of them will shrink a tad.
  • Remove from the oven.  Let them cool a bit and then enjoy with cheese or as they are.