From Greece, for Autumn: Honey-roasted Grapes with Thyme

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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, almost as exciting as when my Ancient Grains cookbook came out. First, the filming of the documentary Rise of the Grains which included visits to some of my favorite Boston chefs. Soon to be followed by the wonderful Let’s Talk About Food festival in Boston where I shared the stage with chef Mary Dumont from Harvest restaurant  who made us all swoon for her whole-grain rye ricotta gnocchi, made with freshly milled local flour from Four Star Farms in western Massachusetts. Oh my! In my spare time, I’m trying to write book 2, the e-mail box is bursting at the seams, and it’s autumn. Which makes me sometimes stop where I stand and inhale the mesmerizing light, the rainbow of colored tree leaves, and the deep blue hue of the sky. I sure hope you are not tired yet of my Instagram stream.

Still, in the midst of all of this excitement, I keep cooking — in fact, sometimes I cook even more when things get crazy around me because cooking centers me, slows me down, calms my nerves. And sitting down to eat is even better, obviously. But, inevitably, I simplify my meals when the world around me is spinning fast.

Today’s honey-roasted grapes are a case in point. This preparation is mouth-watering yet it has easy written all over it, and it is quickly becoming my new favorite way of serving grapes. It is adapted from a recipe from my favorite Greek magazine Gastronomos from last summer. I wish you could all read Greek because this magazine is such an immensely informative and inspiring food publication, full of well-researched stories, exquisite recipes and a dessert section to die for — thanks to the gifted hands and breathtaking skills of pastry chef Stelios Parliaros. He recently opened a shop in Athens called Sweet Alchemy which I have yet to visit. But I’m afraid I would move in. I have linked to some pictures to give you an idea.

I like to serve these grapes for dessert, next to vanilla ice cream and accompanied by a delectable walnut olive oil cookie (I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little for this recipe until it is published in a cookbook). You can also place the warm roasted grapes into the center of a cheese plate for dessert, which is what I did for a recent dinner, next to aromatic Robusto cheese, a chunk of Spanish Manchego, and a log of goat cheese. Gastronomos makes a few more serving suggestions: top off a simple leaf salad with some of the grapes, or serve them next to fatty fish. I would opt for pan-seared blue fish which is local in New England, or salmon. But you could just as easily place a cluster of the grapes next to a simple chicken breast. Enjoy!

For the pictures in this post, I used some of the leftover saffron honey from my recent post.

Honey-Roasted Grapes with Thyme


Serves 4 to 6

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
3/4 to 1 pound seedless grapes, preferably two clusters, rinsed (see fine points)
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
A few twigs of thyme (optional)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Honey-roasted Grapes, copyright Maria Speck

1 Place a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400 °F.

2 Cut off a piece of parchment to fit generously into a 2-quart baking dish so it reaches up and out the sides. Brush the paper with olive oil and place the grape cluster into the pan. Drizzle with the honey, and garnish with the thyme. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper.

3 Roast until the grapes release some of their juices, and a few of them burst and begin to shrivel, 30 to 35 minutes, depending on the type and size.

4 Optional: Remove the pan, and preheat the broiler for a few minutes with a rack placed about 4 inches away from the heat. Broil, watching closely, until a few grapes have blackened spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm, cutting off portions with kitchen shears and spooning a bit of the juices on top.

Fine Points
For a stunning presentation, be sure to select one or two clusters of grapes. And if you can get your hands on fresh aromatic farmers market grapes, even better!
For a cheese plate or to accompany dessert, I like to drizzle the grapes with 3 tablespoons of honey, which will also give you more juice! For a dinner side I would only use 1 tablespoon. But, as always, sweetness is a matter of personal preference and if there are any sweet juices left, don’t toss them out but drizzle them over some yogurt the next day.
You can make the grapes, including step 3, up to 1 day ahead. Allow to cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. Remove the pan from the fridge when you preheat the broiler, and proceed with step 4.

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