In the fall, you’ll find pounds and pounds and pounds of grapes in my fridge. Until last October, the idea of roasting them would have been preposterous to me, not to mention kind of disgusting. Why would someone do such a thing? What could possibly beat the taste of a fresh Concord or Muscat grape fresh off the vine?
Of course, Concords and Muscats aren’t just any old grape, and if I ever come into a significant amount of money, I’ll probably buy a vineyard where I will plant acres and acres and acres of heirloom varieties that will be grown exclusively to be eaten. And I’ll eat them all, don’t think I won’t. (Question: would it still be considered a vineyard if I wasn’t planning on producing wine?) Regular supermarket grapes are just okay in comparison, but I still enjoy eating them plain when they’re extra-firm and tightly clustered.
After trying chicken roasted with grapes a few months ago, however, I’ve finally come around to the roasting camp. I really liked the way the heat turned the grapes into hot bursts of sweetness.
(I realize I may have made a huge deal over a seemingly insignificant issue, but given how ardently I’d felt about grapes and the only correct way of eating them this was a revelation for me.)
(An aside: a friend of mine called me a grape snob a few years back, and the barb continues to sting. Is it really snooty to be obsessed with heirloom grape varieties? I don’t think so.)
I recently, and finally, got around to buying Polpo, A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts). My God is it beautiful. From the cover to the binding to the gorgeous, ethereal photos, its looks are enough reason to buy the book. Hint: flip through it if you’re in need of inspiration. It’s eye fuel, if you will.
But beyond its aesthetically pleasing appearance, it is filled with the most tenderly-chosen recipes. Or so I believe. While they’re nothing revolutionary, each has been jotted down with just the barest of guidelines, suggesting an intuitive understanding—and deep love—of the food. My mom passes tried-and-true recipes on to me that are just as vague, just as instinctive.
But I’m not here to write a cookbook review. I just wanted to share with you the results of my first stab at a recipe, a bruschette (ever since Emiko’s post, I’ve never been able to pronounce ‘bruschette’ the same way again), made with seedless red grapes, goat cheese, walnuts, honey, and thyme.
It isn’t something that can quickly be thrown together, as it does require briefly roasting the grapes and the walnuts in the oven (in two separate pans, what’s more), but the final product is a feast of incongruous elements: hot, juicy grapes ready to burst and bordering on raisin, the oddness of goat cheese mellowed out by floral honey, roasted walnut that’s almost kind of melted yet pleasingly chewy, thyme with all its connotations of warm lovely peasant food, and the underlying scent and taste of garlic, which tips it over the edge, if you ask me. Altogether, wonderful. Make it! For lunch, as an afternoon snack, as an elegant appetizer at a posh dinner party. It will wow you as it will wow guests.
I love how food blogging makes me that much more open to trying new things. Roasted grapes, what an idea.
Let’s get things straight here: I am no food stylist. If I were, I would know that trying to cut into a panful of brownies immediately after taking them out of the oven would result in extremely jagged edges, serrated knife and all.
But good-looking brownies be damned. Yesterday was my birthday and I didn’t think I should have to wait. The temptation was just too great: its crackly top gleamed diffusely, its gorgeous smell tickled my nose, and most importantly, there was the knowledge that a truly great brownie—possibly the brownie—was waiting. After all, no Genius Recipe has failed met yet. This one was no exception.
You all probably know Alice Medrich better than I do. I’ve only recently been officially introduced to her and her incredible repertoire of desserts, but long before I became aware of the obsessions of the food world, her kamut pound cake had already collapsed synapses in my brain—in a good way, haha—something that no baked good has done in quite the same way since. I was a fan way before I even knew it.
I think these are probably the best brownies I’ve ever had. Their crackly top is exemplary, and, though I know we all judge our brownies by different metrics so that there is no universally-accepted Best Brownie, these are, conclusively, it. This statement comes from the mouth of someone who has not done all that much perfect-brownie-chasing in her life but recognizes instant chemistry when it happens. It’s like falling in love all over again. I mean, it is falling in love all over again, only with a brownie.
I don’t even know why I felt like brownies yesterday. My birthweekend (a phenomenon which inevitably happens when your birthday falls on a Monday) had already been full of beyond-normal levels of hedonism. I can only offer this, something my mom told me yesterday: it had been snowing when I was born. Do you think this explains my predilection for the gooey, rich, and chocolate-y? Whatever the case, they are definitely the perfect way of easing myself into my XXth (I’m keeping the figure undisclosed) year.
Cheers, y’all! And go make some brownies!
The search for the perfect wedding cake continues. Today I introduce to you, Aunt Sassy, the pluckiest pistachio cake you’ll ever meet, flavored with real pistachios (as opposed to pistachio extract, which a recipe my sister found called for) that impart the barest of green to four dreamy layers of cake. She’s wearing her Sunday’s finest, a lush buttercream laced with glossy honey (that I sort of butchered because I lack cake decorating skills. Sorry Aunt Sassy.)
In truth, the cake is not as forwardly pistachio-tasting as you might think. What it really reminds me of is a nut bread, dense yet moist, and textured in that whole-grainy way. This may, in part, be due to the fact that I hand-ground, using a mortar and pestle, the pistachios, an imprecise process that yielded not the fine grain that the recipe called for, but something a little coarser, more similar to sand. But no matter. I liked it, a lot. Chris did too, and I gave him all the cake tops to take to work so I wouldn’t end up snacking on them throughout the day.
But the true gem was the honey buttercream. It was superb, absolutely superb! It was wistfully velvety with the slight aftertaste of honey (meaning, not too sweet) and a lightness kind of sort of like whipped cream. I found ample excuses to conduct multiple taste tests: while scraping down the bowl, while filling the cake, while frosting the crumb layer (which I liberally applied for that very purpose), while cleaning out the bowl that I used to hold the crumb-filled frosting. And all the while, my brain kept saying ‘no, no, no, put down the spatula, Linda!’ because, being the sensible organ that it is, you can’t get past it the fact that the frosting is made almost completely of butter(!).
Other thoughts. It reminded me of a Swiss meringue buttercream, but did not turn stale-buttery or yellow over time. This is valuable information. Also, it’s egg-less. Actually, this is where I wish I could talk food history, because the method of making this frosting seems quite unusual. At its base, it’s a mixture of sugar, milk/cream, and flour that’s cooked over a low heat until it thickens. Is flour a common frosting ingredient? What is its history? Is it an old-fashioned Southern technique? That would excite me greatly.
Finally, regarding the cake as a whole, I’m thinking a three-layer cake, two of pistachio, one of chocolate, with this very buttercream frosting might be just the ticket.