Categories
Appetizer Snack

Wow guests with an appetizer that’s a ‘tini’ bit fancy

Roasted Grapes with Blue Cheese Spread
It may seem like a strange combination, but a creamy blue cheese spread, combined with warm, roasted grapes on crunchy crostini is a fantastic, fancy snack or appetizer.

Joey and I aren’t normally Valentine’s Day people. Generally, romance on Feb. 14 is us hanging out at home and playing a board game or watching TV.

But when some good friends of ours asked us to go on a double date with them this year, we were ready to celebrate.

We ended up at the Coneburg Grill and Pub in Peabody for their Valentine’s dinner, which consisted of several courses and some specialty cocktails, too.

We had a fabulous time, and as has always been my experience at the Coneburg, we had a fantastic meal, even though it was far, far more upscale than the décor of the restaurant would’ve otherwise dictated.

Since we went, I haven’t been able to get the appetizer we were served out of my head. It was one of those dishes that looked super weird at first, but the flavor combinations were perfect, and I finally decided I just had to try it.

So I started Googling and found a recipe that seemed to fit the bill from the blog “Babaganosh.” You can find the original post at https://www.babaganosh.org/blue-cheese-spread-roasted-grapes/. I added to the instructions for making your own crostini and added a bit more thyme in my version.

Roasted Grapes with Blue Cheese Spread
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Roasted Grapes and Blue Cheese Spread

It may seem like a strange combination, but a creamy blue cheese spread, combined with warm, roasted grapes on crunchy crostini is a fantastic, fancy snack or appetizer.
Course Appetizer, Snack
Keyword baguette, blue cheese, crostini, fresh thyme, olive oil, red grapes, sour cream

Ingredients

Crostini Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • olive oil for brushing
  • fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste

Grapes Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless red grapes rinsed and drained
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • cooking spray

Spread Ingredients

  • 4 ounces blue cheese crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 pinch nutmeg

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Slice the baguette into about one-quarter inch slices. Brush each slice with a light coating of olive oil and place them in a single layer on a large baking sheet (line it with parchment or foil for easy cleanup). Sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper, and bake for about 10 minutes, checking after 5, until the slices are at your desired crispiness.
  • For the grapes, spread the grapes out in a baking dish (an eight-by-eight-inch or a nine-by-13 would each work fine). Spray the grapes with cooking spray, and place the sprigs of thyme around the pan.
  • Roast the grapes at 375 for 15 to 25 minutes or until they are starting to burst. Stir them at around the 10-minute mark.
  • (You can roast your grapes and brown your crostini at the same time.)
  • Transfer the grapes to a serving dish, and serve warm.
  • For the spread, combine the blue cheese, sour cream, leaves of the thyme sprigs and nutmeg into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small serving dish and top with a few more thyme leaves for decoration.
  • To eat this dish, spread some of the blue cheese mixture on a crostini and then top with a few warm grapes.
  • Refrigerate any leftover spread or grapes, and store crostini in an airtight container.

So, yeah, I served roasted grapes, which sounds super weird, but it’s so, so good. Adding that fruitiness to blue cheese is a great combination, and who doesn’t like eating crispy crostini?

I wouldn’t say my version is better than the pros at the restaurant, but since I’ll probably have to wait another 11 months to have theirs again, this is a darn good substitute.

I never would have guessed you could learn about fine dining in a humble town like Peabody, but I am (and my tastebuds are) so glad I did.

This piece first appeared in print on March 10, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish Side Dish

Want to be a French chef? You can d’ouille’ it!

Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish with lots of color, deep flavors and makes for a hearty meal or side dish.

In an online article, author Ossiana Tepfenhart explains that there are lots of foods we now consider “fancy” that were once “poor man’s food.”

Dishes that fit the bill include lobster, oysters and even caviar. 

Another dish that she could have included? Ratatouille. 

The summer stew, native to Nice, France, was once considered a humble dish for humble folks, but now (probably thanks, in part, to the animated movie with the same name), it’s a meal that sounds luxurious and expensive.

I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely not expensive (or it shouldn’t be), and it’s actually deceptively easy to make, as long as you’re ready to do a lot of vegetable chopping.

It’s also a great dinner if you have a vegetarian eating at your table and can also suit vegans, as long as you substitute vegan parmesan into the recipe.

And I know this is technically a summer dish, but I can tell you there were still enough veggies hanging around at my local grocery store to accomplish this one, and as a hearty, warm meal, it suits these early fall days perfectly.

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Bianca Zapatka. You can find it on her blog at https://biancazapatka.com/en/best-ratatouille-recipe/. I mostly used a video by the blog “One Dollar Kitchen” you can find on Pinterest. I added extra garlic in my version and replaced fresh herbs with dried.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish with lots of color, deep flavors and makes for a hearty meal or side dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword basil, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, parmesan, rosemary, thyme, vegan, vegetarian, yellow onion, yellow squash

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 yellow pepper diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 small eggplant sliced
  • 2 small yellow squash sliced
  • 2 small zucchini sliced
  • 6 roma tomatoes sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated parmesan for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute until they’re soft. Add the garlic and saute until it’s fragrant.
  • Add in the crushed tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper, and cook for a couple minutes.
  • Arrange the eggplant, squash, zucchini and tomatoes in a spiral in the skillet, starting around the outside edge and working your way in. (Stand the slices up on their ends, rather than laying them flat, and arrange them tightly.)
  • Mix the remaining olive oil with the rosemary and thyme in a small bowl, and spoon or brush the mixture as evenly as possible over the top of the vegetables. Top with more salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
  • Serve alone, with pasta or as a side dish and sprinkle servings with grated parmesan.

This has great depth of flavor, and we had an absolute ton of leftovers after making this for just two of us, so I would caution you to plan accordingly.

And after you make ratatouille at home, you can officially say you’ve practiced your French cooking. You don’t have to tell anyone its origins. After all, considering the prices nowadays of lobster, oysters or caviar, I think it’s safe to say things can change.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 14, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

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