My parents are obsessed with tennis, especially my Mom. They went so far as installing a tennis court in our back yard so they could play a match whenever they felt like it. My sister and I would watch them play and also wander around quite mischievously. We would play pioneers and Indians and one of us would most likely be the medicine man. Luckily for us, living in the countryside allowed for an abundance of wild berries that we would smear across our faces and pretend we were curing whatever ailment the “medicine man” said we were struck with. I think a lot of this “make-believe” had to do with the computer game, “The Oregon Trail.” I’m sure many of you remember playing this at school-forging the wagon across the river and shooting buffalos and turkey for food.
Anyway, my sister and I would be engaged in this world of pretend and all the while my parents would be playing tennis. I mention these memories because surrounding our tennis court were huge, sprawling vines of concord grapes. We would use these as medicines in our games and eat them as a snack when we were hungry. Multi-tasking children, I guess. I remember, in the beginning of the summer, parrot green marbles would begin to emerge amongst the vines. Of course, being inquisitive creatures we would taste them and pucker our lips because of the intense sour flavor of the grapes. We waited all summer until Autumn arrived and for the grapes to plump up and become almost blackish purple and sweet. We couldn’t get enough of them. For two little girls, plucking grapes of the vine was the ultimate bliss. The thing about the concord grapes we adored was that we could peel off the skin quite easily in our mouths spit it out and eat the gooey center, it reminded us of gummy bears-much healthier though.
Every time, I see Concord grapes in farmers’ markets I swoop them up and just eat them plain, like I did as a child. This time though, I wanted to prepare something with them. Cheese and grapes are a long-standing favorite of mine and if you know me you know I am an absolute sucker for appetizers and canapes. If I ever have the pleasure of inviting you over, most likely I will serve you a platter of cheese, fruit, nuts, and honey as a starter. I took this “habit” of mine and adapted it to the Coronation grape (an Ontario version of the Concord grape that is seedless). I also used St. Agur blue cheese from France and made a sweet onion jam and walnuts all perched a top toasted sourdough baguette slices. My husband wasn’t home when I made this and I had to stop myself from finishing the entire platter and save some for him. Yes, these toasts were that good.
Coronation Grape Toasts with Onion Jam, Blue Cheese, and Walnuts
Serves 4, as an appetizer
4-6 ounces blue cheese, I used St. Agur, feel free to use Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag, or any favorite of yours
1 toasted sourdough baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices (I just throw the baguette into the oven during the last five minutes of the grapes cooking.)
1/2 cup whole walnuts, toasted (you can break them up to put on the toasts, if you wish)
for the grapes:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (good quality)
1 pound of Coronation grapes or Concord (seeded), keep the grapes in clusters-you should have about 3 clusters
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped finely
a sprinkling of Maldon salt
fresh black pepper
for the onion jam:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raw honey
salt and pepper to taste
First, roast the grapes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the grapes on a baking sheet, sprinkle over the rosemary, Maldon salt, black pepper, and drizzle over the olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the grapes just begin to ooze out their juices.
To make the onion jam, heat a sauté pan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the olive oil begins to glisten add in the butter and onions. Toss in some salt and pepper and lower the heat to medium-low. Once the onion start to wilt down add in the red wine vinegar and honey, turn down the heat to low. Allow the onions the caramelize for 30 minutes. Set aside.
To assemble the toasts, take the sourdough slices and top with a mound of onion jam, a crumbling of blue cheese, a few walnuts and a drizzle on honey.
I love appetizer platters, so I set up everything as a kind of do it yourself station. But, if you prefer you can pre-assemble the toasts, as you wish.