An Easy Way to Elevate Your Grapes

Grapes are half snack, half compulsion. Bunched as if just snipped from the vine, skins taut and shining, they are always a crowd, a party unto themselves. There is power in numbers, because if you eat just one, the pleasure is too brief: A burst on the tongue, a spike of sugar in the blood and it’s over. It’s more gush than chew, closer to sipping than eating. Grapes are nothing in isolation. You pop them by the handful, one after another, until you lose count.

In 2023, table grapes were the third-most-purchased fruit in the United States, surpassed in popularity by only bananas and apples, according to a survey by the produce-industry newspaper The Packer. Is this in part because they ask so little of us? Who bothers to peel a grape? Plop a cluster on a plate and serve.

Recipe: Ricotta Toast With Roasted Grapes

But there are rewards for treating grapes as more — as an ingredient, something with multiple shades of flavor and the capacity to transform. Roast them in the oven until the skins pucker and split and the flesh grows slouchy, verging on collapse. What was once a high, reedy pitch of sweetness takes on body and depth. Taste and texture are almost one: jammy and louche, with a tinge of dark wine.

Raquel Villanueva Dang, the chef and an owner of Baby’s Kusina and Market in Philadelphia, roasts grapes with fresh thyme and mushroom seasoning (an umami-rich blend of pulverized dried mushrooms and salt), for an anchoring earthiness, and pairs them with hunks of sourdough and ricotta, whipped until it’s smooth and voluptuous. Ricotta toast is classic. The surprise here lies in the drizzle of balsamic vinegar, cooked down with honey and patis — Tagalog for fish sauce.

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