Fall finally seems to be touching down in New England with the arrival of cooler weather and shorter days. Since I love to cook seasonally, I’ve been adding autumn staples to my grocery cart. Grapes, apples, and pears from the produce aisles and local kielbasa sausages and fresh pork roasts from the meat counter have been frequent choices. I also love to stock up on delicious cider from nearby farms.
An appetizer of roasted grapes and goat cheese on toasted baguette slices is a dish I’ve prepared and served three times during these early days of the new season. Featured on this blog back in autumn of 2015, these openers continue to be a crowd pleaser. To prepare them toasted baguette slices are spread with creamy chèvre and then topped with roasted red grapes. A sprinkle of chopped walnuts adds a nice finishing touch.
Roasting the grapes is a breeze. You coat them with olive oil, pop them in the oven for several minutes until lightly browned and wrinkled, and then toss them with balsamic vinegar and chopped rosemary. Both the grapes and the oven-toasted baguette slices can be prepared several hours in advnce– a make-ahead bonus!
Twice recently we’ve invited friends to sample these starters along with glasses of wine. And I demonstrated how easily they were to assemble on a midday TV show that airs on our NBC affiliate. I hope you’ll try them at your house too. They’re delicious accompanied by cider or wine on a crisp autumn night.
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Roasted Grapes and Goat Cheese on Toasted Baguette Slices
2 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved if large
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil plus 4 tbsp or more for the toasts
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
18 baguette slices cut 3/8 to 1/2-inch thick on the diagonal
5 to 6 oz creamy goat cheese
2 to 2 1/2 tbsp milk
6 tbsp walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (see cooking tip)
1.Arrange a rack at the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.Place the grapes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle them with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat well. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the grapes begin to wrinkle, are slightly browned, and some have collapsed, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove them to a bowl and toss with the balsamic vinegar and the rosemary. (The grapes can be prepared 3 hours ahead; leave at room temperature.) Retain oven temperature.
3.For the toasts, arrange the bread slices on another baking sheet, and brush on both sides with remaining olive oil. Bake them until slices are crisp and golden, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and if not using immediately, leave at room temperature uncovered for up to 1 hour.
4.To assemble, whisk the goat cheese with just enough milk to give it a lighter consistency (like sour cream). Then spread each toast generously with some of the goat cheese. (You may have some left over; save extra for another use.) Top each toast with 3 or more grapes and a sprinkle of walnuts. (Save any leftover grapes for tossing into a salad or to garnish roast chicken.)
Makes 18 toasts to serve 6 to 8
Cooking tip: To toast walnuts, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven until lightly browned and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and cool.