When grapes are roasted, they wilt, pushing out their rich liquid, producing a liquid reminiscent of wine, without its alcohol or intensity. The flavor of the grapes themselves also intensifies. Winey without being wine, if you will. There is a hint of raisins the longer they are roasted.
There are two ways I roast them. The first I tasted at a party where Celia Cerasoli catered. She served red grapes with pasta Gorgonzola, and the winey, rich flavor of the roasted red grapes was a perfect contrast. Later, I discovered the same thing was true with green grapes, which were a perfect foil for flounder and other delicate fish.
For Celia's grapes, remove seedless grapes (red and/or green) from the vine and toss with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat.
Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes until they soften. Serve hot, warm, or at or temperature. Serve with pasta, game or any contrasting main course.
The second way is dramatic as a nibble for those times when you serve cheese and crackers.
Leave the bunch of grapes still on the vine. Lightly sprinkle all the layers of the bunch with olive oil, move to a small roasting pan, and roast at 400 or 450 degrees for about 15 minutes. Each layer is slightly different, and adds to the dimensions of the dish. Move to a cheese board or marble slab, leaving the bunch together. Sprinkle with feta or other goat cheese. Serve with crackers and a favorite cheese. Spruce up the tray with pine nuts, olives, etc.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.