Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 2nd



In case you hadn't guessed, I am completely smitten with Italy. I'm not alone - it's a common affliction among Americans. Anyway, when I come across a food blog written in English by someone living in Italy, I stop and take notice. And when that food blog has gorgeous photos of the countryside and the food, I'm a happy camper. And when that food blog has delicious recipes, I am positively gleeful.

The blog of which I speak, Lucullian delights - an Italian experience, belongs to Ilva, a Swedish woman who lives in northern Tuscany with her Italian husband, three children, and Japanese dog. She started her English blog just a couple of months ago, but she also has a parallel Swedish blog that she started in June - Aglio e olio - en utflykt i det italienska köket.

I've bookmarked a number of Ilva's very tempting recipes, but this week finally got around to trying one of them - Schiacciata con l'uva. Schiacciata is the Tuscan version of focaccia, but this particular schiacciata is more of a dessert. Ilva didn't know what the grapes she uses for the schiacciata are called in English, but based on her description (small, blue, and very sweet), a commenter suggested they might be Concord grapes.

I don't see Concord grapes very often, but this past week I found them at both my regular grocery store and Trader Joe's. It was a sign - time to try Schiacciata con l'uva! The grapes were $5 a box, so I decided I would make do with a single box (about a pound), rather than the kilogram (2.2 pounds) called for by the recipe. Since I decided to seed them, I was glad to have the smaller amount of grapes. I also substituted a packet of dry yeast for the 25g of fresh yeast.

I had not cooked with Concord grapes before and I don't think I had ever tasted a Concord grape before. When I tasted one, I was a little worried about cooking with them. Though sweet with a pleasant taste, they have heavy skins, 1 - 4 big seeds in each, and jellyfish-like insides - quite different from the green and red seedless grapes I'm accustomed to eating. But after baking, they were transformed. The unpleasant texture was gone and they became deep purple and even sweeter - like the grape jelly we all grew up with.

The schiacciata was very good. Of course, I didn't heed Ilva's warning and tried some soon after it came out of the oven. Not only did I burn the roof of my mouth, I found it really does taste better once it has cooled down - the grape flavor is much more pronounced. Now let me give you another reason to let it cool before you cut into it - those grape juices stain! For a couple of panicky moments I thought I was going to have to live with a large grape stain on my counter. Fortunately, a little cleanser with bleach took it out.

I was perfectly happy with the ratio of bread to grapes and wouldn't have wanted to seed more grapes than I did, but I'm tempted to try this recipe with red seedless grapes, and I would use the full amount of grapes. Another time I would also cut back on the olive oil. The quarter cup used in the dough was fine, but the quarter cup drizzled over the grapes was too much - perhaps one or two tablespoons would be sufficient. All in all, though, this is a wonderful recipe and a nice introduction to Concord grapes!

Be sure to stop by Zarah's and see what she's prepared for you!

14 comments:

Anne said...

Gorgeous, Cathy! I'm one lucky enough to have followed Ilva from the start - in Swedish - and I'm so glad she's decided to branch out and blog in English too. She has some really wonderful recipes and stories to share!

ilva said...

Cathy-I just got a mail from Anne telling me of your posting and I'm so surprised! Thank you ever so much for all the nice words-now I feel more inspired than ever!
I have made the cake with ordinary red grapes and it turned out ok but not as nice though. And about the olive oil, I usually measure by eye, when it looks ok I stop so I probably use less as well. And there are people here who use even more....
Thanks again!!

cin said...

I've never cooked with grapes before although my friend's mum (from France) made us a grape tart when she was here and it was delicious. I'm looking forward to trying this out.

Nic said...

Beautiful photo, Cathy. That post really caught my eye as well. I may have to try it - but I don't knwo if I can deal with seeding the grapes. I'd go the lazy route and use regular red seedless.

Luisa said...

Oh my, that looks fantastic! What a beautiful looking cake (bread?). I am behind on blogging about a concord grape recipe myself, so this is inspiring.

Samantha said...

Mmm, I love that bread! There's a bakery in NYC that makes it, I'm glad you reminded me it was about time for their concord version. They also make it with champagne grapes. They also use anise seeds, which I usually don't love but I love on this. If you're ever in NYC I'll take you to the bakery, Sullivan Street.

Cathy said...

Hi Anne - I know, can you believe the color of those grapes?? You are lucky - wish I could read Ilva's Swedish blog. When I get a chance I'm going to look through the older posts just to enjoy the photos.

Hi Ilva - you do have a wonderful blog and I'm looking forward to your future posts! I'm sure the red grapes will be quite different. I actually had something a couple of years ago at a bakery in DC that (possibly grape focaccia) was made with the seedless red grapes and I really liked it. I keep going back there hoping to see it again, but no luck. I'm thinking your recipe made with the red grapes might be similar!

Hi Cin - I wish there was an easy way to seed the grapes, because a grape tart or pie sounds fantastic. I just can't get over how baking changes the whole character of those Concord grapes!

Hi Nic - it took me (and I'm SLOW) about 40 minutes to seed a pound. I got better at it as I went. I asked Ilva if the grapes she used had seeds and she said yes, but she didn't mind them. If fact, Epicurious has a similar recipe and they advise not to seed the grapes. I'm just not sure I'd enjoy it as much if I had to eat around the seeds.

Hi Luisa - oooh, I'll have to keep an eye out for your Concord grape recipe!

Hi Samantha - anise sounds like an interesting addition - I'll bet it's good! I've never been to Sullivan Street Bakery, but I was just looking at their website and it looks like it's worth a visit!

J said...

hi cathy, i've never used concord grapes in a recipe before but that just looks utterly lovely

Raquel said...

Gorgeous! Thanks for posting this recipe. We had concord grapes by the dozen a few weeks ago, my husband just loves them. I will keep in my file to use next year.

Cathy said...

Hi Jocelyn! I can only imagine how beautiful a Concord grape something-or-other made by you would look!

Hi Raquel! The recipe was posted by Ilva and we can all thank her for that!

BeastlySum said...

Look wonderful! Interesting about the way concords cook down to sweet like jelly. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising--more incentive for me to save the vines in our backyard!

Cathy said...

Hi Jenn! They're actually pretty sweet to start - I guess cooking just concentrates the flavors. I've always thought it was fascinating how blueberries go completely blue (or purple might be more accurate) when cooked, yet raw they're sort of greenish/yellowish inside and only the skin is blue. The concord grapes seem to behave the same way - there must be an amazing amount of color stored away in those blue skins!

You should definitely save the vines in your yard! What fun it would be to grow your own grapes!

anna said...

I was looking for a recipe using concord grapes and came across this gorgeous picture that makes your mouth water. This year I have discovered a new variety of concord grapes at our markets in Massachusetts. They are all grown in New York state, by the way. This variety is red and seedless. The flavor of the grapes is not as intense as the purple, but definitely more interesting than any california grapes. I am going to make the foccacia with the lighter grapes and see how it comes out.

Cathy said...

Hi Anna - thanks for the tip! I'll have to keep an eye out for those - can't wait to try them!