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Grape recipes for sweet — and savory — cooking

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Grapes can seem pretty mundane. Most of us only ever encounter them as hulking bunches in suitcase-like plastic boxes at the grocery store. As someone who’s not particularly fond of table grapes, I can also fall into this category. But thankfully, California is a grape-centric state — thanks to wine country and the farmlands dedicated to growing the big red and green snacking grapes — so we get to see them in their less commercial, “wild” forms as well.

Though I rarely eat table grapes, one of my favorite fruits ever is a grape variety called Thomcord. They’re a cross between Concord grapes and Thompson seedless grapes that are unique to California and that possess all the aroma and flavor of the former but with the smaller, easier-to-eat seeds of the latter. These are my kind of table grapes.

Last year, I wrote about my love for them and the Thomcord Grape Sheet Tart I made with them, and that love is still just as strong this year. Although, this time around, I used them to make a simple cross-seasons cake with a layer of the perfumed grapes sitting atop a sweet cornmeal batter in my Thomcord Grape and Corn Cake.

And while the tartness of Thomcord grapes makes them a natural fit for sweet recipes, the inverse is true for sweet table grapes, like the kind you find in bunches in the grocery store. They’re hardy and can stand up to roasting and savory applications, their juices caramelizing and complementing umami flavors.

In my Grilled Fennel Ajo Blanco, I grill green grapes along with fennel to make a smoky version of the classic Spanish soup, garnished with more of the charred grapes (you can use a broiler if you don’t have a grill). And my friend Dawn Perry uses green grapes in her Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders with Celery and Grape Salad to add a pop of sweetness to balance the saline celery, tart pickled onions, and fatty Parmesan and walnuts.

But my favorite thing to do with virtually any grape variety is roast them simply with salt and pepper — or fennel seeds, as in this recipe for Oven-Roasted Grapes from our archives — so their juices are concentrated and lightly caramelized. Cooked this way, they pair as well with roasted meat for dinner as they do with some cheese and crackers for an afternoon snack.

Thomcord Grape and Corn Cake

This simple cake has sweet corn flavor and a layer of jammy, bright Thomcord grapes. The key to this cake’s texture is soaking the cornmeal in the wet ingredients, which allows it to fully cook during baking so there’s no unpleasant grainy texture.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 2 hours, mostly unattended.

(Katrina Frederick / For The Times)

Thomcord Grape Sheet Tart

This giant grape toaster pastry is ideal for breakfast but is also wonderful served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream as a dessert for a crowd. This tart also works well as a template for other berries, like blueberry, blackberry and raspberry.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 2 hours 30 minutes, plus cooling.

Thomcord Grape Sheet Tart

(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

Grilled Fennel Ajo Blanco

The anise flavor of fennel here works to balance the creamy, garlicky soup and play up the sweetness of the grape garnish. Keep the grapes attached to their stems and in their clusters for the easiest handling on the grill.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling.

Grilled Fennel Ajo Blanco

(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders With Celery and Grape Salad

A handful of sweet grapes, shaved cheese and pickled onion brine elevate humble celery into a fantastic crunchy, cold salad to balance baked chicken tenders.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

A photograph of chicken tenders and a celery salad served with frozen fries

(Lindsay Kreighbaum / For The Times)

Oven-Roasted Grapes

Roasting grapes concentrates their flavor and gives them a savory edge that works well with cheese or roast meat. Keep the grapes in clusters so they’re easy to handle from the sheet pan to your plate.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 2 to 3 hours.



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