Recently, I was commissioned to pen an article for a local food magazine about Venetian ‘cichetti’.
Pronounced ‘chee-KET-eeh’, chicchetti are often described as Italy’s answer to Spanish Tapas. They are essentially small plates of finger food (bar snacks) that are designed to be enjoyed with a glass of wine or a spritz. In Venice, chicchetti can be found lining the bars of the local bacari, where the residents converge each afternoon (or, morning) and catch up over small glasses of wine. Chiccetti can vary from stuffed olives, to meatballs, to fresh meat, fish, cheeses and so much more – they come together to essentially create a vast and varied platter of delicious bites to be enjoyed… Oh, to be Italian!
While I haven’t yet been lucky enough to visit Venice (or anywhere in Italy for that matter), I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to a gorgeous race day event last year, held by a local food market. Their in-house continental deli wowed us all with their own take on cicchetti – handcrafted morsels which collectively highlighted fresh strawberries, gorgeous Barossa Wagyu beed, the most incredible Lachsschinken pork and a range of silky, flavourful spreads, condiments, breads and other produce.
It was the first time in my life I had ever heard of this ‘chicchetti’ business – and I was sold.
But the standout piece at the parlour that day, had to have been the Goats Cheese and Whipped Feta with Thyme and Honey Roasted grapes. Paired with an Aperol spritz, it was just the most delightful thing – and while the idea of roasted grapes seemed preposterous to me at first, one taste of these bites and their resulting warm bursts of sweetness had me sold to the roasting camp.
Believe it or not, I love grapes in all forms (not just the fermented kind). But now that I know roasting them is a thing, I am becoming addicted to the practice and intend to use them in and on anything where a normal grape would otherwise suffice: salads, yoghurt… anything really (I also think they would make a gorgeous addition to roast chicken… watch this space) that deserves an extra pop of sweet to turn it into a treat.
And it’s all because of this chicchetti. Of course it would be remiss of me to not have had a play with this idea and come up with my own version at home – and I am so glad I did. In this version, the feta gives way to a silky goats cheese, flavoured with the earthiness of fried shallot and garlic. The thyme remains as a star ingredient of the dish (as it just wouldn’t be the same without it), and a sprinkling of sea salt tips it over the edge. And with warm, juicy grapes bursting in your mouth whilst simultaneously being mellowed out by the creamy goats cheese, the resulting product is a feast of incompatible ingredients that just… work.
I ramped the original up in size from crostini size to full baguette slices and ate it for brunch, but this bruschetta can be tweaked in any number of ways to be served as an afternoon snack, an elegant appetizer , or even a side to a beautiful steak or chicken dish – just make sure you keep a wine or a spritz close by (you know, to keep the Venetians happy).
Roasted Grape and Goats Cheese Bruschetta
Silky goat's cheese and warm, pop-in-the-mouth grapes make this Roasted Grape and Chèvre Bruschetta a real delight. Keep a Spritz handy!
- 500g red seedless grapes
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme (plus extra to garnish)
- Large pinch sea salt flakes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided into three
- ½ cup shallots, finely sliced
- 200g goats cheese, room temperature
- 1 french baguette, sliced
Preheat oven to 220C.
In a large bowl, combine grapes, honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil and the thyme, tossing gently to blend.
Place the grapes on a large prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Place in the oven on a lower rack and bake for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, or until the grapes are tender and beginning to wrinkle and burst.
While the grapes are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallots and minced garlic and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until fragrant and translucent in colour – be careful not to brown.
Meanwhile, brush both sides of each baguette slice with the remaining oil and place on a second baking tray. Bake on a high rack in the oven for 5 minutes each side, or until they start to turn golden in colour.
Combine the goats cheese with shallots and garlic, whipping together until creamy.
Spread each slice of bread with the goats cheese mixture, approximately 1 tablespoon per piece. Top evenly with the roasted grapes and garnish with a dash of extra sea salt and sprigs of fresh thyme. Serve while the grapes are still warm.