A recipe handed down through the centuries, emerging from the swirling mists of Tuscan history drifted into my kitchen. OK, maybe not really, but I did get inspired by the olive and grape recipe found in “Signora da Vinci” a fictional novel about DaVinci’s mama. If you can suspend belief and surrender to the central concept that it’s written from Leonardo’s mother’s perspective, it’s a fine read. Who wouldn’t enjoy spending some time with the Medici’s and their friends? All through the book there is mention of this wonderful olive and grape compote and at the end, the author, Robin Maxwell, kindly supplies the recipe.
I tweaked it a bit, and it’s a good thing to have a batch stashed in the fridge for visitors, a quick snack, apperitivo time, a holiday cheese tray or a midnight nibble. Guess you could call it versatile.
Olive & Grape Compote
½ pound of red seedless grapes
1 fresh thyme sprig
2 cracked cloves of garlic
1 tiny chili pepper (optional, if you go the chili pepper route, you want just a wisp of heat to mingle with the sweet and salty, it’s all about balance now isn’t it?)
Olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar
Slice the grapes in half; rough chop the olives and place in a roasting dish. Remove the skins from the garlic and give the cloves a good smushing crack with the side of your knife, and toss in with the fruit. Add the crumbled dried chili pepper if you are using it. Strip the thyme branch of its little leaves and sprinkle over the grapes and olives. Add a tiny sprinkle of salt, splash of olive oil and roast in a 325F/165C oven and bake until the grapes and olives have collapsed, about 40 minutes.
*Edit to add: As per Ms. Maxwells' suggestion: add some balsamic vinegar to the compote if it needs a little acid or if it seems dry, add extra olive oil and a bit more vinegar.
I roast this compote in a a clay pot so it tends to stay juicer and if you're grapes are tart...be careful with that vinegar.
Warm up the compote by placing it in a small oven proof dish in a cold oven, turn the oven on to 250F/120C and remove when it’s warm….about 10 minutes, depends on how quickly your oven heats up.
Serve on thin slices of toasted garlic bread. Slice the bread, and place in the oven at the same time as the compote. When the bread is crisp, remove, lightly rub with a peeled garlic clove and drizzle the bread with a bit of olive oil. Serve on the side with the compote.
A bit of soft goat cheese would be pretty tasty with this compote.
It’s delicious and think how happy Leonardo would be knowing you made his mama’s compote?