I do not like pumpernickel bread and I am not a fan of rye bread, so I have always thought I didn’t like caraway seeds. But that has always bugged me because I don’t like it when people don’t like things. I think unless you’re allergic, I can make you like anything you thought you didn’t just by changing up the flavor profile of the dish. A lot of food aversions come from sense memory. My father will never eat a bowl of oatmeal ever again because his mother used to force him to eat plain, boiled oats with a pat of butter on top. But if he would allow me to, I could make him like it by making it taste like an oatmeal raisin cookie which is his favorite kind of cookie. My girlfriend despises mushrooms because of their texture but I’ve made her something stuffed with duxelle before and she raved over it. Her husband doesn’t like onions, but newsflash- everything he’s eaten at my house has contained onions…he just thinks he doesn’t like them because of their appearance and texture.
And for me-I used to think I didn’t like bleu cheese as a child because I’d always had it combined with other rich flavors and therefore the dishes were always too heavy for me. Then I went to college and discovered that bleu cheese goes beautifully with fruit and now I love the stuff. All it takes it allowing yourself the possibility to like something and then changing the way you think of it. This trick works for most things life throws at you, but I won’t get all philosophical on you now…the caraway seed awaits…
So one day I figured that just because I didn’t like rye bread, that shouldn’t necessarily mean I should ignore the entire caraway seed…that just didn’t seem fair to the poor seed. It’s not his fault he’s usually in bread. Last year I set out to develop a recipe that would make me not only like caraway seeds, but love caraway seeds. I had some of my favorite havarti cheese in the fridge and a few red grapes lying around. I have always loved a roasted grape and if you’ve never done it before, they’re delicious. They go very well as an accompaniment to pork, especially Italian sausages. You just treat them like a grape tomato and slather them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper, then roast or saute them until they burst and caramelize. And havarti, like most things rich and creamy, crave sweets so I knew the two would fair well together. With the addition of some caramelized onions and the now adored caraway seeds, which I toasted, this new creation was one of the most amazing things I have made. The combination of ingredients would also work well on small toasts for a party appetizer and they would pair brilliantly with sparkling wine. (Man, I’d love some champagne right about now…6 more months to go…)
*Flatbread with Roasted Grapes, Havarti and Caraway
-In a small, dry saucepan on low heat add 1 tsp of caraway seeds and allow them to toast until you begin to smell them. As soon as you smell them, turn the pan off and remove it from the heat or else your seeds will burn. Set aside.
-Heat some olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Remove all stem pieces from 2 handfuls of red grapes and throw into the pan. Season with salt and pepper and shake the pan so all the grapes are covered in oil. Allow the grapes to cook for a couple minutes while you slice 1 small-medium onion and add it to the pan. Season with more salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Toss everything to coat in the oil and seasonings and allow the grapes to plump and then burst and the onion to soften, and then become golden brown and sweet. This can take 10-15 minutes and you should shake the pan several times to ensure even cooking.
-While it’s cooking grate 8 ounces of havarti cheese and set aside. Once your onions and grapes have finished cooking, add your caraway seeds to the pan and toss. Turn the heat off and allow to cool a bit while you prepare the crust. (Now is the time you should taste test-you want the sweetness of the grapes to come through, but you also need enough salt and pepper so that it doesn’t taste like you’re making a grape jelly pizza.)
-Using whatever pizza dough you like, whether it’s store bought or homemade, flatten your pizza dough on an oiled cookie sheet.
-Sprinkle all your cheese over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges.
-Lay your onion/grape/caraway seed mixture over the top.
-Place in a preheated 425* oven on the top rack and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to bubble and brown. Allow to cool slightly before digging in.
(*picture note-Just to clarify, I had champagne grapes in the house this time around, so that’s what you’re seeing in the picture above.)