Puff Pastry is my Friend

November 15, 2010

How about a quickie? Appetizer, that is…

With the holidays coming up, there’s a lot of eating to be done, and therefore a lot of cooking and sharing. One of my favorite and absolute easiest appetizers to make is whatever’s-in-the-fridge-on-puff-pastry. I usually have two or three cartons of frozen pastry on hand this time of year, ready to take out and load up with goodies. In less than an hour, I can have scrumptious appetizers ready to serve.  Anybody can.

Don’t always have an hour’s notice? Defrost some puff pastry sheets, lay them flat between parchment paper, and keep them in the fridge just waiting for those unannounced guests to drop by. I’m guessing they’d keep for at least a couple of weeks, but I’d bet they’ll never last that long.

Puff Pastry Appetizers

While you’re pastry’s defrosting, raid your refrigerator and pantry for goodies, such as:

  • goat or other yummy cheese
  • sauteed greens
  • onions to caramelize
  • artichoke hearts
  • cherry tomatoes
  • pesto
  • leftover pasta sauce
  • olives
  • capers
  • anchovies
  • Artichoke and Chili Dip
  • grilled veggies
  • pine nuts
  • smoked salmon
  • bacon marmalade

Need I go on? The list is limited only by your imagination and the contents of your refrigerator. Go ahead, experiment.

Got a sweet tooth instead?

  • cream cheese, dark chocolate and chopped dried cherries or cranberries
  • any flavor of jam that pleases your palate
  • powdered sugar for dusting (after baked)
  • Hmmm… what about peanut butter and chocolate chips in a Reese’s-like concoction? Topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream? Yep. I could do that… right now!

To Assemble the Appetizers

I used to just unfold the sheet of pastry dough on a floured board, cut it into 9 or so squares, plop some stuff on top and bake. Then my lovely friend Rosa taught me a little trick that kicks the presentation of these beauties — and their ability to hold a good amount of toppings — up a notch or two. It’s as easy as 1 2 3.

Folding Puff Pastry for Appetizers

  1. Cut the thawed, floured pastry sheet into squares — as many as you’d like, but smaller than 2″ x 2″ might be tricky to fold.
  2. Fold the square in half and cut along the two short sides — all the way down to the long end, and almost , but not quite meeting at the point.
  3. Unfold, and cross the cut-through points over to the other side.

Voila! You’ve just made a beautifully shaped appetizer, complete with a cavity to fill and even a handle to hold while eating!

Ready to Bake!

In this batch, I made two kinds:

I grated a bit of Parmigiano over the top, baked them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, and wow! I would have no problem making a meal out of these. Maybe I’d add a side of soup for nutrition’s sake, but the smallest bowl I could find. Special thanks to my friend Helene who turned me onto the bacon marmalade!

Yum! Yum! Yum!

Serve warm, and don’t forget the wine!

Enjoy~

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Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time in the day to do what you’ve got to do. Lately, this seems to be happening ALL the time.

The sun was shining this morning in Elmira, Oregon. Anytime that happens after, say, October 1st, the locals ought to take it as a gift and cancel any plans that didn’t have something to do with the great outdoors. I chose to be a devoted Oregonian rather than a devoted blogger. Once we cleared a new patch of the back-forty, planted our new fall-color trees, and set aside the tender perennials in preparation for the first frost (can’t be more than a week or so away), there wasn’t a lot of time or energy left for blogging.

The View From Here

I did manage to experiment tonight, with a recipe I found for a spiced rub in the Costco Connection (of all places). It called for anchovies, which I discovered I was out of; but I went ahead and mashed together some garlic, lemon zest, fresh oregano, fresh mint, olive oil, pepper and salt. No lamb chops on hand, so I rubbed it into some pork chops. I’m not fond of pork chops on the grill as they always seem to have the density of shoe soles once they’re cooked. Although I have had some success with brining chops lately, I didn’t have time to brine and then marinate with a rub, so I decided that oven-baked chops was the way to go.

After leaving the chops to marinate for an hour, I sauteed a sliced onion in olive oil and butter until it was nicely browned, removed the onions, and then used the remaining oil to brown the chops. Before gathering the herbs, I’d already decided that I’d bake the chops in coconut milk, so I couldn’t resist picking a handful of lemon grass as well. I layered the lemon grass, chops, and sauteed onions in the dish; topped it off with a can of coconut milk; and baked it for an hour at 350.

Well…. can’t say the rub was anything special. I suppose the missing anchovies could be to blame, but I’m not convinced. However,the pork chops were as tender and moist as can be, and the coconut milk sauce was soooooooo good, I was spooning it out of the baking dish and eating it like a soup! It would have been fantastic over rice as well. This is the first time I’ve baked pork chops in coconut milk, and I’m already looking forward to the next time. My husband cooks shrimp in coconut milk all the time, but it’s time to give some other proteins a chance. Chicken is probably next. And I will definitely experiment with other marinades.  The lemony flavor–whether from the lemon grass and/or lemon zest–was yummy, but I couldn’t discern any of the other flavors over the mint, which wasn’t even that strong. Probably will forgo the mint next time…

I’ll keep experimenting and will post anything that seems worthy. Any suggestions very welcome!

In the meantime, how about a quick appetizer recipe that always pleases a crowd. Not only is it wonderfully edible, these are ingredients I almost always have on hand, so it can be whipped up in no time at all. The first time I had this Artichoke and Chile Dip was at a friend’s summer party. The person who brought it was not too keen on sharing the recipe, but she did give me enough information to work it out on my own. And here I am posting it on my blog. (Honey, if it was a secret, it’s not anymore.)

ARTICHOKE & CHILI DIP

  • 1   14 oz can artichoke hearts (or 2 6.5 oz jars)
  • 1   7 oz can diced green chilies (or 1 to 2 fresh green chilies, diced small)
  • 1   8 0z brick of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375. Drain the artichoke hearts and chilies. Add everything to a mixing bowl and blend well. You don’t need an electric mixer, but do make sure the artichoke hearts are completely broken apart. Use a rubber spatula to scoop out of the bowl and into a small oven-safe dish (pie pans work well). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the top is speckled nut-brown. Serve with crackers, corn chips, or a nice loaf of crusty bread.

Yum, yum, yum! The last time I brought this to a dinner party, I couldn’t even get a picture before a third of it was devoured (the pile of chips is covering the damage).

Artichoke Chili Dip

Quick! Get some while you can!

A few minutes later, it looked like this.

The Disappearing Artichoke Dip

This dip is so easy and so good, it’s due for some more experimentation. I’m a big fan of puff pastry, and I bet a dollop of this baked on squares of pastry would be crazy good!

Enjoy ~