Manchego Cheesy Palmiers

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Sheets upon sheets of puff pastry take up a disproportionate amount of space in my freezer. For awhile, they actually took refuge in a neighbor’s freezer while I sorted out space in my own. Why, you ask, do I have so much puff pastry when I can’t even consume it? Just because I can’t enjoy its light, buttery layers of puff doesn’t mean my catering clients and guests can’t. Plus, I do enjoy creating treats with it. It’s so versatile. It’s so light. It’s so crispy and flaky. Yet still gives you a doughy mouth feel. Yes, I have a great imagination of what it would taste like. I’m working off of memory banks deep in the recesses of my mind.

So, when I needed some of this light puffiness for a catering gig a few months back I opted to buy the larger box. As expected, I knew I would find other uses for it. If you recall, it certainly came in handy dandy when I baked it up for a not too sweet dessert. Then another cocktail party gig came a-calling. That event needed a small bite. It needed to be warm. And if it were cheesy too then let’s just call it the perfect trifecta. With all this extra puff pastry, palmiers came to mind, and thus won my little heart.

In an effort to continue to prove how incredibly easy some recipes are, this is another one that falls squarely in the ‘anyone can do this’ category. Let me show you how.

In four steps, this is how simple.

  1. Roll pastry

  2. Spread cheese

  3. Fold, fold and fold again.

  4. Cut and bake.

    Ok, there is a fifth step. EAT and ENJOY!

Here are the actual steps with a few more details.

Cheese, glorious cheese. In this case Manchego.

Cheese, glorious cheese. In this case Manchego.

ingredients

1 Puff Pastry sheet, thawed
2 c Manchego cheese*, grated
1 egg, beaten plus a splash of water

* Of course, you can use whatever hard cheese you like. But my catering gig focused on tapas from Spain, therefore, Manchego was the natural choice.

instructions

  1. Take puff pastry out of the freezer and let it defrost. Once thawed, sprinkle flour on a board and roll the pastry out to 12” x 17”.

2. Generously spread 1.5 c Manchego or your desired cheese over the entire dough. Then place parchment over top and gently roll again to press the cheese into the dough.

Cover the entire surface. You’ll want cheesy goodness in every bite.

Cover the entire surface. You’ll want cheesy goodness in every bite.

A gentle roll is all you need. It helps to secure the cheese so it doesn’t fly all over the place when you fold the edges over.

A gentle roll is all you need. It helps to secure the cheese so it doesn’t fly all over the place when you fold the edges over.

3. Fold the edges in 1/3 the way, then fold and fold again until you get to the center. The folds create more of a heart shape. You can also roll the edges into the center to create more of a rounded palmier. Your choice. I wanted hearts. Also, the more folds you have the smaller the size of each one. Fewer folds creates a larger individual palmier. (Also, note that I added more cheese after the second fold. That’s only because I wanted it to be cheesy.

First fold.

First fold.

Then add another 1/2 cup of cheese before the final fold.

More cheese, please. This is the second fold. From this point, fold one more time to close it up.

More cheese, please. This is the second fold. From this point, fold one more time to close it up.

4. Cut 1/2” slices and place them cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush tops with egg wash and bake at 420 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

All those folds will explode open into light fluffiness in the hot oven.

All those folds will explode open into light fluffiness in the hot oven.

Lightly brush with egg wash.

Lightly brush with egg wash.

It’s just that SIMPLE, and these are as cute as a button or should I say, as a heart shaped cheesy bite.

They make the ideal bite sized snack to enjoy with afternoon tea, or anytime. I also wrapped them up in parchment paper and gave them to a neighbor as a little birthday gift. (And of course, gave some to the kind neighbor who housed my pastry for way too long, thanks Antoinette!)

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And as if those reasons aren’t enough to motivate you to make them, they are perfect for stacking up on an appetizer platter. Since I was asked to bring an appetizer to a dinner party, I added them onto a cheese and charcuterie platter. They were all gobbled up!

Those are   boquerones skewers   standing up in a glass jar. They look like lollipops. Rounding out the platter:  Manchego  and  Majorero Pimentón  cheeses, my   spiced nuts  , mortadella,  Chorizo Vela , olives, roasted red pepppers, cucumbers and cornichon and  Mary’s Gone Crackers .

Those are boquerones skewers standing up in a glass jar. They look like lollipops. Rounding out the platter: Manchego and Majorero Pimentón cheeses, my spiced nuts, mortadella, Chorizo Vela, olives, roasted red pepppers, cucumbers and cornichon and Mary’s Gone Crackers.

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Try it, and I beg you to please stop saying that it’s only easy for me. I have faith in your ability, and so should you.

Jammin' Onion Jam

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The Power of the Onion – And I don’t mean Odor
 
Onions; oh, the sheer beauty of them. Now, before you get all crazy on me and say that they give you bad breath and gas, please remember that they give you so much more.  Their versatility spans from the savory to the sweet. With layers upon layers of translucent rings, they are a super hero of flavor.  They come in all sizes and stamina. And as if that weren't enough, they are a powerful anti-inflammatory with the hallmark flavonoid antioxidant, quercetin. What the heck is that?  I'm not exactly sure but it sounded interesting and important.  Seriously though, they are really good for you.  Don't take my word, and to avoid getting all scientific technical on you, check out this link for more health info.
 
As a supporting team player, adding onions to a dish can really boost up the flavor.  I add them to so many of my dishes, but I also feel that they can be the star, too.  Here is one of my favorite ways of serving onions. Jamming up the onions to make them sweet. (I bolded that line because you will probably read it again and again with future onion ideas, as they are like children, there really are no favorites, I love them all the same.)

Onions are made up of almost 90% water with 4% sugar and 2% fiber.  We are going to take full advantage of that 4% sugar and help it along to make jam.  Of course, we'll need a few other items to coax them along, but not much more. Plus it  hardly takes any work to make these onions delicious.

It doesn't take many ingredients to make a condiment that will steal the show.

It doesn't take many ingredients to make a condiment that will steal the show.

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Ingredients

3-4 onions*, thinly sliced (approx. 4-5 c)
2 cups or about 1/2 bottle red wine
1/2 c red wine vinegar
3/4 c honey
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T olive oil
* You can use yellow onions or red, and even mix the two, as I did this time around.  

 

instructions

Thinly slice the onions and sauté them in a large pan in oil with salt/pepper for about 5 minutes until they sweat. 

Just let the onions cook down a bit until slightly soft.

Just let the onions cook down a bit until slightly soft.

Once they are slightly soften, add the wine. (I usually make onion jam when I have a leftover bottle of red bottle hanging around. For two reasons; one, you always want to use a wine that you would drink and two, this is a great way to use a wine before it might have to go down the drain.) Cook over low heat until the onions cook down and absorb the wine. Since these are cooking over a low flame, it will take some time; about 20 minutes or so.  

Pour in the good stuff, red wine makes it better.

Pour in the good stuff, red wine makes it better.

Once the wine is almost completely absorbed and the onions are saturated with wine, add the vinegar and let cook for 5-8 minutes.  Next add the honey, bringing it to a rolling boil for a few minutes, then turn down the flame to low and let it all get nice and cozy together.  

Pour in some acid to balance the sweet.

Pour in some acid to balance the sweet.

I warn you now, to get it jammy you will need to let this cook down for quite some time, approximately 45-50 minutes. Good thing is, you don’t have to stand over it.  Just stir every now and then. At the point when there is a small amount of liquid left bring it back up to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.  The onions will get soft and the liquid turns thicker and more jam-like.  

Dark and rich with sweet, sticky goodness.

Dark and rich with sweet, sticky goodness.

Let cool and store in a glass jar or air tight container.  These will last for a couple of months.

I love serving them as jam in a sweet little bowl.  Maybe one I’ve picked up at a garage sale or specialty store and adding it as the star to pair with cheese.  The earthy, robust yet sweet flavor of the jam makes it a perfect complement to cheese.  

Cheese board filled with sweet and savory.

Cheese board filled with sweet and savory.

Need some more nifty uses:

  • a sweet topping for grilled/roasted chicken or pork
  • swap out caramelized onions with onion jam to top some sliders with cheese. 
  • try it in salad such as baby arugula. It's the right amount of sweet to balance that peppery green. 
  • Hey, what about potatoes, purple kale and onions, topped with more onions - jam.
Pork loin, basmati rice with onions and Enoki mushrooms, Haricot verts and pan seared tomatoes.

Pork loin, basmati rice with onions and Enoki mushrooms, Haricot verts and pan seared tomatoes.

Sautéd purple kale, onions with pan seared potatoes topped with onion jam.

Sautéd purple kale, onions with pan seared potatoes topped with onion jam.

Grass fed hamburger sliders with Gouda cheese, onion jam on a bed of baby arugula.

Grass fed hamburger sliders with Gouda cheese, onion jam on a bed of baby arugula.

Alright, go ahead and test it on everything until you find something that it doesn’t work well with. (And then let me know.)  Some suggestions on serving this.  Use cold or at room temp when pairing with cheese. Warm it up slightly when using it with warm food.

Enjoy the power of onions.  I promise these won’t give you bad breath or drive away friends.  In fact, I would wager to say that you will actually make a few. 

Sunday Brunch - Part Homemade/Part Not

A bounty of yum.

A bounty of yum.

Hosting a brunch can be easy, or a lot of work.  It can be made up of all the usual suspects, or a mash up of the expected and the unexpected.  I am never one to shy away from hard work, but I am also a huge fan of working smarter not harder.  So the idea of creating a sumptuous brunch spread that would serve up that mix with as much ease as possible was what I was aiming for.

One of the keys to achieving success; a good mash up of homemade items with banging good store bought items.  This greatly cuts down on the amount work.  Another huge help is asking guests to bring an item or two.  I'm sure your guests, as do ours, always ask, "what can I bring?" This is the perfect time to say "Bagels, or lox".  Or both!

Such was the case when we hosted a Sunday family brunch.  Our guests provided the bagels, lox and cream cheese. While we prepared the remaining dishes. 

For me, the perfect brunch is a like a moveable feast.  As with any party that isn't a sit down meal, there should be a decent variety of items ranging in temperatures and protein choices. A to and fro of movement.  Nibbling here, picking there. Foods that can last for several hours of conversation without too much fuss.

Here is what we offered up, and what was consumed with zeal.

When you buy quality products, the best plan is to let them shine with maybe just a few embellishments. That was the case with all of the "some assembly required" items. The Spanish sardines were enhanced with cucumbers and tomatoes. 

Spanish sardines with cucumber and fresh grape tomatoes.

Spanish sardines with cucumber and fresh grape tomatoes.

Cucumber slices bring a crisp, freshness to the intense sardine.

Cucumber slices bring a crisp, freshness to the intense sardine.

Plate them simply and use the rich oil they are packed in.

Plate them simply and use the rich oil they are packed in.

You've seen me use boquerones before. This brunch crowd loves them so, of course, I would serve them.  These fresh anchovies dressed with chopped garlic and parsley and good olive oil always get gobbled up.

I selected fish shaped dishes for these two under the sea selections. I love the shape and cobalt color. I've had these dishes for 30 years. Yes, you read that number correctly.

I selected fish shaped dishes for these two under the sea selections. I love the shape and cobalt color. I've had these dishes for 30 years. Yes, you read that number correctly.

Cheese/Charcuterie platters are another easy to assemble ahead offering that everyone loves.  And a perfect brunch item.  So go ahead and create one chock full of your favorite combinations.

It's always good to have a full board of charcuterie and cheese mixed with fruits, olives and nuts.

It's always good to have a full board of charcuterie and cheese mixed with fruits, olives and nuts.

The lentils were partially homemade, in that I used delicious precooked lentils that I get from Despaña but enhanced them by sautéing onions, carrots and celery then adding the lentils to warm through.  That simple.

This group of guests hadn't had my Eggplant Gemolata dish yet, so why not make it again. I did alter the feta topping, keeping it simple and not using the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and lemon zest but adding oven roasted tomatoes to finish the dish.  It was a huge hit with no left overs. This is one of those dishes that you can prep, then cook right before serving.  The flavors are powerful and beautifully melded. It has never let me down, no matter the event or the guest.

Eggplant with feta gremolata.

Eggplant with feta gremolata.

A little something for the meat lovers. Pork belly, lovingly prepared by JuanCarlos, cut in bite sized chunks and simply served on a wooden board.

Pork belly does take some time, as it is twiced cooked. Slow oven roasted to render the fat, then seared crispy in a skillet.

Pork belly does take some time, as it is twiced cooked. Slow oven roasted to render the fat, then seared crispy in a skillet.

The usual brunch suspects, bagels, lox, cream cheese are always welcome and always the perfect Sunday comfort food.

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, capers. Also served was Sushi grade Salmon Sashimi.

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, capers. Also served was Sushi grade Salmon Sashimi.

Eggplant, lentils and a bowl of the extra oven roasted tomatoes.

Eggplant, lentils and a bowl of the extra oven roasted tomatoes.

Make your life easy with the table setting.  Throw a graphic cloth down the middle as a landing strip for all the dishes. Then a simple stack of all the right plates, bowls and utensils in an easy to grab fashion keeps the laid back feeling going.

Finish with a little something sweet, Apple Tart.  And that's how part homemade/part not is done.

Create the vibe you want by selecting food that fits that mood.  A spread that spreads love.  One that invites conversation and fills their bellies and their souls.  What a great way to mark a Sunday, or any brunch day.

 
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5 Quick, No Bake Desserts - In a Pinch

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I realize that this title will come as a shock to those of you who know how much I love to bake, but sometimes I need a dessert in a pinch.  If I've got 5, 6 or even more appetizers to make, plus the meal; well dessert just ends up getting the short end of the stick.  With these 5 fast and easy assemble desserts, you don't have to stress about making sure there is something sweet and appealing after your meal.  Plus a few of these can easily be brought as a dessert offering when you are the one asked to bring something sweet.

 

Fresh Ricotta with Figs, Peaches & Honey

There is nothing as simple as assembling items on a board or platter.  

 

This sweet and savory offering is just that kind of dish.  Arrange seasonal fruits, like figs & peaches for the summer, on a pretty plate or a wooden board. Fill a bowl with fresh ricotta & drizzle with honey.  It's just that simple. You can toss some nuts in if you like, but for the sheer simplicity of this dish, it's not necessary.  Let the purity of these vibrant flavors speak for themselves.  The creaminess of the ricotta against the nature sweetness of the fruit with that extra sweetness from the honey is soothing combination.

 

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

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This one might take a tad more effort but not much more.  Use the fruit of your choice or the ones in season.  I had raspberries, blackberries and bananas on hand.  Dip each piece in melted dark chocolate and let cool on parchment paper.  You can roll them in crushed nuts or coconut to ratchet it up a notch.  Then arrange on a plate and watch these fly faster than they took to make.  Believe it or not, these little 'pop in your mouth' treats are so pretty that they will make an "ohh' statement on your dessert table.  So easy enough to make, you can get your kids to help.

 

Cheese Course

Cheeses with strawberries, grapes, mini  bread sticks  and  Tortas de Aceite  (Sweet Olive Oil Crackers).

Cheeses with strawberries, grapes, mini bread sticks and Tortas de Aceite (Sweet Olive Oil Crackers).

Blue cheese (such as  Cabrales ,  Valdeon,  Stilton or Gorgonzola). Add nuts, date loaf, figs in syrup, oranges.

Blue cheese (such as Cabrales, Valdeon, Stilton or Gorgonzola). Add nuts, date loaf, figs in syrup, oranges.

Ok, this is not my idea, of course, but more of a reminder in case this option was misplaced in the memory banks. Instead of serving cheese as part of your appetizers, save it for dessert and do it the French and Italian way. Enjoy it after the meal.

Fresh Fruit Lovingly bound by Chocolate

This colorful, flavorful option is similar to but slightly different to the above chocolate dipped fruit.  Instead of individual chocolate coated fruits, this version creates a bed of chocolate for the fresh fruit, nuts and sea salt to lie gently atop.  I made this on just such an occasion when I didn't have time but wanted to serve a dessert after lunch.  It was better than I thought and served the purpose beautifully.   I already had a chocolate ganache in the fridge. (Ganache is just chocolate with a tad of cream added to it.  This keeps it from getting completely hard and makes it pourable to glaze a cake or drizzle. I liked using the ganache for this version because once I refrigerated it, it became hard enough to hold the fruit together but still had a softness that added to the yumminess. A result I didn't quite realize would occur. 

Spread the ganache on parchment. Not too thin.

Spread the ganache on parchment. Not too thin.

Lovingly place the fruit in a visual manner that pleases your eye and your belly. Add nuts and sprinkle with course sea salt.

Lovingly place the fruit in a visual manner that pleases your eye and your belly. Add nuts and sprinkle with course sea salt.

 

Chocolate Bark

If you don't happen to have fresh fruit, then go the traditional chocolate bark route.  This version does not use ganache.  It is pure chocolate melted down.  I use a combo of dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. Spread the melted mixture onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Then top with whatever suits your fancy.  I like cashews, dried apricots & dried cherries plus a healthy sprinkling of course sea salt.  That really makes the chocolate sing. Refrigerate until solid, then cut or break into shards.  No brainer of sheer joy. 

 

I hope these ideas provide you a few quick, easy but delicious desserts to have in your back pocket when you are in a pinch.  I promise you, your guests will not miss the cake or pie or any other more labor intensive sweet.  

Sausage, Pepper & Onion Tart

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Oh the beauty of puff pastry.  Let me NOT count the ways, because that would be boring. But let me continue to find uses for you to try.  This one doesn't need a whole lot of intro.  This recipe is similar methodology as when making the Tarts of Summer.  Only difference, swap out the topping for this hearty, earthy and caramelized sweet combo.

I made this because I wanted something quick for an outdoor party. This is combo of sausage, peppers and onions is classic, and when also combined with cheese is a topping I love for pizza.  But I didn't want to make pizza.  I was already going to make a zucchini tart, and needed something a bit more filling for some of our guests.  Enter the sausage.  

Ingredients

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4-5 Italian sausage links (sweet or spicy, your choice)
3 Italian red peppers, sliced
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1-1.5 c cheese of choice (Fontina, Goat, Mozzarella...)
Magic 3 (salt, pepper, oil)
1 Puff Pastry sheet

 

Instructions

Defrost the puff pastry sheet.  Once defrosted, roll out to approximately 12" x 17".  Transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Dot the entire pastry with a fork leaving a 1" border all the way around. Place in refrigerator while you sauté the onions and peppers in a pan with oil, season with salt and pepper.   

Slowly sauté to release the natural sugars and let them caramelize.

Slowly sauté to release the natural sugars and let them caramelize.

While that is cooking, grate the cheese and remove the sausage from the casings .  If you want to save time, use another pan to cook the sausage.  If time is no issue, then after the peppers/onion have cooked, use the same pan. Remove the pastry from the fridge and sprinkle enough cheese to cover the forked part of the pastry.  Then add the sausage, pepper and onion.  Bake in a 425 degrees oven until pastry edges puff up and become golden brown.

Puff Pastry
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On pizza, on pasta, on an Italian roll, or puff pastry, the combo of sausage, peppers and onions is a winning one.  Add this version whenever you are making the Tarts of Summer.  The meat eaters at your party will be glad you did.

 
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