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.

Saturday Dinner Party - A Nod to the Mediterranean

A nod to the Mediterranean using a Provencal tablecloth. Simple. No fuss.

A nod to the Mediterranean using a Provencal tablecloth. Simple. No fuss.

We are in the midst of planning a trip to the South of France.  In our research, food and wine keep popping up frequently.  So much so that JuanCarlos has taken to buying only French wines at the moment.  Getting his palate ready, I guess. 
I'm getting mine ready by dreaming of Mediterranean flavors. So with plans to host a Saturday night dinner party for our friends, Donna and Jeff, it made total sense to devise the menu around that theme.  It's easy to cook for them. They are food lovers, too, and enjoy a wide variety of food.  Well, except that Jeff isn't quite that fond of spinach or squash, which believe or not, were both on my original plan. I had my heart set on making fish en papillote using carrots, zucchini and spinach. But no biggie, there are so many other ways to go.  I could still make fish en papillote, but minus those two ingredients. Thinking cap on, I would spiritually fly myself to the Mediterranean and envision some ingredients.  I had capers, olives, tomatoes which all fell right in line with that theme. It seemed even more fitting since Jeff and Donna have been to France numerous times, plus they are planning a trip to Italy in June.  Yet another cosmic nudge toward a Mediterranean mood.  So, mind made up. Plan in place. A celebration was in order, not just the flavors of the region but the style, too.
Starting with the table setting. 

I pulled out a tablecloth that had olives, sunflowers and tones of green, all of which are reminiscent of the Provence region of France.  I added deep olive green, velvet placemats and playing off the yellow tones, I used gold rimmed dishes and draped a triple pointed folded napkin slightly askew. Simple, elegant but not too fussy.

All keeping in the same tones. Greens play off the yellows and reds. Even the water glass is green and gold.

All keeping in the same tones. Greens play off the yellows and reds. Even the water glass is green and gold.

The Plan:

  • Table setting with a Provencal tablecloth

  • Keep appetizers to a few simple bites in the bistro style

  • Main course featuring fish with Mediterranean flavors, potatoes and salad

  • Dessert: true European style - Cheese platter

For appetizers, I thought a fun intro to the meal would be small pressed sandwiches accompanied by marcona almonds, olives marinated with herbs de Provence and cornichons.  The mini sandwiches were made with a combination of cured meats/cheese and leftover pork loin & onion jam

Plus a little twist on an old classic; Pigs in a Blanket, served up by using mini spicy Spanish chorizo wrapped in puff pastry and a side of whole grain and dijon mustard mix.

 

Lastly, a bite from the sea provided by marinated boquerones served on a crisp, cool slice of English cucumber.  

These offerings were just the right amount to get us started.

A panini press gives a nice warm crispness to the bread and melts the cheese.

A panini press gives a nice warm crispness to the bread and melts the cheese.

Cut strips of puff pastry

Cut strips of puff pastry

Roll 'em up in their blankets

Roll 'em up in their blankets

The puff pastry adds a buttery flavor that complements the spice of the chorizo. These are a more grown up way of serving Pigs in a Blanket. Adding a nod to France, I mixed up whole grain mustard with dijon for dipping. Marcona almonds and cornichons for crunchy, salty bites.

The puff pastry adds a buttery flavor that complements the spice of the chorizo. These are a more grown up way of serving Pigs in a Blanket. Adding a nod to France, I mixed up whole grain mustard with dijon for dipping. Marcona almonds and cornichons for crunchy, salty bites.

Boquerones  are fresh anchovies. I marinated them in crushed garlic, olive oil and parsley. Then placed them atop an English cucumber slice.

Boquerones are fresh anchovies. I marinated them in crushed garlic, olive oil and parsley. Then placed them atop an English cucumber slice.

All appetizers were prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge till right before serving. I made the sandwiches and wrapped them in plastic wrap. Then pressed them when our guests arrived.  The boquerones were assembled and plated earlier in the day. So all I needed to do was place them on the table.  My adult version of Pigs in Blanket were cooked right before they were due to arrive, so those were warm and ready to go. These small bites created a relaxing, no fuss vibe giving us a chance to sit, chat and catch up before the main meal.  Many a moon ago, Donna and I had blood orange cosmos at the Royalton NYC.  It seemed only fitting that we serve up a similar cocktail to start... just for old times' sake. As we nibbled, we sipped on Blood Orange Martinis made by the deft hand of my hubby, who lovingly squeezed all the citrus and mixed this drink to perfection.  

A mix of blood orange, lemons, limes, vodka and simple syrup.

A mix of blood orange, lemons, limes, vodka and simple syrup.

Squeeze them all into a bowl and include some of the pulp.

Squeeze them all into a bowl and include some of the pulp.

I love the bright color and flavor of this drink. So fresh. So delicious. Goes down so easy. Now that's AMORE!

I love the bright color and flavor of this drink. So fresh. So delicious. Goes down so easy. Now that's AMORE!

Dinner was also prepped ahead of time, stored in the fridge and then pulled together before serving.  The real nod to the Mediterranean came in the flavors used for the cod. I like using the en papillote method (cooked and served in paper wrapping) because it cooks beautifully. It's easy to prep, and each guest gets their own portion. I have made fish this way numerous times using different vegetable combinations. Not going with my original plan of zucchini and spinach, I needed some inspiration and found a recipe using grouper with capers, red pepper, tomatoes, kalamata olives and lemon.  I immediately knew that combo was the perfect way to go since I had most of the items save for the red pepper.  I took my cues from the recipe photo but used my own amounts. I also used cod because it was the freshest at the market.  I swapped the red onion for yellow, and eliminated the garlic and red pepper flakes. Although, I made modifications, this isn't my own, so if you want to follow the recipe to a tee, click here.

Using the mise en place method of cutting all ingredients, and getting everything ready makes assembly much easier.

Using the mise en place method of cutting all ingredients, and getting everything ready makes assembly much easier.

I place the parchment paper right on the baking sheet and built up the flavors.  Then folded the paper into a packet and built the next packet. I put two on each pan, then placed the whole baking pan in the refrigerator.  Once we were done eating our appetizers, I placed the pans in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

Fresh, clean and ready to make a pocket full of Mediterranean yum.

Fresh, clean and ready to make a pocket full of Mediterranean yum.

Simply fold the edges around to create the pocket.

Simply fold the edges around to create the pocket.

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For side dishes, I made Potatoes Anna turned Potatoes Dana, crispy kale/caramelized onions and Baby Arugula salad with oranges, tangerines, red onion, chopped marcona almonds with a orange/lemon vinagrette.

Slices and slices is what creates layers of potato for this dish.

Slices and slices is what creates layers of potato for this dish.

A slice of layered potato goodness.

A slice of layered potato goodness.

Peppery bite of arugula is balanced by the sweetness of the orange with the crunch of the almond.

Peppery bite of arugula is balanced by the sweetness of the orange with the crunch of the almond.

Baking en papillote allows all the juices to delicately poach the fish and vegetables together. A harmony of Mediterrean flavors.

Baking en papillote allows all the juices to delicately poach the fish and vegetables together. A harmony of Mediterrean flavors.

Of course, French wine was served. Beaujolais Blanc and Chateau Saint Roc Cotes du Rhone.

Of course, French wine was served. Beaujolais Blanc and Chateau Saint Roc Cotes du Rhone.

Finishing off the meal with savory flavors of a full cheese board was perfect way to end the evening.  Cheese selection of Époisses, Sofia, Majorero Pimenton surrounded by fruit and sweet condiments all enjoyed in front of a roaring fire.  

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We had a wonderful time together with friends with love, savoring food that paid homage to places we all love.  Pick a country or a region and honor it by creating a menu to share with those who love it too.  We're glad we did.

 
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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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Tarts of Summer

Now you can take that title any way you like, but like any good tart, these are cute, sassy  and seriously 'easy'. as any good tartlet should be.  Flavorful, flaky and light, they can work equally as well as a chic addition on a buffet table, a perfect starter for a dinner party or cut a huge slice for lunch with a side salad.  Better yet, as a last minute dish to bring to a BBQ.

Of course, we have all seen these types of tarts before.  As a matter of fact, I was motivated to create these after stumbling upon a new hot spot in Grand Central Market, Great Northern Food. I wandered around and was lusting after all the stunning open sandwiches, pizzas and breads. TORTURE!! for me since I can't eat any of those yeasty, wheaty items, but in awe of all the simple yet elegant presentation.  

Inspiration struck on Saturday at my farmer's market as I filled my basket with summer vegetables: zucchini, summer squash and, of course, tomatoes. I thought I'd make my own version of what I saw at Great Northern.   Since I can't eat the puff pastry and wasn't expecting a crowd at my house, I was grateful for the perfect timing that I was heading off to a BBQ. These tarts, along with my Corn Salad: Fresh & Roasted, would be my offerings to the hostess.  And yes, this is typical me; invent something that I have never made before and bring it to someone's house, or test it on my own guests.  Fearless!  Why the hell not?  With good ingredients how can you go wrong? 

I will admit that although I love baking, I do take some short cuts when in a rush or think up a recipe on the fly.  I had some store bought puff pastry in the freezer which takes no time to defrost.  It's folded in thirds, so when you open it up it literally has three equal pieces. That's when my mind kicked into making three different tarts instead of one.  Plus, everyone always seems to like having a piece of crust so this method gives you more edges.  Because I'm a people pleaser, folks!  

Store bought puff pastry

Store bought puff pastry

Ingredients

Puff Pastry
1-2 small zucchini
1 small yellow summer squash
Cheese of your choice, goat cheese, Tetilla, ricotta
Olive Oil, salt, pepper
Basil

Instructions

I rolled each one out to a slightly larger size.  Added water to the edges to fold over a little rim, then poked the bottoms with a fork.  I would have liked to have used goat cheese, as that is such a classic combo, but didn't have any.  I did however, have Tetilla which is a creamy cow's milk cheese from Spain that melts like nobody's business.  (P.S. This cheese is wonderful for grilled cheese sandwiches.)  By all means slather on the cheese of your choice.   

I sliced the tomatoes and roasted them at high heat because I wanted to dry them out as much as possible so as to not make a soggy tart.  I used a mandolin to thinly slice the zucchini and summer squash and left that raw. Then I arranged the vegetables in the simplest but prettiest manner, dividing the veggies three different ways. Mix, match, arrange however you like. Do whatever floats your boat but be sure to season them with salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and basil.

I popped them in a 425 degree oven and let them bake until perfectly crisp on the edges. These look so professional you could sell them.  But instead I brought them to the BBQ where they got the 'oohs and ahhs' these tartlets felt they deserved.  So summer sassy, they are.