Showing posts with label palmiers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label palmiers. Show all posts

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Appetizers Make New Year's Party




We're coming upon New Year's Eve. Happy New Year!


May this year bring you joy and happiness. May all your creative endeavors be positive. May you laugh and be surrounded by laughter. May you love and be surrounded by love.


And may you enjoy good company of friends (if you so desire).

For New Year's festivities, I'm always looking for new appetizers? Things I can serve on the 31st. Things I can serve watching football or while reading a good book (while others watch football).

I've stumbled upon a terrific herbed ricotta appetizer that is so EASY to make and so delicious to eat, and they're pretty. A plateful looks beautiful. So does a platter-ful. And guys like them just as much as gals. [This can also be made as a bruschetta "sandwich".]

For this batch of appetizers, I decided to try my hand at cheese making first. I've been told that making ricotta cheese was the easiest, so that's what I tried.

Ricotta cheese is fabulous. It's luscious and yet delicate and light. Though it was "harder" to do than I imagined, I really enjoyed the experience and I would do it again (now that I'm a seasoned veteran).

Just so you know, homemade tastes even better than store-bought. Definitely.

To prepare, you need a sieve, cheesecloth, a mixing bowl, and a 6-quart pot. Oh...and the ingredients (of course). And patience.


FRESH RICOTTA
(makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients:
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 fresh lemon

Directions:
You need a large sieve and cheesecloth.
Line the sieve with the cheesecloth and place the sieve over a large mixing bowl.
In a 6-quart pan, slowly bring the milk, the cream, and the salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring to prevent the mixture from scorching. This takes 3-4 minutes.

Squeeze the juice from one fresh lemon. It makes about 3 tablespoons. Add the lemon juice to the milk mixture, then reduce the mixture to low and continue stirring, about 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture on top of the cheesecloth in the sieve and let it drain for about an hour.
Discard the liquid in the bowl and reserve only the “curds” that are on top of the cheesecloth.
Keep the ricotta in a covered container and refrigerate. It will keep 3-4 days.

Now...for the appetizer, which IS EASY to make...

HERBED RICOTTA APPETIZER (and/or BRUSCHETTA)

Ingredients:


2 cups ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons scallions, minced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
2 tablespoos chives, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 loaf sourdough bread or your favorite crackers
olive oil [FOR BRUSCHETTA]
1 whole garlic clove, cut in half [FOR BRUSCHETTA]


Directions:
As I said, this may be made a couple of ways. Like a bruschetta (a meal) or just as a cold appetizer.

For appetizer: [easy!]

Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper.

Spread a tablespoon of the cheese on your favorite crackers.
Garnish with crushed pepper. [Do not use the oil or garlic from the ingredients above.]

For bruschetta: [a little more involved] [Sorry I don't have pictures of this one. We ate all the appetizers and ran out of the cheese mixture!]

Prepare a barbecue with medium-high heat.

Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Set aside.

Cut the bread in hafl and cut each half into 6 thick slices; 12 total.

When the grill is hot, brush the bread with oil and grill on each side for 2 minutes. Remove and rub with garlic clove.

Spread the herbed ricotta on the bread. Garnish with more pepper.

Serve with a crisp green salad.

If you want a few other appetizers from our Mystery Lovers Kitchen, click these links:



* * *
If you'd like to know more about A Cheese Shop Mystery series and want to download a few other recipes from me (on recipe cards), click on this link to my website: Avery Aames. I've posted recipes in the "morsels" section. There's lots of other fun stuff, as well. And sign up for the mailing list to get in on the next contest...coming soon.

Say cheese!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cleo Coyle's Italian Easter Pie Palmiers



Every year at Pasqua, my late Aunt Mary would make her Easter Pie. This rustic pie was amazing to me not because it was filled with dozens of ingredients, but because it was so satisfying yet so simple. She called it a "pizza," but Americans would probably recognize it as closer to a white calzone.

My aunt would fill her rustic Easter pie with ricotta; diced ham; fresh parsley (always fresh!); strong, grated Italian cheese; and raw eggs for binding. 



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She'd mix up a delicious, slightly sweet dough using just her hands on a big bread board. Then she'd roll our the dough, mound in the filling, fold over the dough, seal it, and bake it. After it was baked and chilled (yes, chilled!), we would cut thin slices and eat it at all hours -- for breakfast, lunch, snacks, as an appetizer before dinner, or a savory dessert after.

Italian Easter Pies are a famous tradition, but the recipe can differ from house to house. In our neighborhood that was quite literal. The family next door made a much more elaborate pie with sausage, whole boiled eggs, and a bread-like yeast crust. Other families make theirs in a pie tin with spinach as an ingredient.

My Aunt Mary Capaccio
I greatly miss my Aunt Mary. She came to the USA from Italy (with my mother), lived with us during my childhood, and (in so many ways) was like a second mother to me and my sister. Aunt Mary passed away almost exactly ten years ago, and I still yearn for all the wonderful foods she made for our family. Although I do try to duplicate her recipes, it's the cooking from her heart that I miss the most.

That's why I am dedicating my post to her today with the tastes of her Easter Pie folded into a palmier. The French palmier (a cookie made of sugar-dusted puff pastry) is actually named after a palm leaf, but the shape reminds me more of a heart and that seemed just perfect for my memory of Aunt Mary and her Easter Pie. I can also testify that a bite of this palmier (after it is baked and chilled) will give you an almost identical taste to what my aunt made every Easter.


Buona Pasqua, Aunt Mary!
Happy Easter, everyone!
~ Cleo




Cleo Coyle's
Easter Pie
Palmiers

Makes 10 savory palmiers

Serve as an appetizer or snack; taste can be compared to a quiche.

For a printable, sendable, saveable
(pdf) version of this
recipe, click here

Ingredients

1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk)
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup flat leaf Italian parsley (fresh!), finely chopped
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (or 10 x 10-inch homemade)
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 thin slices of good quality ham or prosciutto

Method

Step 1: Mix the filling - In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, grated Romano, and finely chopped fresh parsley. (I just use a good handful, which is about 1/2 cup. When you chop it finely, the volume measure goes down to 1/4 cup.) This filling should be very well mixed--be sure to work in all of the grated cheese and parsley. Set aside in the fridge to keep it cold.

Step 2: Prepare the pastry - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The paper is mandatory. Not only will it help prevent your palmiers from scorching on your pan's hot spots, it will help you fold the puff pastry when the time comes. Lay the puff pastry out on the parchment paper. Use your favorite recipe or go with the Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheets. If you've never used these before, see the photo below...



Two folded sheets of puff pastry come in one package. Take out one sheet and allow it to thaw about 30 minutes (or you can cheat and microwave it on low for no more than 10 seconds to thaw it slightly). Now unfold the dough. If there are any cracks, wet your finger and press the dough together to mend it. TIP: Handle the dough as little as possible and keep it cold during the assembly process by returning it to the fridge to re-chill.

Step 3: Brush and layer - Lightly beat the egg and brush it over the entire sheet of puff pastry. Then mound the ricotta cheese mixture onto the egg-washed pastry. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the filling into an even layer. Now lay your thin slices of ham (or prosciutto) over the top layer of ricotta and fold.



Step 4: Fold - You want to fold this 10 x 10-inch sheet like a letter, into thirds and then a final time so that the two folded layers are stacked. I like to use the parchment paper to lift and fold, which prevents my hands from warming the puff pastry.





Step 5: Chill and slice - Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes and then cut into 1-inch slices. The chilling is necessary for the best result. If the dough is warm, it will begin to give and bend as you cut it, and you're palmiers will not hold their pretty shapes. Set the slices on their sides, leaving room between each to allow space for expansion while baking.




Step 6 - Bake and cool - Bake 15 to 20 minutes in an oven that is well pre-heated to 400 degrees F. The Easter Pie Palmiers are done when the pastry has puffed and turned golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the palmiers to cool a bit before carefully transferring to a rack. Allow these savory goodies to cool to room temperature before eating. If you want to experience the true taste of a traditional Italian Easter Pie, then chill these a bit in the fridge, take them out, and...








Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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