August 15, 2014

I’m just back from vacation and too jet-lagged to write. Here’s a  column from my 2005 Second Helpings newsletter for you to enjoy.

Don’t forget to send me an email about anything noteworthy you consumed on your vacation this summer.. The reader who sends the best email (describing the most unusual, fabulous or bizarre food) will receive a free copy of my cookbook, “Jane Snow Cooks.” Please put  “Food” in the subject line of your email.

Dear friends:

I spent an hour making a grilled-vegetable-phyllo appetizer and about five minutes figuring out how to use up the rest of the phyllo dough. Guess which recipe turned out to be the winner?

The grilled vegetables with basil and goat cheese baked in phyllo was pleasant, but not great. For great, you have to throw a few chunks of goat cheese in a phyllo-lined pie plate and top it with half a jar of hot pepper jam. Boy, was this appetizer great. I took it to a meeting and begrudged my friends every slice. I saved a couple for breakfast the next day.

The flavor combination of fresh cheese and hot pepper jam isn’t new, of course. For years, you couldn’t go to a party without encountering a brick of cream cheese dripping with jalapeno jelly. But encasing the cheese and jelly in phyllo dough is much more elegant, and the shatteringly crisp phyllo adds an interesting texture to what had been a baby-food-smooth nosh. Even better, you don’t have to juggle a plate, knife and cracker — just pick up a slice and bite.

Any hot pepper jam or jelly will do, although the one I used was especially good. It was Earth & Vine Red Bell Pepper and Ancho Chili Jam from West Point Market. I had a half jar left after using some earlier this summer as a sauce for grilled pork.

For the appetizer, I layered the jam and mild goat cheese between eight layers of phyllo — four on the bottom and four on the top. Then I simply folded the phyllo that hung over the edges toward the center of the pie plate to create what I thought was a sloppy rim around the pie. But when it came out of the oven all ruffled and brown, it was gorgeous.

Feel free to use cream cheese or feta in place of the goat cheese, and apricot jam with a dash of mustard instead of the hot pepper jam. Or, hey, wouldn’t sautéed mushrooms and a mixture of blue and goat cheeses taste good? The potential variations are practically infinite.

If you’re like me and forget to take the phyllo dough out of the freezer a day in advance, thaw it at room temperature for two hours.

PHYLLO APPETIZER TART

  • 4 sheets phyllo dough
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 4 oz. mild goat cheese
  • 1/2 jar (about 6 oz.) hot pepper jam

Peel off one sheet of phyllo dough and fold it in half by bringing the two short edges together. Keep the remaining sheets of dough covered with a damp dish towel. Place the folded dough in the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch pie pan. Spray evenly with vegetable oil. Repeat with another sheet, stacking it on top of the first sheet and spraying.

Crumble cheese and scatter over the dough in the pie pan. Dot with the hot pepper jam. Top with two more folded sheets of phyllo, spraying each sheet after folding and placing in the pan. Loosely fold the overhanging dough toward the center of the pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then cut into thin wedges to serve. Makes 12 appetizers.

One More Thing….

Up to your keister in zucchini yet? If not, you soon will be. This relish is a good way to save some fresh summer zucchini for those long, cold months. Not to bring you down or anything.

ZUCCHINI RELISH

  • 10 cups ground zucchini
  • 4 cups ground onions
  • 2 cups ground red and/or green peppers
  • 5 Tbsp. salt

Place all ingredients in a large container, sprinkling the salt over the top. Let stand overnight. Drain well.

Mix with:

  •  2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  •  5 cups sugar
  •  1 Tbsp. dry mustard
  •  2 Tbsp. celery seed
  •  1/2 tsp. black pepper
  •  1 Tbsp. turmeric
  •  1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Cook 30 minutes or until liquid is clear. Pack in sterilized jars, affix lids and rims, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Makes 8 pints.

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