Monday, March 11, 2013

A Delicious Tradition Packaged in Phyllo Dough

Yes, that is hot cheese oozing out of the crsipy phyllo dough triangle.  Cheese Boereg are a traditional Armenian delicacy.  A few simple ingredients and some tricks in "phyllo dough maintenance" and you can serve these at your next dinner party with rave reviews.  I haven't met a soul who doesn't like them.

A box of Phyllo dough and a mixture of three cheeses a couple of eggs and a sprinkling of parsley and some willing family members to help you assemble is all you need to create a fun and very impressive appetizer.  Double the batch if you've got the time and fill your freezer.  The boereg freeze so well and then you can pull them out for last minute hot out of the oven treat.

Armenian Cheese Boereg

2 lbs. cheese (combination of feta, cottage cheese and monterey jack cheeses)
2 large eggs
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 lb box (#4 is good)
1 stick (or more) melted unsalted butter

Mix the cheeses, eggs and parsley in a bowl.

Open the box of phyllo dough, unfold carefully.  Here is the "Phyllo dough maintenance" part.  Cover the dough ever so lightly with a slightly damp dish towel.  I found using a baking tray with a lip works well to hold the dough so the towel never lays directly on the dough.  (it will get too wet and then get sticky)

Here's comes the fun.  You need to have your station ready with the dough, cheese mixture, melted butter and a pastry brush.

Take one piece of phyllo dough, brush lightly with butter.

Put a dollop (about two Tbsp) of the cheese mixture in the center at one end of the dough.  Fold the top half over the cheese and bring the bottom half up to meet.

Brush this long rectangle with another bit of butter.  Now you will fold the dough into it's triangle shape in the same way you would fold a flag.

Store them in a parchment paper or plastic wrap covered in foil if you freeze them before baking.

Bake in a 375 degree oven about 25 minutes until golden brown and flaky.

Serve with wine or your favorite cocktail and enjoy your guests praise.

Last winter during a  "snow day"in Minnesota we had fun folding the boereg together. My kids made this video.  Peek into our kitchen to see the folding technique and a little of our craziness.

What is your family tradition?  Leave your legacy by passing on family recipes.  They strike emotion and memories that are priceless.  The smells, the tastes, never to be forgotten.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

50 Best Plants on the Planet, the Passion for Produce

Doesn't it make sense to eat the most nutrient dense food prepared in the most delicious ways?  Living in Los Angeles gives me the blessing of being able to eat fresh picked fruits and vegetables year round, but so can you anywhere you live because of the passionate people at Melissa's Produce.  They just came out with new cookbook packed with important nutrition information and fabulous inventive recipes by Cathy Thomas.  Her new cookbook "50 Best Plants On The Planet" is my new bedside reading material.  I have learned so much new information from  this well organized book I just had to share.

The book is arranged alphabetically from Arugula to Watermelon and every nutrient loaded ingredient in between.  I attended the launch party for this new favorite book and taste tested many of the recipes.  It's the kind of food you love to eat with the side benefits of the health-giving nutrients, as in this green Arugula Pesto you can mix with Spaghetti as pictured in the book on pg. 18  Arugula packs a powerful punch.  It has properties called phytochemicals that have the potential to prevent and kill cancer cells.

Spaghetti with Arugula Pesto

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts process until minced.  Stop the machine and add the pine
4 c. arugula
5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb dry whole-grain spaghetti
Garnish: 2 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded, diced

Optional garnish: grated parmesan cheese

1. Put a large pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, with the motor running, drop the garlic into a food processor fitted with the metal blade; process until minced.  Stop the machine and add the pine nuts and arugula; process until finely minced.  With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the lemon juice and season with pepper.  Process until smooth.

3. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente (following the package directions).  Scoop out the reserve 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid. Drain the spaghetti.  In a large bowl toss the spaghetti and pesto.  Toss in enough of the reserved cooking liquid to make the pesto a little saucy.  Taste and add more salt or pepper, if needed.  Divide the pasta between small shallow bowls and top with the diced tomato.  Pass the Parmesan when serving, if desired.

Cook's Note:  To toast pine nuts, place them in a small skillet on medium high heat.  Shake the handle of the skillet to keep rotating the pine nuts as they lightly toast.  Watch carefully because they burn easily.

After you leave the "A" section of the book and travel into the "B's" Brussels Sprouts cry out for anyone who has been turned off my the over cooked mushy variety.

I served the  Pan-Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Dried Cherries on pg. 61 to my family and my 14 yr. old son ate four servings!

As I was leaving the cookbook launch party, Melissa's Produce was kind enough to give us a bag and let us "shop" at their loaded produce table there at the corporate office.  My eyes lit up at the variety and the beauty of their offerings.  In my personal opinion...better than being let loose at Tiffany's!!  I always say, just give me ingredients and I'm happy.

Melissa's specialize not only in the "garden variety" produce, but also in the exotic and hard to find fruits and vegetables from cactus pear to chrysanthemum leaf!

During the party we were all quizzed about what fruits and vegetables score the highest on the nutritional "bang for your buck" scale.  Of course since I tweet under the handle @crazy4kale, naturally I thought kale was the most nutrient dense vegetable...I was wrong!  It's asparagus!

The most nutrient dense fruit are blackberries.  This Blackberry Gratin pg. 38  had just the right amount of sweetness and was made with a secret ingredient...tofu.

I encourage you to go out and get this great cookbook and nutrition resource for yourself.  Melissa's did give me a copy of this wonderful book, but in NO way required me to write this post.  I found myself using the book resource daily since I've gotten it and I  wanted to share the wealth.  The book is a helpful reminder to do the best we can for our health and our family's health.  In Hippocrates words, "Let food by thy medicine and medicine be they food".

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