This is my take on a baklava-inspired puff pastry sweet appetizer… I wanted to do something completely nutty in the filling, but taking advantage of the unsulfured dried fruits available when I travel to the US, I decided to look for a recipe using dried fruit.
I started out with Giada’s Apricot Walnut Phyllo cups, but to make it easy on me, I would do palmiers out of puff pastry. I usually do not use orange zest in my cooking because I find it too bitter for my taste, but the crowd seemed to like it a lot. It brought out the apricot taste even more.
APRICOT WALNUT PALMIERS
1 1/2 cups dried apricots, unsulfured preferably, chopped a bit
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon orange zest, from 1 large orange, plus more for garnish, optional,
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
- In the bowl of a food processor mix together the dried apricots, walnuts, honey, orange juice and zest. Pulse a few times so it creates a choppy mixture.
- Open the puffed pastry (which comes folded in three). Place some flour onto a clean surface and flour the rolling pin too. Roll out the pastry so that it loses the creases where the folds were.
- Spread the apricot walnut mixture in an even layer leaving a border on one edge.
- Start rolling from the farthest edge from the border you left without filling. Roll the pastry onto itself until you create a log. If you prefer to make them in palmier form, roll them from two opposites sides until the 2 rolls meet somewhere in the middle.
- Repeat with the second pastry. Place logs in the fridge covered with a moist paper towel for about 10-15 minutes or until you’re ready to bake them. This is important for the pastry to harden a bit again. It’ll be easier to cut if the pastry is cold than if it is at room temp.
- Slice the logs into ½ inch pieces. Place onto a baking sheet. I put some organic sugar on top, but I did not love how those turned out, but I forgot to take a pic without it.
- Bake in a 425F oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden delicious.
I suggest that if you have leftovers, heat them back a bit in a toaster oven… This will soften the apricots in the filling, which tend to harden when they’re colder.
Next time… I promise to make the nut only mixture I envisioned originally. But these ones were a nice twist on my original idea…
My friends, Ana Yolanda and Angie, have a new found appreciation for cooking. Maybe a little bit inspired by me, who knows.
Lately they’ve invited me a few times to taste a few of the new learnings they’ve had in their weekly cooking class. However, something I have noticed every time they invite me over to taste these recipes is the amounts of butter and calories these recipes have.
This Leek Rice was something they created for me one night… it was the ONLY THING I could eat that night, but I get it. They’re not vegetarians and the menus they learn aren’t either. When I asked how the rice was made, I’ll be honest I can’t fully remember the amount of rice in the recipe, but I do remember that they “needed” to cook the leeks in 2 sticks of butter. WHAT???? 2 sticks of butter!!!!!!
I told them I could certainly be able to replicate this recipe and make it in a much healthier manner – without sacrificing flavor or texture in any way.
You be the judge…
3 cups of cooked brown rice, I use Texmati
2 medium leeks, washed and sliced finely, both the white and light green parts
1 tbs olive oil
2 ½ tbs of butter
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
½ cup toasted walnuts
- I cooked the rice in a rice cooker… I only seasoned lightly with a little bit of olive oil and salt. When the rice finished, I started on the rest of the dish.
- In a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, add the oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the leeks and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, moving them occasionally, until they’re soft. .
- Add the rice to the pot where you’re cooking the leeks. Toss well for the rice to be well coated with the leeks and butter. Add the walnuts and mix one more time really well.
That’s it… In my opinion, the rice still has that silky unctuous sensation in the mouth without having to melt 2 full sticks of butter. About ¼ of a stick will do, IMHO.
My mom never had the original version and she loved this one. What’s your verdict???
My friends from French class and I used to meet at Chez Kristina every Tuesday to practice our French grammar and practice our vocabulary and speaking fluidity. Since last Summer we took an indefinite break from our weekly get-togethers and I truly miss them.
Kristina was gracious enough to open up the doors to her house each week and also usually made us dinner. Many times we offered to help and these reunions were the reason or excuse for many recipes shared here – Mushroom Goat Cheese spread, Cranberry Trifle, “Shrimp” Creole, and the Pita Pizzas made with Spinach and Tomato Sauce. But many times, Kristina surprised us with a creation all her own.
One of these creations was what I lovingly call Arroz Kristina – a rice Kristina made in the oven so little tending in necessary. The flavor is spectacular and it’s great to make for yourself or for company, just like Kristina made it for us. I tried a few times before this recipe with little success. It was mostly my fault for screwing up the liquid measurements to accommodate for whole-grain rice. But recently I discovered Texmati rice, whole grain basmati-style rice apparently grown in Texas that cooks almost exactly was white long-grain rice – similar in texture, liquids to use, time to cook. This rice is FAST!!!
After discovering Texmati rice and having a pint of mushrooms in my fridge about to spoil, I decided to give Arroz Kristina another serious try… and the results were as good as the original.
¾ cup of Texmati whole-grain brown rice
1 pint button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ red onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs ume plum vinegar
½ cup frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh baby spinach
¼ cup walnuts, chopped – you can use any nut you wish… I’ve used pecans also
1 cup water or vegetable broth
About 2 tbs olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
- Pre-heat oven to 400F
- In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, pour about 1 tbs of olive oil and sauté the diced onions and peppers. After a few minutes, add the garlic cloves. Stir to combine. Add the mushrooms and stir so the olive oil in the pan coats them and so the garlic doesn’t stay all together in the bottom to potentially burn.
- After a few minutes of cooking and the mushrooms browning a bit, add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes for the mushrooms to absorb the flavors and cook completely. After a few minutes, set aside to cool a bit.
- In a glass casserole dish, add the rice, frozen spinach (no need to defrost at all) or chopped fresh baby spinach leaves, walnuts or pecans, cooked mushroom mixture and water or vegetable broth. Mix together to blend and season with a bit of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Be careful here and try to avoid over salting… remember you seasoned the mushrooms so keep that in mind. Cover with foil paper.
- Place in oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. At about the 1 hour mark, check the rice and fluff and move a bit if necessary. Keep covered and leave in oven the additional 15 minutes.
- After time has elapsed, uncover, add the cheese, cover again and turn off oven. Let the cheese melt with the residual heat in the oven.
The color of the dish might be a monotone brown, but the flavors are really good. You could also use fresh spinach and the color would be greener… but using frozen spinach is just as good and super easy to have always at hand in the freezer.
I want to thank Kristina for always opening up the doors to her house for our French extra-curricular rendez-vous. I am extremely grateful for her hospitality, but most of all for her friendship. Hope that we can retake these weekly meetings, if not in her house, possibly in mine. And possibly start sharing once again new recipes we can all share with you…
A great feast for me is never complete without a fresh salad. Maybe I will not feel as guilty to eat all the fried Spanish foods we were having the other night if there is a little greenery on the side.
GREEN SALAD WITH SHERRY VINAIGRETTE
Little less than ¼ cup of sherry vinegar
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
About ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
A bag of salad greens – we used baby romaine lettuce
½ a pear, sliced thin
½ cup of toasted walnuts
- Toast walnuts in a skillet over medium heat or in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes, until the nuts start to smell a bit. Cool off and set aside.
- In a medium container mix together the sherry vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk well to combine and emulsify.
- In a large salad bowl place the lettuces and arrange pear slices and walnuts on top. Drizzle with about ½ the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve more dressing on the side for whoever wants some more…
My mom is a pesto lover… she sees pesto on a menu and she zones out anything else.
When we started getting bagfuls and bagfuls of fresh organic arugula in our CSA box, I decided to use some in a pesto for her. There’s so much arugula salad one person can take in a given week.
I loved the taste of this pesto because it’s much milder and fresher tasting than if you use only basil leaves.
About 4 cups of arugula leaves, well washed and dried
1 handful of basil leaves
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, chopped a bit
2 handfuls of walnuts
Sea salt and freshly cracked Pepper
About ½ cup of olive oil
- Fill the bowl of a food processor with all the ingredients except the olive oil. Turn on the food processor and drizzle the olive oil thru the cover chute.
- Process until a chunky paste forms.