Do you subscribe to the philosophy “life is short, eat the dessert first?” Well then you will love these dessert appetizers. They go great as a before dinner appetizer and could be used after dinner although you would want several for dessert.
The first uses a Phyllo Dough shell that you can get at selected supermarkets in your local town, although you may have to ask for it to be brought in if they don’t normally carry it. The product is made by the Athens company and they make genuine phyllo pastry dough, form it into cups that are baked and completely ready to use out of the freezer. Commercially they are available from most of the large food wholesalers. At one point in time I was able to get chocolate Phyllo cups for things like Hazel-nut or Strawberry Mousse in Phyllo, but I have not seen those in years, so I am not sure that the chocolate ones are available any more.
I have infinite respect for those who have chosen the baking profession. It is easy to learn the nuances of savory cooking when you compare it with the nuances of chocolate and sugar. The precise temperatures necessary to get sugar to melt and mix with other ingredients in a “just so” fashion are extremely tricky–too little heat and nothing works–too much heat and the whole thing instantly burns. That said this recipe calls for caramelized walnuts.
The long process means heating a skillet of walnuts in the oven with the sugar, salt and a pinch of cayenne. When the mixture is hot ( at least 300°) you then put the skillet on the stove over high heat and stir constantly as the sugar melts, caramelizes and coats the hot nuts. If you do it right the sugar turns a nice light brown and coats the walnuts, too much heat and it turns black very quickly, too little heat and the sugar will not melt consistently yielding a series of half melted crystallized white chunks. I’ve got the tee shirt on both of those methods. Done correctly you now have some perfectly coated candied walnuts to cool on a pan-sprayed cookie sheet.
Or you can cheat and simply use a small squirt of caramel syrup ice cream topping.
Take walnut pieces and chop them coarsely. Fill the tart shells with the walnuts give the shells a healthy squirt of caramel syrup. Now place a small slice of brie (1/4″) thick cheese on top of each shell. Put these on a baking tray and into the oven (350°) for about 5 minutes or so, just long enough to melt the cheese into the walnuts. Serve them while they are still warm. These can be made up a day before and stored in the refrigerator. Your guests will love them.
Dried Figs Stuffed With Gorgonzola Wrapped in Procuito
Dried figs are easy to find, available usually at Whole Foods or that type of market. For this you need very thinly sliced procuito ham. This can be tricky unless you have a commercial slicer or you make the “Deli Person” take the time to get a whole slice as thin as possible. For each slice you need to get 3 strips the long way of the ham slice. These will wrap around the fig when you have finished stuffing it.
Take the dried figs and cut off the small piece of stem that will usually be connected. Now turn the sliced area up and make a cut down but not through the fig. Basically you want to split it open so you will have a place to put the cheese. Now take the Gorgonzola and crumble it into a bowl. You will probably want to use gloves for this process as it gets a bit sticky. Hold the fig over the cheese bowl, open up the slice area and put as much cheese as you can into the vee opening. Squeeze it closed and set it aside as you fill the rest of the figs.
Take your sliced procuito and place the slices back together directly over each other, you want to get three sets of strips about an inch or so wide. Stacking them this way you can simply cut through the stack twice and have 3 nice sets of strips to work with. Now take your stuffed fig and roll it up in the ham. Secure it together with a tooth pick. Next heat a griddle over medium heat and lightly brown both sides of the ham for about 30 seconds on each side. At service time you will want to heat them in the oven for about 5 minutes to get the cheese soft, but not totally melted. The result is an excellent salty sweet appetizer. I will have a few pictures up in a day or two.