Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feta Cheese, Tomato and Basil Ponchettes

by Ann
Ok, so are you asking, "What the heck is a ponchette"?  Even though I could have guessed from seeing photos of the end product and preparing this recipe, I looked in up on Google, and found that ponchette is a French term for a little bag.

This was one of the recipes I got from the cookbook, Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet as I searched for Indian recipes for my book club meal last week.  The fact that the title has a French word in it and the ingredients include Greek feta cheese clued me in to it not being an Indian dish.  But heck, it looked so good that I made it anyway!

Padma Lakshmi, the author of the cookbook warned that it was labor intensive, but that it was worth the effort.  I'd have to double check that fact with Ginny, one of my book club pals who agreed to come early to help me scramble to get ready for the gang; the "intensive labor" part of this recipe ended up being her responsibility.  They were delicious and attractive to serve (thanks to Ginny!).

Ponchettes of Feta, Tomato and Basil

Half of a 1-pound package of filo dough
5 plum tomatoes
8 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled
2 c loosely packed, finely chopped fresh basil
½ t crushed dried red pepper
salt (optional)
1 c clarified butter
Remove filo from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to starting.
Slice tomatoes lengthwise to scoop out the seeds  with a spoon.  Squeeze gently with paper toweling to eliminate excess liquid.  Get the tomatoes as dry as possible.
In a bowl combine tomatoes, feta, basil, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt.
Prepare filo dough by laying out a clean dish cloth on a flat surface.  Stack the filo on the cloth, and cover with another dish cloth.  With hot water dampen and wring out a third dish cloth and lay on top of the top cloth.

Preheat the oven to 375°.
Cut the filo with kitchen shears to squares (or slight rectangles) between 7-8”, depending upon the size of the dough.  Remove three squares of the dough at a time, keeping the rest covered.

Take one sheet and brush it with the clarified butter.  Place a second sheet at a 45° angle and brush it with butter as well.  Repeat the process with the third sheet of dough.

Spoon about 2 T of tomato mixture in the middle of the filo.  Gather the corners and twist gently.  Fan out the ends and peel the petals to create a rose floret.  Brush the top of the ponchette with more clarified butter.

Place the ponchettes on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 12 good-sized appetizers.

Here's the drill on preparation and assembly:

Remove all of the seeds and liquid centers of the tomatoes, leaving only the skin and pith that is attached to it.
Combine the diced tomatoes, crumbled feta, slivered basil and crushed red peppers.
Place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture in each prepared "pile" of three sheets of filo with butter brushed between each layer.
Twist the layers to create rosettes.  Don't stress if they aren't perfect!!
Bake for 12 minutes until golden brown and delicious!  Enjoy!

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