Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This is another great appetizer, simple to make, and suitable for a formal occasion as well as casual snacking. It keeps at room temperature and travels well, so it's one of my favorites when I need to bring an appetizer somewhere.  It needs to be made the day you are serving it to preserve the crispness of the phyllo.

You'll need asparagus,
1/2 package of Athens phyllo dough
butter to melt
parmesan cheese optional
salt and pepper optional

The phyllo dough should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight if possible, or you can leave it on the counter until you can unroll it.

 Preheat the oven to 400-425

I usually line a sheet pan with parchment paper to ensure these don't stick, but this isn't necessary if you don't have any.  Use a silpat, or just oil the pan lightly.

Prepare asparagus by snapping the bottom end from each individual spear.

Melt butter - a half stick should be plenty for enough dough for a pound of asparagus. Stack 3 standard 9x13 Athens phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter before you add another sheet. Brush the top sheet lightly with butter as well.

Cut the stack in half the short way, and then cut about half a dozen strips from each half, which will be about 1 1/2 inch by 6 1/2 inches.

Wrap each spear with a strip at an angle, and place on the baking sheet. Brush the asparagus spear with a little melted butter or olive oil as well.  sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on the phyllo strip if you'd like.  I prefer them plain.  Repeat as many times as you need to in order to cover all your asparagus (you could probably cover about 6 dozen spears with 1/2 package of phyllo).

Roast until the phyllo is pleasantly golden, but be careful not to overcook the asparagus, which should be tender-crisp.  This should take no longer than 15 minutes, depending on the temperature you've chosen.

I sprinkle a little salt and black pepper on the asparagus when it comes out of the oven.

It's important not to cover the asparagus tightly if you are traveling with it, or the phyllo will absorb moisture and lose it's crispness.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This appetizer has been part of our Thanksgiving dinner for decades.

The original recipe by Hellman's mayonnaise  used 12 oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup Hellman's, and 1/3 cup parmesan cheese.  However, 8 oz cream cheese is usually plenty, and I don't actually measure anything else.  I use about the same amount of herbs for the smaller amount of mix though, since my taste, and I think ours in general, is for stronger flavors than it was 30 years ago.  I've substituted lighter cream cheese and mayo, too, and find it's just as good this way:

8 oz light cream cheese (Neufchatel - nuke for 30 seconds or so if necessary to soften)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
<1/4 cup Light Hellman's mayo (one serving spoon full)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

I try to make this near the time I'll serve it, since the pecans tend to get punky if they absorb moisture from staying in the cheese mix overnight in the fridge, and they're easier to insert into a room temperature mixture anyway.  Once youve done it it's very fast to make.

Shape into an airfoil/teardrop.  Once the pecans are inserted it will magically look like a pine cone even if your original teardrop did not.

Start inserting whole pecans at the tip, and shingle each successive row. The pecans will be horizontal at the tip and vertical at the back.  This will happen naturally.

The biggest difficulty with making this is finding enough good pecans.  I mail order nuts from Sunnyland Farms in Georgia.  The nuts aren't the cheapest, but they are outstanding.  Then if you always have the other ingredients on hand, which I do, you can whip up an appetizer to bring somewhere with a half hour's notice.

I usually serve extra pecans and/or crackers, because there's more mix than the assembled pecans will use up.

I don't worry a lot about leaving this out at room temperature for several hours atan event, but I keep the leftovers in the fridge.