Thursday, October 25, 2012

Walnut Cranberry Puff Pastry Swirls

When perusing the assortment of cheese at the “fancy” cheese counter at our grocery store, I’m smitten by the jars of preserves and honey on the shelf above the cheese, where they also sometimes have samples of cheese for tasting under domed lids.  Specialty fruit pastes and chutneys, nut butters, orange blossom honey, crackers and summer sausage gaze down temptingly, and the only thing stopping them from jumping into my shopping cart are the steep price tags.

The other day, though, a jar of Artisan Walnut Preserves caught my eye, and I needed to know what it was.  I’m not really a walnut person – I think they’re a little bitter – and I prefer pecans.  But this sounded unusual, and, I hoped, delicious too, so I brought a jar home.

When I opened the jar, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.  I thought it would be thick and pasty, maybe like almond butter, but inside the jar was an ultra sweet, dark syrup, with whole preserved soft walnuts floating in the syrup.  It was a little weird.

I dumped the contents of the jar into the food processor and pureed it until it was as smooth and pasty as I could get it, so that at least it was in a form that I would be able to use.  The flavor was rich and intense, walnut-y, and sweet (if not a little too sweet), but I knew the texture and taste would be fantastic with pastry.

On a cold Saturday a few weekends ago (one of those wonderful “pajama days” at home that you know I love...), the day after our first snow this fall, we ate a late breakfast, followed by a movie marathon of all three Matrix movies (which is a little too much Matrix for me, so I read a book during most of it).

That afternoon, it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, but we were hungry again, so we snacked on pickles and sliced deli turkey while I thawed out a sheet of puff pastry from the freezer.  When the pastry was ready, I spread it with a thin layer of the walnut paste, followed by a handful of dried cranberries and a slight sprinkling of bittersweet chocolate.  Rolled up and sliced like cinnamon rolls, they baked up golden and puffy.  Hot from the oven their crisp exterior and creamy swirled layers melted in our mouths.

Jamie happily ate a few before I told him I’d made them with the walnut preserves that he had thought were so strange.  But at least I didn’t try to sneak beets into them, like he has done with braised beef and vegetable dishes…  I always detect the beets.

These puff pastry swirls would be a wonderful appetizer at a party, as long as they’re served right away, and there are so many possible variations.  Any type of fruit or nut paste can be used, and I’ve also made a savory version with spinach, herbs and feta. 

Later that evening after the sun had set, and the streetlights outside reflected on the shiny pavement dampened from a cold, fall rain, we made spiced pumpkin potato soup for dinner, along with grilled sandwiches with chicken, sliced green apple, Parmesan cheese, shallots and bacon.  It was a warm, relaxing end to a quiet day.

Pumpkin Potato Soup
printable recipe
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium or 2 small shallots, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 small red potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 1 can (14 ounces) canned pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic, potatoes, chicken broth, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and orange peel.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until the potatoes are softened, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the pumpkin, evaporated milk and molasses, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Simmer over medium low (don't boil) for 10-15 minutes, until the flavors have married.  If desired, puree with an immersion blender, or leave the potatoes chunky.  Just before serving, stir in the apple cider vinegar.

Garnish with slices of tart green apple and a drizzle of cream.

Yields 4 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Grilled Chicken and Parmesan Sandwich
printable recipe

  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied into 4 thin pieces and cooked, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 8 slices bread
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
  • Parmesan cheese, grated or thinly sliced
  • 1 tart green apple (Granny Smith), cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced

Heat the olive oil on a griddle over medium heat.  Spread one side of each piece of bread with the mayonnaise.  Place half the Parmesan on the bread, then the shallot, green apple, chicken and the rest of the Parmesan.  Top with the other slices of bread.  Secure with toothpicks if needed.

Grill the sandwiches on each side until golden brown and crisp.  Serve immediately with the soup.

Yields 4 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen 

Walnut Cranberry Puff Pastry Swirls
printable recipe
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/3 cup walnut preserves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry to 1/4 inch thick.  In a small bowl, combine the walnut preserves, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, orange peel and salt.  Spread over the pastry.  Sprinkle with the cranberries and chocolate.

Roll the pastry up, and slice into 8 slices.  Place the slices, cut side up, on the baking sheet.

Whisk together the egg and water, then lightly brush over the top and sides of the pastry.  Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg.

Yields 8 swirls.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen