Harvest Fruit Puff Pastry Strudel

Over twenty years ago I fell in love with a recipe in Gourmet for a Harvest Tart – a combination of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, butter, sweetener and liqueur – baked in a sweet pastry crust and topped with a lattice crust.  It was a sophisticated and popular dessert at our Thanksgiving table.  The thick, slightly chunky fruit & nut filling was remarkably similar to the filling my mother used for her strudel – a taste memory I was thrilled to replicate.

Flash forward several years later to a few days after our Passover Seder, when I had an abundance of leftover “charoses”  Charoses (also spelled haroseth) is often just a forgettable mixture of chopped apples, walnuts and sweet wine, but the version I make is from an outstanding recipe in the NYT Passover Cookbook, incorporating a palette of ingredients very much like the filling for the above-referenced tart.  Rather than toss it or use it as a semi-chutney side dish, I experimented with turning it into a strudel like my mother’s, but baked in store-bought Pepperidge Farm puff pastry.  It worked!  And it tasted so much like my mother’s wonderfully complex fruit strudel that I did shed some tears of joy.

Now skip ahead to 2017, when all my instincts tell me that the Harvest Tart filling, when baked in Trader Joe’s wildly superior all-butter puff pastry, will yield a strudel worthy of center stage on your dinner-party dessert menu – especially for Thanksgiving.

Being under no time constraints to prepare this, I made the fruit filling yesterday and have let it chill in fridge before assembling and baking today.  This could actually be done a few days in advance of assembly and baking.  So let’s review the filling, because all that’s left after that is a package of TJ’s puff pastry thawed for 2 hours, rolled out to be filled and brushed with an egg wash, and baked:

HARVEST FRUIT PUFF PASTRY STRUDEL

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FILLING:

1 tart, crisp apple such as Empire or Granny Smith and 1 firm-ripe pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, both peeled & coarsely chopped

8  ounces pitted prunes

6 ounces dried Calmyrna figs, stem tips removed

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots

1-2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

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PASTRY:

1 package Trader Joe’s all-butter Puff Pastry (2 sheets weighing 18.3 ounces) defrosted for 2 hours and each rolled on a floured board to a 12 x 10″ rectangle

(NOTE: You could use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry if TJ’s is not available, but it’s made with shortening instead of butter.  The TJ’s is all-butter, from France, just like Dufour, but at $3.99/box it’s about 1/3 the price of a 14-ounce box of Dufour)

EGG WASH:

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine all fresh and dried fruits and orange rind in a large saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until softened – about 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve or colander, and return to the pot with the butter, sugar and nuts, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Coarsely chop the mixture in two batches in food processor with a few quick pulses, and remove to a covered container for storage in refrigerator.
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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Gently roll out each sheet of puff pastry to about 10 x 12″  – they are almost that size to begin with – and spread 1/2 of the fruit filling on each, starting about 1″ from the bottom of one end, to cover about 2/3 of the sheet, leaving a 1/2″ margin on left and right edge.  Fold the bottom edge up over the filling and fold the other two edges in as well.   Then roll each into a log, making sure ends are tucked in.  Carefully move them to the parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly brush with egg wash, and make 5 or 6 shallow diagonal knife slashes across the top.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.  With a long spatula, carefully move to a rack to cool completely.  Cut on the diagonal into sections about 1 – 1-1/2 inches wide for serving.  Store in air-tight container.

NOTE:  If you seem to have more fruit filling than needed, reserve some as a delightful spread for toast or English muffins.

 

 

 

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Foolproof Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

Several years ago an episode of America’s Test Kitchen gave me another of their superb cooking hacks – a way to make manicotti or canneloni without struggling to fill pasta shells that often cracked, sometimes just in the box from shipping, but more often from the pressure exerted in stuffing them.  The trick is to use no-cook lasagna noodles in lieu of manicotti shells, softening them in very hot water until pliable, and then doing rolls-ups with your stuffing of choice – in this case, a combination of fully-cooked Italian chicken sausages, a mix of shredded Italian cheeses, and ricotta.

This dish has much of the character of lasagna, but is far easier to serve in specific portions.   I have an obvious preference for ingredients from Trader Joe’s for this, but wherever I specifiy that, feel free to substitute your favorite brand.  But I do believe the TJ’s products used in this are superior in flavor and value to other supermarket brands.  The no-bake noodles from Italy develop a tender texture as they bake in the sauce.  the sauce is the best store-bought marinara I’ve ever cooked with, and the Quattro Formaggio obsoletes the task of purchasing and shredding multiple Italian cheeses.

 

Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

(serves 6-8)

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INGREDIENTS:

16 sheets of Trader Joe’s No-Cook Lasagna noodles

2 28-ounce cans Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Tuscano Marinara

12-ounce package Trader Joe’s fully cooked Italian Chicken Sausages (either mild or spicy, as you prefer)

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 tsp EVOO

15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta

1 cup Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese blend

2 tbsp + 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

PREPARATION:

Sauté the whole sausages and chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn color. Turn sausages over, continue to cook another 3 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and turn up the heat, stirring often until all the wine is absorbed and onions are golden. Remove to a plate to cool.

Combine the ricotta, shredded cheese mix, 2 tbsp romano, parsley and pepper in a medium bowl. Cut the cooled cooked sausages into 1/4″ dice and add, with the onions, to cheese mixture. Filling should weigh about 2 lbs. on a kitchen scale.

Fill a 13 x 9 x 2″ baking dish with 1″ very hot water, and immerse the uncooked noodles in the water, making sure to keep them separate. Allow to soak at least 10 minutes, until pliable enough to be rolled. Lay them out flat on a tea towel.

Lightly brush bottom of that baking dish with olive oil and spread about 1 cup of the sauce in it. Spread about 2 ounces (scant 1/3 cup) of the filling on lower two-thirds of each noodle, and roll up from the short side. Lay them in the baking dish seam side down. All 16 should fit perfectly in 2 rows of 8. Cover completely with most or all of the remaining sauce and sprinkle top with remaining 3/4 cup grated cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover, raise oven temperature to 425, and bake just a few minutes longer until cheese on top is just golden. Let rest about 5 minutes and serve.

Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated.

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Served with lightly dressed green salad and Dutch-oven-baked Artisan rosemary bread.

 

 

 

Pastel – Israeli Meat Pie in Puff Pastry

In my continuing search for uses for the superb French puff pastry from Trader Joe’s, I found another High Holiday-appropriate dish on the NYT Cooking site, an Israeli dish of seasoned ground beef encased in puff pastry.

Reading the comments and anticipating the flavors, I made so many changes that I honestly have to call this recipe my own.  We just partook and I am farklempt – delicious beyond all my expectations, and plenty of leftovers to ejoy during the week:

Pastel – Israeli Meat Pie in Puff Pastry

6-8 servings

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INGREDIENTS:

1 package Trader Joe’s puff pastry

2 T olive oil

1 lb each ground lamb and lean ground beef

2 large carrots, 2 medium sweet onions, and one small shallot chopped finely

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

Seasonings (suggested, but to taste): 1 T kosher salt; 1 t black pepper; 1 t smoked paprika; 1 t cumin; 1 t ras el hanout; 1 t ground sumac; 1 t Za’atar; 1-1/2 t cinnamon;    1 t allspice; 1/2 t ground ginger; 1 t dill weed

3 eggs

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 T toasted sesame seeds

PREPARATION:

Heat olive oil in large skillet (12″ cast iron) on medium heat and sauté carrots, onions and shallots until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the ground meats and all seasonings and sauté another 10 minutes or so until meats are browned.  Remove to a large bowl, add the pine nuts and raisins, and allow to cool.

When mixture is cool, add two lightly beaten eggs.  Line the bottom and sides of a 2-quart oven-proof baking dish, about 8-9 x 11″, with one sheet of the puff pastry.  Using a slotted spoon, add the the meat mixture into the pastry-lined pan with just some but not all of the liquid in the mix.  Sprinkle the top with the chopped parsley and lay the second sheet of puff pastry over it, pinching around the edges to seal it.  Chill 1-4 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400.  Beat the remaining egg and brush the top layer of pastry with it.  then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting to serve.