How to make cheese and onion pastry appetizers

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This elegant onion appetizer marries caramelized onions with cheese and a dash of red pepper in a flaky phyllo pastry. Amy Topel, the food columnist for National Geographic's The Green Guide, shows us how to make a cheese and onion pastry appetizer that your guests will gobble up.

How to make cheese and onion pastry appetizers

Ingredients (makes 20-30 flaky pastries)

5 yellow onions, sliced into thin strips

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 prunes, sliced lengthwise

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise

5 ounces feta cheese

10 sheets phyllo dough

Melted butter to brush over phyllo dough

 

  1. Thinly slice the onions. (To slice the onions, remove the top and bottom of the onion, and cut it in half lengthwise. Look at the grain of your onion and make sure you're cutting along the grain as opposed to around the equator. Once you've cut it in half, remove the skin and the slice the onion, making sure all your slices are a uniform thickness so that they cook evenly.)
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot so that your onions don't burn, but just brown nicely as you cook them.
  3. Add the onions. It may look like this is a lot of onions, but once they've cooked for 45 minutes they're really going to cook down.
  4. Add the dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt.
  5. Stir the onions until they're completely coated with oil and all the herbs and spices are mixed in. Once you've sautéed them for about a minute or so, put the lid on, lower the heat and allow them to cook for about 15 minutes.
  6. After about 15 minutes, remove the lid and continue cooking them over medium heat, stirring frequently for about another 35 minutes. You want the onions to brown really nicely -- not burn, but take on a nice, caramel-brown color.
  7. When the onions are well caramelized, add the prunes and the pitted Kalamata olives. Stir until well combined, and then cook for about another five minutes to make sure the flavors have melded.
  8. Remove to a bowl and allow the mixture to cool down.
  9. Add the feta cheese and mix to make sure that it's very well combined.
  10. Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it out on a cutting board. (You can buy phyllo at almost any grocery store in the frozen-food section. When you bring it home, put it in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight. When you're ready to use it, open the package and lay it out on a tray. Phyllo dries out really quickly, so once you've laid it out you want to take a lightly damp cloth and lay it across the top of the phyllo so that it doesn't dry out while you're working with the other pieces. Phyllo is also very delicate, so you want to make sure that you handle it carefully.)
  11. Brush it with a little bit of melted butter. You don't want to use too much butter or your triangles will end up having sort of a greasy flavor. But you want to get enough on there so that your phyllo doesn't dry out. You can use olive oil in place of the melted butter if you'd like to, but the butter really gives a nice favor.
  12. Cut the sheet into thirds. Don't worry if it's not exact; just get it as close as you can.
  13. Take a small amount of the cheese and onion filling and place it at the base of one of the strips, towards a corner. (You may be tempted to overfill the pockets at this point, but don't do that. If you overfill them, they may explode when you put them in the oven and bake them!)
  14. Fold phyllo and filling up into a triangle shape. Make one fold, then tap it down a little bit so that it's even, and then spread out the filling. Continue folding up, much like you'd fold a flag, until you've created a little triangle.
  15. Place the folded triangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and go on to the next triangles to use all the filling. Once you get the triangles completed, place them on the baking sheet and brush lightly with butter on the top.
  16. Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until they've turned a golden brown on the top. Place your delicious, flaky cheese and onion pastry appetizers on a platter and serve. (If you're planning on freezing them, place them in the freezer before baking and make sure they are well-covered with plastic wrap so they don't take on any other flavors.)

 

Transcript

Hi I'm Amy Topel from the Green Guide for howdini and I'm here today to show you how to make a delicious and unusual holiday hors d'oeuvre that you can make weeks in advance, put in the freezer, and then when your guests arrive just pull it out of the freezer, pop it in the oven, and you're good to go.

To make the caramelized onion triangles we're going to start by cutting five yellow onions. I've removed the top and bottom of the onion and now I'm cutting it in half lengthwise. You want to look at the grain of the onion and make sure you're cutting along the grain as opposed to around the equator. Once you've cut in half you'll remove the skin and then slice the onion thinly. You want to make sure that all your slices are uniform thickness so that it cooks evenly. Once we have the five onions sliced we're going to heat one and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot so that your onions don't burn, they just brown nicely when you cook them. You're going to heat the oil in the pot and then add the onions. It may look to you that it's a lot of onions, but once they've cooked for forty five minutes they're really going to have reduced down.

Once the onions are in the pot, we're going to add one tablespoon of dried thyme, one teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and a quarter teaspoon of salt. You want to make sure that you stir it to combine all of the ingredients. Once you've sauteed them for a minute or so, you're going to put the lid on, lower the heat, and allow them to cook for about fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes my onions are transluscent and wilted, so I'm going to remove the lid and continue cooking them over medium heat stirring frequently for about another thirty five minutes. I want the onions to brown really nicely, not burn, but take on a nice caramel brown color. 

So now I'm going to add eight sliced prunes and a third of a cup pitted calamata olives that I've also sliced. I'm going to stir these in and make sure that they're well combined and cook it for about another five minutes just to make sure the flavors have melded. Once it's cooked for five minutes I'm going to remove it to a bowl and allow it to cool down. So now I'm ready to add the feta cheese.  I'm using five ounces of feta cheese that I bought at the Green Market. It's delicious and has a really creamy texture to it. I'm going to mix it in and make sure that it's very well combined, and once it is I'm going to set up my phyllo and form the triangles.

Phyllo's very delicate so you want to make sure that you handle it carefully. Once we have it laid on the board we're going to brush it with a little bit of melted butter. You don't want to use too much butter or your hors d'oeuvre will end up having sort of a greasy flavor to it. Once my phyllo is completely brushed with butter, I'm going to take this sheet and cut it into thirds. Don't worry if it's not exact just get it as close as you can. You can buy phyllo at almost any grocery store in the frozen foods section. When you bring it home put it in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight. And then when you're ready to use it, open the package and lay it out on a tray. Phyllo dries out really easily so once you've laid it out you want to take a lightly damp cloth and lay it across the top of the phyllo so that it doesn't dry out while you're working with the other pieces.

Now that I have my phyllo buttered and cut into thirds I'm going to take a small amount of the filling and place it at the base of one of the strips, a little bit in the corner. You may be tempted to want to overfill the pockets at this point, but don't do that. I have and when you put them in the oven and bake them they explode. So take just a little bit of phyllo. Now we're gonig to fold it up into a triangle shape. I'm going to make one fold like this, and sort of tap it down a little bit so that it's even and my filling is going to spread out. If you feel like your strip is a little bit too wide at this point you can simply cut off the edge and discard that. And then we're going to continue folding up, much like you fold a flag. Once you have a triangle finished, you're going to place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and go on to the next triangles. 

Now we're just going to brush the tops gently with a little bit of butter. Once we have the tops all brushed with butter we're going to pop them in the oven and cook them for about twenty minutes until they've turned golden brown on the top. 

The triangles have just come out of the oven and they're ready to be served. They may be fragile so you may not want to stack them one on top of another, but you can just arrange them on a plate all in one level. Enjoy. I'm Amy Topel from the Green Guide for howdini. 

meet theexpert
  • Amy Topel

    Amy Topel Educator and Food Columnist, The Green Guide Amy Topel honed her culinary skills working in restaurants in New York City. She spent a summer in the kitchen at the Herb Farm with Jerry Traunfeld, and has worked as a private chef and caterer. more about this expert »

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