Need a last-minute appetizer? Puff pastry fills the bill

I just hung up the phone. The call was from an old friend who plans to pass through town and will stop by - on one condition.

That condition is that we allow him to take us out to dinner. What a deal! What is not to like about that! Of course, we accepted at once.

It has occurred to me that it might be a nice idea to have a glass of wine and something to nibble on before dinner. Nothing to interfere with our appetites -- which we will have honed for the event. But something, nevertheless.

We keep a package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry almost always in our freezer.

That coupled with a jar of excellent store-bought pesto and a cylinder of Montrechet goat cheese should do it.

This combination meets all the requirements. It can be prepared early in the day, can be thrown in the oven as our friend and his wife arrive and will nicely accompany a glass of either red or white wine - we will have a bottle of each at hand.

When you are uncertain about your friends' current predilections, it is good to also have iced tea and sparkling water with lemon wedges at the ready.

It is possible they would like something more substantial from the bar - you'll know. Be ready.

Fresh jumbo cashews and macadamia nuts make good additions. Expensive, but, after all, your friend is popping for the dinner.

It is good also to be prepared in case your friend would like to stop by after dinner for coffee. You have a lot to catch up on.

After dinner mints will be welcome.

This recipe is a winner and is courtesy of Ina Garten, known as the "Barefoot Contessa." It is as simple as it is delicious.

Once you sample it, you will do it over and over again. It is light, crispy, and thoroughly tasty - just right for a pre-prandial get together!

Sundried Tomato, Pesto and Goat Cheese Palmiers

Ingredients:

1 package frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted

1/4 cup prepared pesto, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, such as Montrachet

1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Kosher salt

Preparation:

Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry.

Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it's 9 1/2" by 11 1/2".

Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sundried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch.

Fold one side over the other and press lightly.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Repeat the entire instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry in 1/4 inch thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve warm.

Homemade Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup pignolis

3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)

5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups good olive oil

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds.

Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper.

With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed.

Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute.

Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Yield: 4 cups

Judge Kirkendall is a retired probate judge.

He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco.

He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges and can be reached at : Judgejnk@yahoo.com.

Published: Thu, Feb 17, 2011

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