Updated October 2011.
When Ted and I moved to Boston's South End in 1980, it took me a week or so to tumble onto The Syrian Grocery. The Mansour family ran it then, as they have for more than 60 years, and it quickly became my go-to market when I needed to pull a rabbit out of my very small culinary hat.
Ethnic markets offer a world of possibilities for cooks, and for the cooking-challenged. The Syrian Grocery saved me time and again, with marinated olives and sharp cheeses for appetizers, benne wafers and halvah for dessert.
One of my discoveries at that tiny market quickly became, and remains, a fixture in my pantry: phyllo shells that hold one or two bites of savory appetizer quiches or sweet desserts.
Phyllo, fillo, filo....all the same, all pronounced fee-lo, all from the Greek word meaning "leaf," and that's just what these pastry shells are — leaves of paper-thin dough made from flour and water and a bit of oil, layered with melted butter, and formed into ready-to-use shells. Phyllo originated in Turkey, and features in the cuisines of many Mediterranean and Balkan countries: think strudel, spanakopita, baklava.
Any filling you'd use with sheets of phyllo dough will work with these little shells. Keep a box in the freezer; pull them out, fill them, and pop them into the oven for 12-14 minutes. Elegant!
Teeny tiny lime tarts
Bet you can't eat just one! Inspired by a recipe on the Athens Fillo site, this easy recipe makes 15 mini-tarts. And the best part? No cooking.
1/2 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp lime zest
1 package mini-phyllo shells, defrosted if previously frozen
thin slices of lime or shaved dark chocolate, for garnish
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and condensed milk, and beat with a whisk or immersion blender until fluffy. Stir in lime juice and zest. Chill for 1 hour. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a star tip, with the chilled cream, and fill each tart shell. Garnish with sliced lime or shaved chocolate, and serve immediately.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Nirvana bars -- chocolate and coconut bliss, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Hot brie kisses, from Recipe Girl
Maple pumpkin cheesecake, from Cooking on the Side
Peanut butter fudge, from Food Blogga
Shrimp ceviche in phyllo cups, from Eclectic Recipes
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