Does your house sometimes feel like a bed-and-breakfast inn, with a steady stream of guests coming and going?
When you live in a log house in the woods, with a great kitchen and a fireplace and a big screened porch and indoor plumbing, you get plenty of company. (Yes, people ask. Do we need sleeping bags? Do you have towels? Should we bring flashlights? I remind them that, even out here in the woods, we have a dishwasher and DSL.)
If you're me, you love having people come to visit. Of course, if you're me, you don't bake, so you're always on the lookout for ingredients to keep in the pantry for easy entertaining.
When it comes to pastry, I'm all thumbs. Forget making it from scratch; even a store-bought pie dough becomes silly putty in my hands. However, a bit of pastry can dress up almost anything, from scrambled eggs to hummus to leftover Chinese food, so I stash a few boxes of phyllo shells in the freezer.
Phyllo (pronounced FEE-lo, from the Greek word meaning "leaf", but also spelled fillo or filo) is paper-thin dough made from flour and water, layered with oil or melted butter. Phyllo originated in Turkey, and while it features in the cuisines of many Mediterranean and Balkan countries -- dishes like strudel, spanakopita and baklava -- it can be used to envelop chicken, lamb, asparagus, figs and cheese, butterscotch, or pears.
Any filling you'd use with sheets of phyllo dough will work with these pre-formed shells, which, at one-and-a-half inches in diameter, hold one bite's worth of anything sweet or savory. Use the pre-baked shells as is, defrosted and filled with a bit of ice cream or fruit or tuna salad. Or fill the frozen shells with a savory custard or leftover mashed potatoes, pop them into the oven, and bake for 12-14 minutes.
One-bite vegetable quiche
Irresistible, flexible, fast and easy! Each box of phyllo shells makes 15 miniature quiches, perfect for entertaining and for A Taste of Yellow 2008, supporting cancer survivors and their families. This recipe is for my courageous friends (and frequent house guests) Joyce and Fred.
1 package mini phyllo shells
1 large egg
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced onion or shallot
1 Tbsp minced red bell pepper
1 Tbsp minced zucchini
Pinch of minced fresh thyme
Pinch of minced fresh parsley or chives
Kosher salt and black pepper or piment d'Espelette, to taste
Remove the shells from the package and place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and set aside.
In a small nonstick frying pan, heat the oil. Add onion, bell pepper, and zucchini, and sauté for 2 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly cooked. Remove from heat, allow to cool for one minute, stir in the herbs, and add the mixture to the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the shells with the egg mixture. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until egg is set. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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