Money Tartlets

tarts1Happy 2017! Yes, here we are barreling forward into the new year and I’d planned to post this at the beginning of it…then mid-January, and now it will be just in time for the Super Bowl Sunday festivities this coming weekend. That’s okay because really, these little tartlets are wonderful for any day, any occasion, or no occasion at all.

Why are these called “Money” tartlets, you may ask? Well there’s a tradition here in the southern U.S. to eat your “greens” on New Year’s Day to guarantee wealth in the coming months (as well as eating black-eyed peas for good luck), and since New Year’s Day was the first time I made these, it only made sense to call them “money” tarts. Plus once they are baked, these really are the color of (U.S.) dollars. So there you go.

No matter what you call them, they are delightful to eat and a lovely way to enjoy your greens. These savory morsels sport a filling that is much like the Greek greens pie spanakopita, but with a few tasty twists including a touch of toasted almonds and a bit of parmesan cheese to finish. Since they are small and made with phyllo dough instead of a traditional pastry crust, I like to think that they’re a bit healthier than your average tart, too…or three…or four!

Money Tartlets make a perfect small bite for an appetizer with a cocktail or a welcome addition to any pot luck event. As an added bonus, using purchased phyllo tartlet shells from your grocer’s freezer helps these tartlets to come together quickly. Of course if you have the time and the desire, feel free to make your own phyllo pastry. I sure won’t hold it against you.

Make these tartlets for the game, place your bets and enjoy! (Go Atlanta Falcons.)

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Money Tartlets
Makes 30

1/2 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large clove of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
1 – 10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained of as much liquid as possible
1 large egg, whisked to combine
1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and finely chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Panko breadcrumbs
Additional 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and a few more grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
30 frozen phyllo mini-tart shells

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic, stirring until the onion is softened and transparent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to the onion and garlic, and cook a minute or two longer, stirring to combine and until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, feta, cottage cheese, almonds, Panko bread crumbs, 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt, a few more grinds of black pepper and the spinach mixture, then stir until well mixed.

Place the 30 phyllo tartlet shells onto a rimmed baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Fill each shell with about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture, dividing the entire mixture evenly between all of the shells. Sprinkle each tartlet with some grated Parmesan cheese. Bake the tartlets for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until the cheese is starting to lightly brown, the centers are firm and the shells have a little bit of color around the edges. Remove from the oven and gently place the tartlets on a rack to cool to room temperature. Serve and enjoy.

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Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart

Another dish I could eat every day and be quite happy, thank you!

Another dish I could eat every day and be quite happy, thank you! It’s a night shot so please excuse the flash.

Here’s a little tart that’s free-formed, which in my case resulted in a rectangle. You could actually make it rounded, I suppose, if your phyllo happens to come in a different shape than that which we get here. But this rectangle format was a no-brainer using locally purchased phyllo from the freezer, and also seemed to give the tart a proper amount of phyllo-to-filling ratio in each slice. It makes for a pretty presentation and is not too difficult to make, once you get over what I like to call “Fear of Phyllo.”

Perhaps I should digress enough to say that I’ve suffered from “fear of phyllo” in the past, afraid that it would dry out before I could have my way with it, so to speak. But I find it well worth the minimal effort it takes to work with phyllo. Just keep the portion you plan working with unrolled on plastic cling film, wax or butcher paper and under a damp cloth, covering the remaining sheets each time with the damp cloth as you are working on the others, and you should be just fine. I’m sure there will be instructions to that effect on the package.

This recipe makes a fantastically full-flavored tart that is good for lunch all by itself, or for dinner served with a side or a salad such as the Mediterranean one in the last post. I would definitely make this for company and will also be modifying it soon, using smaller pieces of the phyllo pressed into mini muffin tins to make appetizer tarts.

And on another note, and I hope an interesting one for you, this week has been about some new beginnings for me…or rather a return to some creative endeavors from my past. Stay tuned for a little departure post, hopefully by the time of my next one, to share what’s going on. Meanwhile, enjoy this recipe, have a great weekend and here’s a little teaser photo to whet your interest!

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Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart
Serves 6

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Two 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained of as much liquid as possible
2 eggs, whisked to combine
1/2 cup slivered, blanched and toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 Tablespoon Panko breadcrumbs
Eight 9″ x 14″ unbaked phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen (mine was frozen)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Brush some of the melted butter on a large baking sheet or flat pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic, stirring until the onion is softened and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the onion and garlic, and cook a minute or two longer, stirring, until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, feta, cottage cheese, almonds, Panko bread crumbs and the spinach mixture stir until well mixed.

Working on the flat surface of your buttered baking sheet, lay down 1 sheet of the phyllo dough and, using a pastry brush, brush it lightly with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the parmesan cheese over the butter, then top with another sheet of phyllo, repeating the butter, parmesan and phyllo sheets until all eight sheets are stacked on top of each other. Spoon the spinach filling down the center of your phyllo sheet, spreading it evenly and leaving about two inches of the phyllo uncovered all the way around it. Fold up the two long sides of the phyllo to just come up and over the top edge of the filling and brush the edges of the phyllo with some melted butter. Fold the two short ends of the phyllo just up and over the short edges of the filling and the ends of the long sides to make an evenly folded “package” and brush those ends with butter to seal it. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top of the spinach filling, and bake the tart in the oven until the tart is lightly browned on the top and the phyllo is golden brown (see photo below.) Remove from the oven and allow the tart to sit for about 5 minutes. Slice crosswise into six even slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

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If there are leftovers, they keep well completely cooled, placed in the fridge and reheated gently in the microwave the next day. The phyllo stays amazingly crisp!

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