Cheese Straws and Prosciutto Palmiers

Puff Pastry 1Today’s recipe is inspired by the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. This is my fourth and final post on Food Blog Forum 2014. The food, the networking, and the forum sessions were all wonderful; however, for me, the stand-out was the city of Asheville itself and the wonderful hospitality that was shown to our group by the Biltmore and Explore Asheville Foodtopia personnel.

Biltmore 1

So what does puff pastry have to do with the Biltmore Estate? After our sessions we were treated to a tour of the Biltmore Estate with a focus on food. The house is everything you could imagine, i.e., drop-dead gorgeous. Those Vanderbilts knew what they were doing.  But, more important, we were allowed to photograph anything in the estate; a huge opportunity, as photography is not normally allowed. As I was looking over my collection of photos from the tour, I realized many of them focused on places where you could enjoy a snack, with perhaps a cup of tea or a glass of sherry…

Biltmore 2

Perhaps while while enjoying the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the loggia.


Biltmore 3

I love libraries, and this one is no exception. I could see nibbling on some cheese straws, while cozied up on the sofa with a book.


Biltmore 4

Guests were often offered a cup of tea and a snack while waiting in the winter garden.


Biltmore 5

Or for a more formal high tea, I can imagine sitting here with a tray of palmiers.


Party season is approaching, and both of these appetizers are great with cocktails. They go nicely along side a hot bowl of soup as well.


Do not fear puff pastry. If you can use a rolling pin you can make this pastry. The one thing you must remember is to keep your dough cold. Chill the counter if possible (see recipe note below), and keep the space as cool as you can. This is not a recipe for a hot summer day, without a good air conditioner. If the dough gets too warm, you’ll know because it will become a little greasy and sticky. No worries, just pop it into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to cool it back down. This recipe does take some time, but the taste of puff pastry made by hand with real butter is so satisfying.


Puff Pastry (Pate Feuillete)

Yield: 2 Pounds


This recipe makes 2 pounds of puff pastry. Store-bought puff generally comes in 14-ounce to 1-pound boxes. If you prefer to use store bought puff pastry, skip ahead to the cheese straw and palmier recipes. Use 1 box pastry for each appetizer or half of this recipe. The pastry can be frozen. Thaw thoroughly in the refrigerator before using.  Before starting chill a section of counter space with a sheet pan with some ice in it on top of a towel. This step is not completely necessary but it will help keep the dough chilled while you work with it.

1 pound butter, cut into large chunks

1 pound flour, plus extra for work surface

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice


Puff Pastry 2

Place the flour, butter and salt in the mixer bowl.  Mix together a little by hand, then pulse the mixer with the paddle to coat the butter chunks with flour.


Puff Pastry 3

Add the water and the lemon juice all at once then pulse the machine until a sticky dough forms.  Flour the work surface with enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. Place the contents of the mixer bowl onto the chilled work surface.

Puff Pastry 4

Use your knuckles to push the dough into a large rectangle. Make sure the rectangle can be moved with a pastry scraper.


Puff Pastry 5


Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, then fold into thirds. This is called a turn.  Turn the dough 90 degrees so the short edges of the rectangle are to your right and left and roll the dough and fold again. Continue rolling and folding until you have completed four complete turns. If you work fast you can probably complete all the turns at once. But, if you are doing something else (like photographing the process for this post), you will need to refrigerate the dough between turns. You must keep the dough cold while doing the turns to create the layers in the pastry.


Puff Pastry 6

Chill the dough until ready to use. When you are ready to continue, roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick.


Puff Pastry 8

Cheese Straws

Approximately 50


The wonderful thing about this recipe is its versatility. The sky is the limit on how much or what type of seasoning you use. You can prepare the cheese dough ahead of time. After coating with toppings roll up like a jelly dough and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator 12 hours or overnight before cutting and baking. If making both recipes I prepare the cheese straws first, then raise the oven temperature to 400 for the palmiers.


1/2 recipe or 1 box puff pastry, chilled

1 egg, beaten

4 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated

4 tablespoons sesame seeds, optional

1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne, or to taste


Preheat the oven to 350. If you have not already done so, roll out your puff pastry dough. Brush the surface with egg, then sprinkle with half the cheese, sesame seeds and paprika. Turn the dough over and repeat.


Cut the dough into 1/4 or 1/2-inch strips and twist before placing on a sheet pan or cookie sheet covered with parchment. Push the ends of the strips flat agains the pan to hold them in place. For shorter, fatter cheese sticks, fold the strips in half before twisting. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Good warm or at room temperature.


Puff Pastry 9

Prosciutto Palmiers

Approximately 36


1/2 recipe or 1 box puff pastry, chilled

6 tablespoons honey mustard

8 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

4 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly grated

2 eggs, beaten


Preheat the oven to 400. If you have not already done so, roll out your puff pastry dough. Spread the mustard over the dough. Arrange the prosciutto over the mustard so that it covers the pastry completely. Sprinkle with the parmesan and lightly press it into the prosciutto with a rolling pin.


Starting at one long edge, roll up the pastry like a jelly roll just to the middle of the rectangle. Then repeat on the other side. It should look like this:


Puff Pastry 7


Chill the roll for 30 minutes before slicing the rolls crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place on parchment-covered sheet pans or cookie sheets and press with your hands to flatten. Brush with egg. Bake 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack. Can be served warm or at room temperature.


Palmier recipe adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Sheila Lukins, Julee Rosso, and Sarah Leah Chase









Tomato Salad with Grilled Blue Cheese Onions and Barbecue Vinaigrette

Tomato Salad 1

This post is a continuation of foods inspired by my trip to Asheville, NC, for the Food Blog Forum conference. The second day of the conference was hosted by Explore Asheville Foodtopia. The day began with a visit to a local brewery, the Highland Brewing Company.


I had no idea that Asheville is home to more artisan breweries than any other place in the U.S. We were given the opportunity to tour the actual brewery and watch the beer making and bottling activities in action.  The tour was nice, but what really floored me was the reception that was waiting for us when we arrived. Many of the local restaurants and food purveyors had stations set up with samples of their specialties matched with various Highland Brews. Ribs and beer for breakfast? It was tough, but somehow I managed.


There were representatives from the local honey purveyors, ice cream makers, and even a professional forager, who had brought a sample of the most beautiful mushrooms I’ve ever seen.


The Foodtopia group also gave us a very nice bag full of some of the local goodies, to include a bottle of Smokin J’s barbecue sauce.

BBQ Sauce

Early this past summer, I decided I needed to improve my grilling skills. Actually, I decided to become a “grill goddess,” and purchased a couple of grilling cookbooks to assist me, including a copy of Gastro Grilling by Ted Reader. I really like this book because it goes well beyond the throw-a-steak-on-the-grill version of outdoor cooking. I spotted this salad recipe early on, and decided it would make a great side with grilled meats. The barbecue vinaigrette reminds me of french dressing, only better. It’s great on a simple green salad as well. If you live in a climate warm enough to still be enjoying some early fall tomatoes, and you’re crazy like us and grill outside year ‘round, this salad is for you. Even if you live somewhere that you have already experienced your first snowfall, there is always next year.

Salad 2

Tomato Salad with Grilled Blue Cheese Onions and Barbecue Vinaigrette

Serves 6-8

I used Penzey’s Barbecue spice for the salad dressing. If you don’t have access to Penzey’s feel free to substitute your favorite barbecue rub combined with a pinch of sugar. This salad is great with a mixture of different heirloom tomatoes of different colors, but use whatever you can find. If you prefer to use only one type of onion, all red, for example, that’s okay too. To chiffonade basil, tightly roll the leaves lengthwise and slice thinly.  

1 16-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained

1 anchovy filet

1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon Penzey’s Barbecue spice or other

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

8 medium size tomatoes

1 medium red onion

1 medium white onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonade


Prepare the vinaigrette: place the first eight ingredients (through the barbecue spice) in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Turn on the food processor and slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube, stopping the machine when the vinaigrette is smooth and completely emulsified. Transfer to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Preheat the grill on high. Thickly slice the tomatoes and arrange on a serving platter.

Slice the onions into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onions on one side for 6 minutes, then turn them over and grill for another 5 minutes. They should be fairly tender and slightly charred. Sprinkle some of the blue cheese on each onion slice and close the lid for about a minute to melt the cheese.


Carefully remove the onions from the grill and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Cut the onions into quarters and arrange on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle the salad with some of the dressing and serve the remainder on the side. Top the salad with the basil and serve.

Adapted from Gastro Grilling by Ted Reader

Strawberry Basil Cooler

Cooler 1

I just returned from the Food Blogger Forum in Asheville, North Carolina. The organizers did a fantastic job of putting together a memorable program in what has got to be one of the most food-focused areas of the United States. In addition to the informative seminars and the opportunity to network with many of my fellow food bloggers, we were treated to an all-day Foodtopia tour, which included the Highland Brewing Company, where we were treated to their selection of beers and an array of food from the local food scene. Beer We also visited the Looking Glass Creamery and even had an opportunity to meet some of the goats that produced the milk for their wonderful cheeses. Goat The day finished up with a restaurant tour that evening. All I can say is, “Wow.” The food and company were fantastic, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients that also happens to be a big part of Jeannine’s Cuisine. Pour I was so inspired by the trip to Asheville that I’ve decided to concentrate the next few blog posts on some of the experiences we had during the Foodtopia tour. This post features a refreshing cocktail with basil that was a result of a stop at Strada Italiano, a lovely restaurant in the heart of downtown Asheville. We were given a choice of appetizers, and I just had to try the signature figs, stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to try and recreate that one as well. It was a little humid that night and the refreshing pineapple cocktail with basil that was waiting at the table when we arrived was a welcome addition to the evening. I decided to try my hand at my own version of a basil cocktail and this was the result. Summer may be fading, but, at least if you are in the DC area or points further South, you’ve still got some time to try this.

 Cooler Closeup

Strawberry Basil Cooler

1 Serving

The recipe includes ingredients to make enough strawberry syrup for 4-6 drinks. You will want to plan far enough ahead to give the syrup time to cool before preparing the drinks. 1 pint strawberries 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup water Fresh basil, two leaves per drink 2 ounces Absolute Citron vodka per drink 1 small bottle soda water To make the strawberry syrup, hull and quarter the strawberries until you have 2 cups. Set aside the remaining strawberries for the drinks. Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan and set aside allowing them to macerate for 15-30 minutes. The longer you can let them sit, the more pronounced the strawberry flavor will be. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat when the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries have turned to mush. This should be very shortly after the mixture comes to a boil. Strain the mixture, setting aside the syrup and discarding the strawberries. Chill thoroughly. To prepare the drink, muddle one strawberry and two basil leaves in a glass. Add 2 ounces of the vodka and 3 tablespoons of the syrup and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top with soda water. Stir again and serve garnished with a fresh strawberry.