Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Café Salad with Apple, Cheddar Bundles and Walnuts

Are you scared of working with phyllo dough?  A lot of people are.  Don't beleive the's a cinch once you get the hang of it.  Take my hand...don't be afraid...let's do this.  This dish is so tasty and well worth the ten minutes it will take for you to learn this technique.
To prepare phyllo dough from scratch would be a nightmare...stretching and rolling the fragile dough into paper thin sheets.  It is available frozen in most grocery stores and it's one of those things that you are expected to buy frozen.  No one would frown on the idea of using a frozen phyllo dough (frozen pie crust is another story...ahem).  Putting together impressive phyllo parcels, or bundles, or pockets full of goodness requires no more than brushing these pre-made dough sheets with melted butter and layering them.  This combo of apples and cheddar is one of my favorites during this gorgeous fall season. The café salad which I served with the apples and cheddar is a simply dressed green salad with so much flavour.

Café Salad with Apple Cheddar Bundles and Walnuts
Origin: Salad Dressing Adapted from Food Network, Mellisa D'Arabian

Notes:  Don't be intimidated by the long instructions for the phyllo dough.  It's detailed work but once you get through it'll start dreaming about what else you can cram into those layers of phyllo.  You really need a pastry brush to do this right.  But in a pinch (at the cottage) I have put a plastic baggie over my hand and with a light touch, spread a thin layer of melted butter over the dough.


Apple Cheddar Bundles
1 package frozen phyllo dough (thawed per package instructions - you will only use half of the package for 4 servings)
1/4 cup butter - melted, plus 1 tablespoon for sauteing
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices (I used Granny Smith)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their stalks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional if you're not into it)
1 cup grated sharp (old) cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Café Salad
1 large garlic clove, sliced in half
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

6 cups salad greens (I like red leaf lettuce for this)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

To make the apple cheddar bundles:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the center position.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute apples for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften and brown a little bit.  Add thyme and cook for one more minute to help release the thyme flavour.  Set aside.

Have your melted butter handy and prepare a clean work surface or cutting board to prepare your dough.  

Unroll your phyllo dough, you can cover your dough with a damp kitchen towel while you work, as the dough can dry out quickly and crack easily.

Lay one sheet out on your work surface and brush the entire sheet with a thin layer of melted butter.  Lay another sheet of phyllo on top of the buttered surface and brush it with melted butter.  Continue layering and buttering until you have 6 sheets of buttered phyllo total.

Cut the large rectangular stack of dough into 4 smaller rectangles - 1 cut through the center vertically and 1 cut through the center horizontally (I use a pizza cutter for this).

Take one rectangular stack of dough and place it in front of you vertically so that the short side of the rectangle is directly in front of you.  Spread the dough with 1/2 teaspoon of mustard, leaving a one inch border around the entire rectangle.  About one inch from the bottom of your rectangle place about 1/4 cup of sauteed apples in a pile (do not spread them out - heap them at one end of your dough)  top the apples with 1/4 cup of grated cheese.  Fold the bottom 1 inch border of the dough over the apples and cheese, then fold the sides (1 inch, mustard free borders) inward.  Make sure your filling is tucked in and roll the bundle up.  Prepare the other 3 apple cheddar bundles the same way.

Place the bundles on a baking sheet, seam down, and brush with additional melted butter and egg wash.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

To make the salad:
Rub the inside of a mixing bowl or salad bowl with the cut sides of the garlic.  Add vinegar, mustard and soy sauce, season with salt and pepper and whisk together.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Add the greens to your bowl with the dressing and toss just before serving.  Divide greens between plates and top each one with an apple/cheddar bundle (I cut mine in half for presentation) and scatter walnuts over top.

Serves 4 (recipe is easily doubled and 1 package of phyllo will make at least 8 bundles).

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