Traditional Easter sweets include a menagerie of cute, improbably colored marshmallow critters like chicks and rabbits. To lure me away from their sugary excess, my parents presented me with an Easter basket filled with fresh strawberries every year. Nestled in the center was a large, hollow Easter egg made of molded sugar that had a round window at one end. Peering through it, I saw a tableau, rather like a diorama or a fantasy three-dimensional scene from a pop-up book.
The sugar shell of these eggs was a Rococo symphony of tinted, piped-on swirls, swags and colored flowers. Sturdy enough to collect, these eggs were almost too beautiful to destroy by eating. And when I did break one up so I could crunch on its sweetness, the sugar had a faintly medicinal taste so disappointing that I preferred the strawberries.
Reminiscing about this egg put me in a fantasy mood. With Easter eggs and spring flowers in mind, this fantasy transformed squares of phyllo into individual, cup-shaped tartlets. Pushed into a muffin tin, the crisp edges resemble the petals of an expanding flower. Fruit baked in the phyllo fills the center of each golden tartlet.
I know that may sound complicated, but read through the recipe. You’ll see that making these tartlets is simpler than making more traditional phyllo-dough recipes like Greek Spinach pie or a fruit strudel. Yes, phyllo tears easily - but in this recipe, most tears won’t matter. Layering the phyllo effectively covers up any tears in the center, while any rips that occur around the outer edges just contribute to the petal effect of the cup. Whole-wheat phyllo is easier to handle and it tastes best, so look for it at your local natural foods store.
Granny Smith apples all seem green and tart, but there are actually degrees of ripeness that affect their flavor. Granny Smiths that are more yellow than green will taste less sharply tart. Red grapes add color, and apricot glaze sweetens the filling.
Warm Phyllo Fruit Tartlets - Makes 6 servings
1 Granny Smith Apple, cored and cut vertically into 1/4-inch slices
1 Bosc pea
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
6 sheets phyllo dough, preferably whole wheat, stacked
Canola cooking spray
2 Tbsp. whole-wheat dry bread crumbs
12 large red seedless grapes, halved
6 Tbsp. apricot fruit spread
1 Tbsp. orange juice
2-3 sliced strawberries, for garnish
1 Tbsp. toasted sliced almonds, optional, for garnish (see Note)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the sliced apple in a mixing bowl. Cut the neck off the pear and save for another use. Core the pear and cut it vertically into 1/4-inch slices. Add the lemon juice and toss to keep the fruit from discoloring.
Leaving the 6 phyllo sheets stacked, cut the dough into an 11-inch square, discarding the rest. Divide the square into four 5 1/2-inch square quarters and pile them into one stack. Following the package directions, cover the phyllo so it does not dry out. Place one square sheet of the phyllo on your work surface with an edge facing you. Coat it lightly with cooking spray, starting around the edges. Set a second square on top of the first, with a point facing you, and spray it. Rotating it 45 degrees, add and spray a third square, then repeat with a fourth square, placed with an edge facing you. Center the stacked squares over one cup of a 6-cavity muffin tin with 3 1/2-inch cups. Gently press the phyllo into it, with the ends pointing like petals, pressing the dough to fit in folds against the sides of the cup. Repeat, making 6 cups.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumbs over the bottom of each phyllo cup. Divide the sliced fruit, then the grape halves among the cups. In a small bowl, mix the apricot spread and orange juice vigorously to loosen the jam. Dollop a tablespoon of the apricot mixture over the filling in each tartlet.
Bake 12 to14 minutes, or until the phyllo is well-browned at the tips and crisp in the cups. It will be pale in places. Set the muffin tin on a baking rack to cool for 3 minutes. Gently and carefully lift each tartlet from the tin and place on a dessert plate with slices of strawberry. If desired, for additional garnish, sprinkle a few of the almonds over the filling. Serve the warm tartlets within 20 minutes so the phyllo does not get soggy.
Per serving: 160 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 110 mg sodium.
Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 2 minutes. Stir and toast until the slices are pale gold, 2 minutes longer. Immediately transfer the almonds to a plate to cool.
"Something Different" is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR's Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at www.aicr.org or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $86 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.
Photo Credit: Aicr.org