Saturday, August 8, 2009

Asparagus in Parmesan & Pepper Phyllo Bags

It used to be that every time I saw the words "phyllo dough" in a cookbook, I'd immediately turn the page. I always assumed it was tricky to use or the recipe would be too difficult. Finally, one day, I courageously went outside my comfort zone and gave it a try...and found out that it was EASY and FUN! Honestly, it's hard to make a mistake with phyllo because it is a very forgiving dough, even though it's paper thin. Handle it carefully and, if it tears a little bit, just keep going. The typical way it's used requires several layers of the dough, which conveniently covers up any mistakes or torn places.

This recipe is an entertaining way to eat vegetables and your kids will love the crunchy "bag!" (These little, flavorful bundles look like fresh asparagus sticking out of the grocery bag.) They are equally delicious as either an appetizer or side dish.

Asparagus in Parmesan & Pepper Phyllo Bags
(Makes 8 appetizers)

8 sheets of phyllo dough (in freezer section of grocery)
24 spears of asparagus (thin as possible)
4 deli ham slices, very thinly sliced (prosciutto or turkey may be substituted)
¼ cup olive oil mixed with 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (or use garlic flavored oil)
4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees and line cookie sheet with parchment paper (or spray with non-stick cooking spray). Follow the directions on the package to thaw and handle phyllo dough.

2. Lay one slice of phyllo so that a long side is toward you (like an open book). Using a pastry brush, dab olive oil on the left side, as if you’re putting oil on the left page of the open book. Coverage should be quite thin and it is not necessary to completely cover in oil, just dab lightly. (Tip: If you have a pump oil sprayer, such as Misto, it can make this step easier; do not over do it, mist lightly.) Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon Parmesan and freshly ground pepper to taste. Take remaining side and close over oiled and seasoned side (as if you’re closing the book).

3. Turn dough clockwise so that a long side is toward you. Again, dab lightly with oil. Take three spears of asparagus and snap off tough, woody ends. Holding all three spears in your hand, wrap the lower half of the bundle with ½ slice of ham, leaving the tips uncovered.

4. Lay asparagus/ham bundle on the left side of the phyllo dough about 1” from end so the tips extend above dough rectangle (see diagram below). Roll lower portion of asparagus/ham bundle inside dough by first folding 1” flap over asparagus (see #1 in diagram); then fold up excess dough from bottom over stems (see #2 in diagram); finally continue rolling across remaining dough until completely encased (with tips exposed at top of “bag”).
5. Place on baking sheet with seam side down. Brush top of dough and exposed asparagus tips with a little more oil. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients until you have created eight asparagus bags.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information (per piece): 98 calories, 8.8 g carbohydrates, 5.5 g total fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 0.2 g fiber, 4.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

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