The holidays are slowing sneaking up on me this year, as ever, and soon enough we’ll be gathering around a well set table and a golden roasted turkey. From there, it’s a hop-skip-jump to December fetes. This is the perfect time of year (aka the calm before the storm) to plan ahead and get some pantry items stocked and nibble-worthy bites ready to go.
For entertaining, small, stuffed rolls make an exemplary appetizer. They are easy to grab while still holding a cocktail, and they take little effort to consume making it all the easier to have a conversation, drink and nosh at the same time.
For these elegant appetizers, kale is cooked alongside mushrooms until velvety and rich. The filling is then rolled among several sheets of phyllo and baked off. Conveniently, these can be formed and frozen well ahead of time, leaving the baking until just before serving. This make-and-bake aspect allows you all the more time to focus on your hosting affairs. I suggest starting with a cocktail.
Kale & Mushroom Phyllo Cigars // makes 20
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter, plus 4 tablespoons melted
- Half a medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 8 to 10 kale leaves, stems removed and discarded, chopped
- Half a package phyllo dough (about 20 sheets), thawed
To make the filling, set 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and salt to the sauté pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and the sauté pan starts to dry out, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Mushrooms will soak up all of the cooking oil at first, but keep moving them around the sauté pan and they’ll eventually release liquid back into the pan.) Add the thyme and stir to combine well. Drop in the kale and stir to wilt it slightly.
Once the kale is coated and wilted, add about 1/2 cup of water to the sauté pan, set to high heat, and cover. Once the kale-mushroom mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the kale is cooked and velvety, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the pan is just about dry, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove the sauté pan from the stovetop and set the filling aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To form the phyllo cigars, set the phyllo stack out on a clean countertop and cover with a damp kitchen towel (this prevents the phyllo from drying out). Remove the first sheet and place it horizontally on the countertop. Brush lightly with melted butter and place a second sheet of phyllo on top, brushing that layer lightly with butter as well. Spread about 4 – 6 tablespoons of the kale-mushroom mixture across the bottom of the phyllo, 1-inch in from the bottom and side edges. Place a thin row of the filling across the length of the dough.
Fold the bottom edge over the filling, then fold the sides in, creasing it along the width of the dough. Now, roll up the phyllo to form a compact cylinder. Cut into three or four long cigars and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a damp kitchen towel until ready to bake. Continue working in this fashion until all the phyllo cigars have been formed (place them about 1-inch apart on the baking sheet).
Sprinkle the tops of the phyllo cigars with a splash of water and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Pantry Note :: You can vary this filling in many ways to change the flavor profile. Use a variety of mushrooms or onions to alter the savory notes. Or embellish the filling with a soft cheese, like ricotta or chevre folding the cheese into the cooled kale-mushroom mixture. Leftover cigars hold, covered, in the fridge for about two days before going soggy. Phyllo cigars can be shaped ahead of time and frozen, then baked to order.
For more fall kale recipes like Lemon Kale Gratin and Kale Stuffed Turkey Breast (just in time for Thanksgiving!) , you can purchase Amy Pennington’s ebook “Fresh Pantry Kale” for $2.99.