The weather this fall was oddly warm in the Mid-west. We didn’t have a real hard freeze until December and many things in the garden were harvested much later than usual. I don’t know if it is global warming or just an anomaly, but had I known, I would have planted a few more cool weather crops to grow in the fall. The weather was also wet this year, particularly early and so many things in the garden started off slow or just had too much moisture. I never really thought about it much, but those in my family who were farmers seemed to know everything about the weather and seemed to talk about it non-stop……….I now know why! I am much more in tune with the weather than I ever was before I had a vegetable garden.
The longer growing season was great for a number of the vegetables. In particular, the leeks, which seem to take forever to mature and amazingly, the tattered tomato vines were still giving me rewards until almost Thanksgiving………completely unheard of in my experience.
The weekend before Christmas it was in the fifties and was when we decided to finally pull up the last of things in anticipation of cooler weather, but mostly because it surely wouldn’t be that nice again until spring!
Vegetables from the garden inspired many dishes this year and thanks to a little canning and the baskets of onions, garlic and shallots in the basement, we should enjoy the garden harvest well into the winter and the beginning of next season.
I have made several strudels this year, most of them sweet, but the savory strudel of leeks, kale and cheese was my favorite and I ended up making two, with one for sharing.
The braided puff pastry dough packet makes for a wonderful look and is easier than you would think, you just have to get over any fear you have of geometry! Anything you might imagine and enjoy can easily be encapsulated similarly……..you just need about a cup and a half of filling for each dough sheet. I buy the popular brand of puff pastry that has two sheets of dough in each package, a little over seventeen ounces total weight for both sheets. Each of these strudels will serve four. I served it with a generous green salad for a lighter meal. A detailed recipe can be found here.
For the filling I first sautéed the pale green and white parts of a large leek and a bunch of kale that had its large stems trimmed and had been coarsely chopped in olive oil until it was softened and wilted and was about two cups of volume. I seasoned this generously with salt and pepper and after it had cooled for several minutes I added it to a bowl with about a third of a cup each of ricotta, sour cream and grated parmesan cheese that had been blended with several grater scrapes of a nutmeg seed. I was aiming for around three cups total of filling for two strudels.
I rolled out each puff pastry sheet to around twelve inches by ten inches, only slightly larger than it is from the box. I roll and cut the dough on top of a sheet of parchment in order to ease transfer to a sheet pan. Following the diagram below (don’t be intimidated by the drawing), I cut the dough, discarding the dough in each corner. Of course, the numbers on the diagram are not hard and fast but can be used as a guide. The angle of the dough strips in the braid is approximately thirty degrees from level.
After placing half of the cheese mixture in the center section of the cut dough, fold the top and bottom flaps over first and then starting at the top, alternating layers left to right, braid the dough strips.
I brush the entire strudel with a wash comprised of one egg and a tablespoon of water and then sprinkle it with poppy seeds.
I baked the strudels at 375 degrees for about twenty-eight minutes, rotating the pans half way through, but watch them closely so as not to over cook the pastry dough.
Everything always tastes better wrapped in flakey and buttery pastry dough!