I can truthfully say that in my beginning years in the kitchen, recipes like this were easily deemed "too fussy" and therefore skipped. I didn't have patience for anything that takes meticulous repetition; namely anything that takes a while to make and a very short time to eat. Vareniki, gnocchi, tiny thumbprint cookies.. I didn't even bother. I've been told many times "be careful when you ask God for patience", but only realized the true meaning of this when life placed me in a position in which patience was a necessary binding stitch in my character; as motherhood has.
Mr. Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet". Slowly I've learned to love standing over my counter and glancing out my front window while chopping or slicing or rolling or piping. These puff pastries may have a few more steps then desired for some, but the outcome is crispy and delicious, and worth all the effort. This is my kind of therapy.
Spinach and Farmer's Cheese Puff Pastries
Makes 16 servings
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
3 cups fresh spinach
2 shallots, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. sliced ham
1 1/2 cup farmer's cheese* (see step 1)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Farmer's cheese is similar to cottage cheese, but has a lower water content and is a lot more dry. If you are using store-bought American cottage cheese, place the cottage cheese into a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Next, push the cottage cheese through the sieve into a clean bowl, then proceed to the next step.
2. Place minced garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once butter has melted completely add finely chopped shallot and cook until translucent (do not brown).
3. Add spinach and cook until fully wilted. Add farmer's cheese and cayenne pepper and mix until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
4. Prepare a large baking sheet by covering with a sheet of parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg and a teaspoon of water; set aside.
5. Sprinkle a little flour on a clean surface. Roll out the first puff pastry sheet to smooth out any folds in the dough and stretch slightly, then evenly divide into 8 rectangles. With a pastry brush or your finger, brush the egg wash along the border of one rectangle of dough. Rip up pieces of ham to evenly fit on the bottom of the dough rectangle, then add a spoonful of the farmer's cheese and spinach mixture.
6. Stretch the top half of the dough over the ham and farmer's cheese mixture and press down the edges. Then take a fork and seal the edges (it may help to dip the fork into flour, to prevent from sticking). Place onto the baking sheet with parchment paper. Continue with the rest of the 7 rectangles, then brush all pastries with egg wash. Lastly, gently makes vents in the pastries by poking a few times with a fork, then place the tray into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, then bake the puff pastries until golden brown (this took me approximately 20-25 minutes, but be sure to keep an eye on them, as every oven is different). Let cool on cooling rack. Enjoy!