My oldest son asked if he could invite his good friend Paige and her mom over for lunch during the holidays. Their family likes to eat as much as we do—but they don’t cook quite as much as we do—and John was eager to share our cooking with them. I thought of all kinds of fancy food to make—but after the rich food of Christmas Eve and Day, we were ready for something pretty simple. I settled on good old Chicken Cutlets Milanese (breaded chicken breasts sautéed in olive oil and butter, with a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of salad on top) for our lunch—but wanted to serve something a little special for an appetizer. That’s when I thought to make these little gems—inspired by a recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook Around My French Table. I made them small so they’d be finger food—but you could easily make them big and they could be a dish unto themselves. We all loved these—so with luck and thanks to Ms. Greenspan—Paige and Sheila will come back soon and we’ll experiment on them again!
Tomato, Mozzarella & Pesto Puffs
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/3 cup basil pesto, purchased or homemade
4 or 5 small tomatoes (I use Campari tomatoes)
½ pound mozzarella,
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, rinsed well and dried
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Choose a baking sheet that you have two of. Line one of the baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Put the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to expand by about 2 inches per side. Using a round cookie cutter (mine measures 3 inches, but any size you like will do) cut the dough into rounds. Place the rounds onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Put another sheet of parchment paper on top and then put the second baking sheet on top of that. Bake the rounds for 12 minutes. Remove the top baking sheet and top sheet of parchment paper. If the rounds are nicely browned, they’re done—if not—put them back in the oven (uncovered) to finish browning. Cool the puffs for a few minutes while you preheat the broiler.
Spread each round with about a teaspoon or so of pesto. Then place a tomato and a slice of mozzarella on top. Broil until the cheese just begins to melt. Transfer the puffs to a serving platter. Drizzle each one with a little bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Thinly slice the basil leaves and sprinkle them on top.