In the wake of our Canadian Thanksgiving, recovering from a pumpkin-induced food coma, traditions come to mind. Traditions that ground you and provide axis for your world. The ones that happen month after month or year after year and can be used for marking the passage of time instead of the outdated wall-calendar or high-tech phone equivalent. Traditions that define you.
Thinking back on the last few decades of my life, I realize that most of these traditions rotate around food. It’s the 12-layer Napoleon cake that my mom always used to make for my birthday. It’s the potato and sorrel soup that my grandma made to mark the beginning of summer. It’s a coin wrapped in tissue and hidden in a cabbage slab pie for a guest to find for luck during dinner party.
It’s traditions that defined my childhood and I still look for them during holidays and celebrations, everyday moments and special occasions. I long for the traditions and yet, somehow, I don’t have many of them. I left Russia just before turning 16. It wasn’t just the country that I left behind, I left my home, my mom, my life full of stability and predictable dinners. I came to Canada a sad and hopeful teenager, lonely and afraid of this foreign language, different country and new (my dad’s) family. The traditions of my Canadian family, happening year after year with unwavering predictability, never got truly engraved into my being.
And so I search for the traditions in, still foreign after almost two decades, holidays and occasions - Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas. Some are easier to understand and accept, some are not. But I think traditions are not about calendar holidays, they are about friends, family and, more often than not, food.
These Cheese and Nuts Pinwheels are something I make almost every time I host dinner parties, so, I guess in this sense they became my tradition. They are easy to make, require very few ingredients and taste delicious. Light, crispy, slightly garlicky and pretty addictive, these little coins are perfect to snack on while sipping wine or beer before and after the meal. Combination of cheese, nuts and garlic is reminiscent of Georgian cuisine. My mom used to make eggplant rolls filled with garlic, nuts and cheese, so I took those childhood flavours and made them into an elegant and delicious appetizer.
Cheese and Nuts Pinwheels
makes about 30 small pinwheels
Puff pastry - 1 roll (I use President's Choice Butter Puff Pastry)
Garlic - 1 clove
Parsley (or dill or cilantro) - 4 stalks (Herbs are optional)
Pecan halves - 3/4 cup
Cheddar cheese, shredded - 85 g (~ 1+ 1/4 cup) (I use plain Kraft cheddar)
Mayo - 1 tablespoon
- If the puff pastry is frozen, take it out of the freezer and place in the fridge a night before making these.
- In a small food processor, combine garlic, nuts, herbs (if using) and pulse until mixture is finely chopped.
- Add shredded cheese and pulse a few more times.
- Add mayo and mix to make a rough coarse paste.
- Unroll the pastry sheet and roll it a little bit to thin out and make the rectangle bigger.
- Spread the cheese and nut mixture on top. It is not smooth, so don't expect it to glide like butter or cream cheese.
- Roll the puff pastry back into the roll, like sushi or jelly roll and put in the freezer for at least half an hour, preferably an hour or longer.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- With a serrated knife, slice the roll into thin 1/8 inch pieces. About 30 pieces.
- Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper about an inch apart.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until puff pastry is crisp, dry and golden.
- Sometimes I add herbs, sometimes I don't. They are not required for this recipe, although I prefer these pinwheels with dill.
- I use plain cheddar, no need for anything fancy as the cheese flavour gets lost in all the garlicky goodness.
- I used to slice these into about 20 pinwheels, so they were thicker, but I now make them thinner and prefer them that way, they get crispier and less oily.