Dreary weather…Bright Flavors

Punching up flavorful dishes can make for a wonderful respite from the kind of weather we’ve had lately.
There are so many different kinds of pasta and pastries that numbering them would be difficult. And most are so versatile they can be used in all kinds of dishes, from appetizers to entrees. All of these recipes have a little surprise and all have some flakiness and crunch.
The apple lasagna is a rich sweet dessert that uses lasagna noodles instead of pastry. And it’s easy and delicious. The crab wontons are good as a snack, appetizer or main dish. The only recipe offered this week that requires a fork for consumption is the apple lasagna. Everything else just needs a working set of fingers. I hope you find a favorite here.

Tomato Bruschetta
1 8-ounce loaf French bread (baguette)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red and/or yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped, pitted ripe olives
3 tablespoons sliced green onion

1 jalapeno pepper or 1 small banana pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut bread into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of each slice lightly with the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until crisp and light brown, turning once.
For topping, stir together tomatoes, olives, green onion, jalapeno or banana pepper (if desired), garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, oregano, and pepper.
To assemble, top each toasted slice with a little Parmesan cheese, then about 1 tablespoon of the tomato topping. Sprinkle each with some of the remaining Parmesan. Return slices to the baking sheet. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese starts to melt and topping is heated through. Serve warm. Makes about 24.

Spinach Phyllo Triangles
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups finely crumbled feta cheese (6 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
24 sheets frozen phyllo dough (9 x14-inch rectangles), thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted

For filling, cook the spinach, onion, and garlic according to spinach package directions. Drain well in a colander. Press mixture with the back of a spoon to remove excess moisture. Combine spinach mixture with feta cheese and oregano.
Place one sheet of phyllo dough on a cutting board or other flat surface. Lightly brush with some of the melted butter. Place another sheet of phyllo on top; brush with butter. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap until needed.)
Cut the 2 layered sheets lengthwise into 3 equal strips, each 14 inches long. Spoon 1 well-rounded teaspoon of filling about 1 inch from an end of each dough strip. To fold into a triangle, bring a corner over filling so the short edge lines up with the side edge. Continue folding the triangular shape along the strip until the end is reached. Repeat with remaining phyllo, butter, and filling.
Place triangles on a baking sheet; brush with butter. Bake in a 375 degree F oven about 15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
Makes 36 triangles (18 appetizer servings)
Make-ahead directions: Prepare Phyllo Triangles through step 3. Place the unbaked triangles in a covered freezer container; freeze for up to 2 months. Brush with additional melted butter and bake as directed. Do not thaw the triangles before baking.

Crab Wontons
8 oz. cream cheese — softened
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro — minced
2 tsp. scallions — minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger — minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
8 oz. crab meat
32 wonton wrappers
1 c. vegetable oil

Crab Filling Directions:
Soften cream cheese to room temperature
In a bowl, combine cilantro, scallions, ginger, sugar, jalapenos and lime juice with softened cream cheese.
Add crab mixture and lightly mix with other ingredients.

Wonton Wrapper Directions:
Using wonton wrappers approximately 4 inches square will work to make smaller dumplings for appetizers.
Lay wonton wrappers on a flat surface and add a teaspoon of crab filling in the center of the wrapper or adjust amount depending on size of the wrapper. Lightly and evenly spread the filling into a round shape making sure to keep it well away from the outer edges.
Dampen the edge of each wrapper with water and fold in half, resulting in a rectangular shape to the wrap.
Dampen the edge of each wrapper with water or a lightly beaten egg and press the edges together so they seal the contents. As they are sealed, press the excess air out of the wonton to keep the wonton from puffing up as it cooks.
Fold the wonton lengthwise in half again, creating a somewhat narrow rectangular shape to the folded dough.
Moisten the edges again if necessary so they adhere better. Fold each end in toward the center of the wrap, allowing half of the end to remain in a vertical position while the other half is folded over on top of and overlaps the opposite side end piece, like the end corners of an envelope.
Press the ends together that overlap, so they adequately seal.
Keep the filled wontons covered with a damp cloth to retain the moisture in the dough while others are being filled.
When ready to cook, place the filled wontons on a baking sheet layered with parchment paper.
Pour cooking oil in a skillet and heat on medium high to 350ºF.
Fry wontons in small batches for 3 to 4 minutes each until they are light golden brown.
Remove and place on paper toweling to absorb any excess grease.

Apple Lasagna
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cans (21 ounces each) apple pie filling
6 lasagna noodles, cooked, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons cold butter

Sour Cream Sauce
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons brown sugar

In a small bowl, combine the egg, cheeses, sugar and extract; set aside. Spread one can of pie filling into a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three lasagna noodles and cheese mixture. Layer with remaining noodles and pie filling.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling.
Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until bubbly and heated through. Let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients.
Serve with lasagna.