What’s heaven? How about roasted spiced vegetables and cheese encased in a flaky phyllo nest? In the world of food, it doesn’t get better than this.
My Roasted Veggie Phyllo Nests are the lovechild of a pizza and a tart. They came about out of necessity during fridge cleaning day. The task we all dread. Maybe even hate.
Fridge cleaning usually happens on a weekend afternoon, before heading to the grocery store. During the process, you find all sorts of odds and ends in the crisper drawer. Vegetables that have seen better days. Bruised or wilted. These second bests – losers even – are ideal candidates for the filling.
This recipe was inspired by Taka tins, which are a North Indian street food that focuses on vegetables. Taka tins (such a clever name) is actually the sound of the dish cooking when the metal spoon hits against the metal pan as a chef keeps the vegetables moving around in spices. The chunks of vegetables for Taka tins are marinated in a myriad of grated spices and seasonings and cooked on an extremely hot griddle or metal pan. The varieties are endless, but my favourites include a melange of eggplant, cauliflower, bell peppers, and potatoes. There is one caveat (isn’t there always one?) taka tins are always (its mandatory) scooped up with chunks of billowy roti or naan.
During a recent fridge cleaning session, I was craving the vivid Taka tin flavours, so I combined some vegetables with South Asian and Mediterranean spices, roasted them at an extreme temperature to make killer roasted vegetables that even omnivores would go mad for. Since I had a stockpile of zucchini, red bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and potato; I used this combination, but feel free to experiment with any vegetables that strike your fancy.
The best part about Taka tins and more so my Roasted Vegetable Phyllo Nests is that you can use anything you happen to have in your fridge for the filling. I am not lying when I say it will manage to taste deliciously decadent. The secret is to roast the vegetables. Roasting concentrates flavours and builds layers of umami (savouriness) from the outside in – making wilted vegetables, intensely delicious.
Now this filling could be eaten on its own, with naan or roti, but why? When it could be encased in phyllo dough. Have I told you how much I *love* using phyllo? It’s forgiving in this recipe. Nothing is precise. Phyllo just makes the most perfect, light and flaky, crunchy base. Le Sigh! The goat cheese bonds everything together when it melts, and the top becomes nice and golden.
The resulting phyllo nests are dense with flavour from the roasted vegetables, but cut with a richness from the phyllo pastry and a tanginess from the goat cheese. To perk up the caramelized intensity of the filling, it is helpful to add something zingy like a good splash of lemon juice.
These phyllo nests are not a quick dinner-after-work dish. They are an impressive, meal to make on a weekend, when you have time to putter around and be creative. They are not difficult, but they take a while from start to finish. Okay maybe it’s a little work, I admit, but because they are scrumptious, it’s worth it.
If you are really pressed for time, you could do the prep work of roasting your vegetables ahead of time. Then when it comes to creating the actual phyllo nests, only the assembly and baking part would need to be done.
Although I eat these Roasted Vegetable Phyllo Nests for dinner with a spinach or arugula salad. The leftovers are terrific lunchbox fare, delicious cold or hot. Better yet, they would make an elegant appetizer for a party. Especially since most dinner parties demand some kind of centerpiece, a focal point to make people gather around and say “ooh.” These have that capability. In fact, they are perfect cocktail fare (use mini muffin tins) that I immediately wish I had planned a soirée around them.
It would be hard to go wrong with the classic combo of creamy cheese, roasted vegetables and crisp dough, this recipe gets the balance and the heady seasoning just right, too. It’s a must make and eat!
Roasted Veggie Phyllo Nests
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 red peppers, cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
1 onion, cubed
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 roma tomatoes, cubed
12 garlic cloves, halved
1 lemon, juice and zest
3 tablespoons olive oil (for vegetables)
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 package phyllo pastry
¼ cup olive oil (for pastry)
1 cup goat cheese crumbled
Thaw phyllo dough by following manufacturer directions. Generally speaking, you want to thaw the dough slowly, in its box and wrapping bag.
In a parchment paper lined roasting pan, toss red peppers, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes in olive oil. Toss with cumin, sumac, garam masala, turmeric, chili flakes, salt, pepper and lemon juice/zest and bake in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes or until roasted. Let cool.
Lightly oil muffin tins. Layer 6 sheets of phyllo on top of each other brushing olive oil on each individual sheet. Cut into 6 squares. Place each square, fanning the parchment layers into each muffin cup. Crumble a tablespoon of goat cheese in the bottom of each parchment nest. Fill with 1/2 cup roasted vegetable mixture. Top with more goat cheese, and sprinkle with sumac. Brush tops with olive oil. Bake in a 375-400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.