Rich-tasting appetizers don't have to spoil appetites Lighten up: You can cut the fat in yummy cheese triangles and spicy dip and please your guests at the same time.

January 07, 1996|By Patsy Jamieson | Patsy Jamieson,United Feature Syndicate EATING WELL

Years ago, a favorite recipe in Shelley Melvin's cooking classes was tyropites -- crisp pastry triangles filled with tangy cheeses. But now that Ms. Melvin has adopted a lighter cooking style, she has requested an update of her recipe.

Our adjustments included replacing the cream cheese with yogurt cheese (low-fat cottage cheese may be used instead). And instead of bathing the phyllo sheets with butter, we glossed them lightly with olive oil.


Makes 24 triangles

3/4 cup nonfat yogurt cheese (made from 2 1/2 cups nonfat plain yogurt; see below) or low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)

1 large egg white, lightly beaten with a fork

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fine dry bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)

8 sheets phyllo dough (14-by-18 inches)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Position rack in upper third of oven. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat it with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a bowl, stir together yogurt cheese or cottage cheese, feta, egg white, parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt and ground red pepper.

Set the stack of phyllo sheets to one side of the work surface; keep covered with a damp towel as you work. Working with one sheet at a time and with a long edge toward you, brush the first sheet of phyllo lightly with some of the olive oil. Top with a second sheet of phyllo and brush lightly with olive oil. Cut the phyllo vertically into 6 equal strips.

Place a heaping teaspoon of the cheese filling at the bottom of each phyllo strip. Fold one corner of the strip up and over the filling, then continue to fold the strip loosely (as you would fold a flag) to form a neat triangle. Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat 3 more times with the remaining sheets of phyllo and filling. Brush the tops of the triangles lightly with the remaining oil. With a sharp paring knife, make a small slit in the top of each triangle to allow steam to escape. (If you like, the triangles can be prepared up to this point and frozen. Freeze them in a single layer, then enclose in a plastic bag or airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Do not thaw before baking.)

Bake the triangles until they are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving warm.

35 calories per triangle; 2 grams protein; 2 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 2 grams carbohydrate; 81 milligrams sodium; 3 milligrams cholesterol.

Take a dip

Carole Mccoy's layered Tex-Mex dip is always a hit with family and friends, and she recalls occasions when guests spoiled their appetites for dinner by indulging a little too heavily in the rich, colorful layers. Her recipe included commercial bean dip, sour-cream-and-mayonnaise-enriched guacamole, olives and grated cheese.

Our recipe replaced the bean dip with fat-free refried beans. We used nonfat yogurt cheese instead of sour cream and mayonnaise, and we swapped corn and fresh peppers for two of the three avocados in the original recipe. To bring out the flavors in the lower-fat dish, we also added cumin, chili powder, cilantro, lime juice and Tabasco. This lively concoction won't spoil your dinner.

Tex-Mex dip

Serves 16 as an hors d'oeuvre

2 16-ounce cans nonfat refried beans

1/4 cup taco sauce or tomato salsa

2 teaspoons mild chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 cups cooked corn kernels

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

4 scallions, trimmed and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 ripe avocado, mashed

1 1/2 cups yogurt cheese (made from 5 cups nonfat plain yogurt; see below) or nonfat sour cream

Tabasco sauce to taste

2 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 cup grated reduced-fat Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

In a bowl, blend refried beans, taco sauce or salsa, chili powder and cumin. In another bowl, combine corn, red and green peppers, jalapenos, scallions and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix avocado and 2 tablespoons of the yogurt cheese or sour cream; season with Tabasco. In another bowl, toss together tomatoes and cilantro. To assemble the dip, spread the beans on a serving platter. Spoon the corn and peppers over the beans. Spread the remaining yogurt cheese or sour cream over the corn, followed by the avocado mixture. With a slotted spoon, spoon the tomatoes over the top. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve with low-fat baked tortilla chips.

145 calories per tablespoon; 9 grams protein, 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 21 grams carbohydrate; 312 milligrams sodium; 4 milligrams cholesterol.

Cheesemaking 101

To make yogurt cheese, begin with nonfat plain yogurt; check the label to make sure that it does not contain starch, gums or gelatin. (These binders inhibit the separation of whey and dairy solids.) Use a colander or sieve lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth, a coffee filter lined with dampened filter paper or a yogurt-cheese maker. Set the your draining apparatus over a bowl to collect the whey. Spoon in yogurt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Discard the liquid.

The yield will vary depending on the type of yogurt and the time for drainage. Estimate that you will finish with about 1/3 of the original volume of yogurt. (The yogurt cheese can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

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