Phyllo Tart Cuts Fat, Increases Flavor

Fruit tarts accentuate the fresh flavors of seasonal produce.

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Delicious Red Cranberries

Often rustic and unpretentious, fruit tarts are lovely and accentuate the fresh flavors of seasonal produce. Nectarines are available beginning in May, with a season that extends into October.

This tasty dessert marries fresh nectarines with tart cherries wrapped in phyllo and boasts a healthy profile. Instead of rich pastry loaded with fat and cholesterol, we use flaky sheets of delicate phyllo as a quick and easy base for the luscious Kirsch-spiked filling.

Most recipes call for coating the phyllo with melted butter using a pastry brush, and that can add loads of saturated fat and cholesterol. In this recipe, spritzing the phyllo lightly with olive-oil cooking spray slashes fat, eliminates cholesterol and avoids overhandling of the fragile leaves of dough. If you've never worked with phyllo, it may seem intimidating, but it's really pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

It's important to keep the unused dough covered with a damp cloth while working with each leaf of dough. If the dough tears a bit, simply press it together and no one will be the wiser.

Fresh Nectarines and Dried Montmorency Cherries in a Spirited Phyllo Tart makes for an elegant presentation: The luscious filling made with fresh fruit and tart dried cherries baked in low-fat, whole-grain phyllo pastry. The cherries called for are dried Montmorency, and they are delightful. You may use other types of dried cherries, but the Montmorency does add a special zing.

The subject of ongoing research, tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidants, which are believed to help fight cancer and heart disease. Not only is this dish delicious, it is one guilt-free dessert.

Fresh Nectarines and Dried Montmorency Cherries in a Spirited Phyllo Tart

Ingredients:

14 sheets whole-wheat phyllo dough, nonhydrogenated
6 medium nectarines, about 2-1/2 pounds, divided as follows:
4 cups sliced into 1/4-inch wedges, unpeeled
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1-1/2 cups apricot nectar
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. Kirsch brandy
2/3 cup coarsely chopped nectarine flesh
1 cup dried tart cherries, preferably Montmorency
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. cold water
one 10-oz. jar apricot preserves, fruit-sweetened

Preparation:

Remove pastry from freezer. Place unopened package in refrigerator, overnight. Two hours ahead: Place unopened package on kitchen counter. Prepare and cool filling before proceeding.

Preheat oven: 375 degrees. Spray round spring-form pan with olive-oil cooking spray.

Toss sliced nectarines with lime juice. Set aside. Chop remaining nectarines. Set aside. Combine apricot nectar, rice syrup, vanilla and Kirsch in medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat for two minutes, add chopped nectarines and cherries. Reduce heat to low. Cook 4 minutes. In small bowl, combine cornstarch and water, add to pan and simmer mixture for three minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Place apricot preserves in small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat for two minutes, or until melted. Set aside.

Remove phyllo from package and unfold onto a sheet of wax paper. Place second sheet of wax paper over phyllo and cover with damp towel. Working quickly, remove each sheet and spray with oil, and lay in pan, patting gently, alternating lengthwise and crosswise. Spray overlapping edges with additional oil. Pour cooled filling into phyllo-lined pan.

Top with sliced nectarines and cover with apricot preserves. Immediately fold the overlapping edges of phyllo onto the filling, leaving the center open. Place pan on cookie sheet, on the center oven rack. After 20 minutes, fashion a foil collar around the sides, covering phyllo, and leaving the fruit center uncovered. After 20 minutes, remove foil. Bake uncovered for five minutes. Set aside to cool.

Serving Size: 12 Servings

Notes on ingredients:

Whole-wheat phyllo pastry: Nonhydrogenated, whole-grain phyllo dough is widely available at health-food stores and many supermarkets, from Fillo Factory.

Kirsch brandy (Kirschwasser): Cherry-flavored brandy fermented from the juice of black Morello cherries.

Brown rice syrup: Smooth, amber-colored syrup, about half as sweet as refined sugar. This healthful and tasty alternative is available at gourmet stores and many supermarkets.

Marie Oser is a best-selling author and chef.

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