A beggar’s purse was originally the name for an appetizer consisting of a mini crêpe topped by a teaspoon of caviar and then a dab of crème fraîche. It was made popular at the New York restaurant the Quilted Giraffe. Stu Stein’s beggar’s purse consists of a filled phyllo-dough pouch tied and baked to resemble a drawstring purse.
1Place the oil in a large sauté pan over low to medium heat. Add the ramps, asparagus, celery, carrots, onions, beans, mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper. Sauté, stirring often, until vegetables are soft but with no color, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Add wine and cook until the liquid is almost dry. Taste and adjust seasoning. Allow the vegetables to cool.
To prepare the beggar’s purses:
1Heat the oven to 375°F.
2Cut each phyllo dough sheet in half to form a total of 16 squares. Cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and a damp towel while working, so it does not dry out.
3Place one sheet of phyllo on your work surface. Brush a little oil all over the sheet, especially the edges of the phyllo. Place a second on top in the opposite direction to make a cross. Brush oil on top of the second sheet as before. Sprinkle a little of the chopped herbs, salt, and pepper over the entire surface. Place two more sheets in an X pattern on top of the previous cross pattern. Brush each sheet with oil before placing the next sheet on top. You will now have a stack of four squares.
4In the middle of the top sheet of phyllo, place one quarter of the cooled filling. Pull all the sides up toward the center to make a purse. Tie the top with a cotton string. Brush the outside of each purse with oil and season with salt and pepper. Continue the same procedure to make a total of four purses.
5Place the purses on a baking tray brushed with vegetable oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until phyllo purses become a light golden brown.
1Cut the string from the phyllo purses, place in a shallow soup bowl, and serve with seasoned vegetable stock.
Advance preparation: The filling can be made a day or two ahead, but only fill and bake the purses when you are ready to serve them. The phyllo dough will get soggy if the purses are filled in advance and not baked immediately. The completed purses may be made several weeks in advance, placed in a sealed container, and frozen. Take them directly from the freezer to the oven when ready to bake.
Substitutions and options: Change the vegetables based on what looks best and has the best flavor in your market or garden. Use summer squash, corn, bell peppers, and basil in the summer months, or use autumn mushrooms and roots during the autumn months.
Add the filling to your favorite pasta to make a wonderful chilled vegetable pasta salad or a light vegetable pasta entrée.
Stein’s favorite substitute for phyllo dough is Feuill de Brik, a thin, savory crêpelike dough made without eggs. Use only one sheet per beggar’s purse.
Beverage pairing: You could drink a white wine with this dish, especially a Chardonnay with some richness and a touch of oak character, a quality that pairs well with the morel mushrooms in the filling. For a racier choice, choose a Zinfandel with a wild-berry character. The dish makes the wine classier, enabling the fruit flavors to shine. Recommended: 2001 Mission Hill Family Estate, Reserve Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia; or 2001 Green & Red, Chiles Mill Vineyard, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.