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Joni Woolf: Cottage Living — and its recipes

Cottage Living was a popular shelter magazine in the early part of this century. Published by Southern Progress Corporation out of Birmingham, it was perhaps too popular; it had a brief, exciting run, and then without announcement, shut down, never to reappear. Some of us in the magazine industry guessed that it might be too much competition for Southern Living’s advertising dollars and that they were instrumental in its closing. It was my favorite magazine, and nothing has come along to take its place. Its recipes were some of my favorites; I still use them, especially at festive times like Easter and Thanksgiving. This week my friend and former business partner, Lynn Cass, emailed to ask if I still had the April 2006 issue; she had torn a favorite recipe and couldn’t read the directions. Of course, I had it: I have every issue. When I located the recipes I realized they were perfect for that Easter brunch we talked about last week — easy to prepare, tasty, and with eye appeal for a spring luncheon or brunch. I’m sorry the magazine is no longer; it remains not only a favorite, but still rather contemporary in what it offers — both style and substance. I hope you enjoy these two springtime pastries, both of which use pastry that you can buy ahead, saving time.

Spinach and Ricotta Tart
1 (17.3 oz.) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (6-oz.) packages fresh baby spinach (or 1 [10-oz.] pkg. frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unfold one pastry sheet, pinching seams together if necessary, and place into 10-inch tart pan. If you don’t have a tart pan, a baking sheet will work. Brush with the egg wash. Cut four strips (1/2 x 10 inch) from remaining sheet, and lightly press across each side of egg-washed pastry to create a border; brush the border with egg wash. Prick bottom sheet all over with fork. Sprinkle half of Parmesan cheese over the bottom; place tart on lower rack of oven. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 5 to 8 minutes or until cheese forms a light crust. Let cool for 5 minutes. Combine ricotta and next five ingredients. Spoon about two-thirds ricotta mixture into pastry shell and spread evenly. Saute spinach in a large skillet over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often and cooking in batches, if necessary. Drain excess liquid and spread evenly onto ricotta mixture in pastry shell. Dollop remaining ricotta mixture onto spinach, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 to 18 minutes, or until set.  (Note: if the ricotta you buy looks watery, drain through a fine mesh strainer.)

Sweet Onion Pie (or Vidalia onions, if they have arrived)
½ (15 oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
1 tablespoon butter
1 large sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup sour cream
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (these could be omitted for non-meat dish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch tart pan with one piecrust; prick bottom of crust with fork. Line sides with foil, add pie weights or dried beans (to weight it down), and place on bottom rack of oven. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute onion 10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Place onion in large bowl and let cool. Add eggs and next four ingredients; fold together and pour mixture into crust. Top with bacon, and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes or just until set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Easy and delicious!

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net