These disks of herbed savory shortbread are dressed with tomatoes and cheese. They’re delicious on their own and they also work well with other toppings such as tapenade or roasted red peppers.
do ahead Shortbread dough can be made two days in advance, wrapped in a log and refrigerated. Shortbreads can be baked up to a week ahead and stored in an airtight container. Top them just before serving.
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme (optional)
1⁄2 cup plus 1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
1⁄2 pound unsalted butter, cubed
Tomato & Feta Topping
10-12 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, halved
6 ounces feta
20-24 small, fine rosemary sprigs
1 Make the shortbread: Preheat oven to 325°. Arrange rack on upper middle shelf. In a mixer or food processor, combine Parmesan, parsley, flour, salt, cayenne and butter and mix until evenly incorporated. Form the dough into a log 11⁄2 inches in diameter. Roll it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice. Slice 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 inch thick. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 17-20 minutes.
2 Make topping: Cut feta into thin slices, approximately the width of the rounds. Top each round with a piece of tomato and a slice of feta. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and serve immediately.
yields 20-24 rounds
Parmesan Cheese: Good, Better, Best
If I had to pick only one cheese to eat for the rest of my life—God forbid—it would be aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. Produced only in the Northern Italian region around Emilia-Romagna and the city of Parma (anything else is an imitation), the cheese is made from raw cow’s milk poured into 100-pound-capacity wheels and cured to a moist and crumbly, salty and pungent nuttiness. I love a large nugget on its own or grated into soup or pasta, shaved onto a salad or served with fresh figs. Recently, we worked with a chef from Modena, a city within Emilia Romagna, whomade a divine Parmigiano “gelato” by cooking cheese and cream to a thick and scoopable consistency and served it on a nut bread with 30-yearold balsamic vinegar (see recipe on page 373 of At Home). Though there are plenty of paler parmesans on the market and the real article is costly, a little goes a long way and I find that this is an ingredient that’s worth the cost. Other excellent grating cheeses include Asiago, which is a bit sweeter, and pecorino, a sharper hard sheep’smilk cheese. Pre-grated cheese should be used only as a last resort. It’s best to pass a hunk of cheese and a hand grater and let your guests shave away salty filings to their heart’s content. They will be—pardon the pun—forever grateful.