Dessert for Mediterranean Food: Bird's Nest Cookies
Sometimes you need an easy dessert to serve with Greek, Lebanese, or even Middle Eastern food. Or you want something a little different than chocolate chip cookies for your book club. Enter Bird's Nest Cookies. They are simple to make and take little time to bake. The little cookies come out of the oven crispy sweet and redolent of cinnamon--even better to eat than they look. Walnuts add more crunch and a little bitterness, a welcome contrast that keeps the cookies from being "too sweet." You can, of course, vary the type of nuts you use. Cashews and pistachio nuts also are great in the "nests." To make the cookies you need kataifi dough, which you can find at many international food markets and even some Walmarts. The dough is similar to filo but looks more like long strands of shredded wheat. Some recipes call for dousing the baked kataifi dough with sweet syrup, but I prefer the Bird's Nest Cookies without the additional sweetness of the syrup, which also turns the "nests" soggy. Try the cookies with hot tea or coffee for a special treat--with or without a Mediterranean menu.
Bird's Nest Cookies -- Makes 24+
16 ounce package of kataifi dough, thawed, if frozen
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1/4 cup of canola oil
1 cup of sugar
1 - 1 1/2 cuts of walnuts, finely chopped (preferably in a food processor)
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons of grated orange zest (optional)
Extra walnut pieces for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or coat them with non-stick cooking spray. In a 9 x 13 inch pan (or something of similar size and depth), place the the kataifi dough and begin shedding it with your fingers. Pour the melted butter and oil over the shreds and, using two forks or your fingers, keep shredding as you work the oil and butter into the dough. Add the sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and, if you like, the grated orange zest and work those into the shreds, again using forks or your fingers. Once everything is well mixed (no white bits of kataifi dough should remain), take a 1/4-cup scoop and press in enough shreds to fill the scoop, pressing down firmly on the dough shreds. Drop the formed dough onto a prepared cookie sheet and continue the process, spacing the formed cookie "nests" an inch or two apart on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle a few walnut pieces on top of each "nest" and spray each nest with non-stick cooking spray. Bake the "nests" for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool on the cookie sheets for at least 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely.