Where is it written that rugelach has to be a dessert? Why not a savory hors d’oeuvre? A “Jewish cousin” of a croissant, rugelach is of eastern European origin, made with a rich flaky cream cheese pastry that lends itself not only to fruit and chocolate fillings, but also to savory combinations. Think about rugelach with cocktails or soup, rather than coffee and tea: open your fridge, your pantry and your mind. Invent your own recipe with a tomato basil pesto, an olive and fig tapenade, or a mix and match of garlic and prosciutto, goat cheese and walnut, or cheddar and bacon. Like pizza dough, rugelach pastry is open to suggestion, very forgiving and always delicious. —Vivian Henoch
To make the pastry: Cut butter into small pieces (about a tablespoon each) and keep chilled. Cut cream cheese into tablespoon size pieces and let soften to room temperature. In a food processor combine flour, salt and butter and process with “pulse” setting, on/off turns until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream cheese and sour cream, process until the dough holds together.
Press dough into ball, divide into four, press into discs. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
To make filling: In a sauce pan, heat figs in a half cup of water until softened and drain. In a food processor combine olives, olive oil, garlic, figs, orange juice and orange zest. Process using pulse setting until mixture is blended enough to spread.
Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
To shape the pastry: On a lightly floured surface, roll disc into a 9-inch circle. Brush pastry with olive oil. Spoon on the filling over the pastry and spread evenly. Top with slices of prosciutto. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into into quarters, then cut each quarter into three triangles. Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up tightly and curve into crescents.
Arrange on cookie sheet, spacing pastries about an inch apart, keeping the points tucked under the pastry. (Unbaked pastries can be frozen at this point.)
Bake pastries 22 to 25 minutes until light golden. Cook on racks. (Pastries can be kept four days in airtight containers, or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.)
Serve warm with cocktails or soups.
(Lagniappe: for additional flavor variations, substitute grated cheddar, maytag blue or parmesan cheese for the sour cream in the pastry recipe. )