Monday, July 16, 2012

Cream Cheese Pinwheels: Yes You Canape!

Normally, gentle reader, I feel a bit ripped off when a food magazine/blog or TV chef offers up a “recipe” that is in essence a glorified sandwich in disguise (*darts sidelong glance in Rachael Ray’s direction*). But did we mention the thing of how it’s, like, 105 degrees in Brooklyn right now? So I’m sharing what-passes-for-a-recipe for the light and refreshing lunches I've been making myself recently. This cream cheese pinwheel is a take on the kind of canapé a 1950s suburban hostess might serve at a Tupperware and/or cocktail party.

This works great to pack for lunch a night in advance, since the cream cheese acts as a buffer to keep the wrap from getting soggy (as regular readers may recall, non-soggy sandwich preparation techniques are a bit of an obsession of mine). You can pack the segments in a plastic take-out container so they look like a cute little suburban-America version of a sushi bento box, and they’re easy to eat at your desk without getting your keyboard too disgusting (also a recurring struggle of mine).

My most frequent variation consists of a plain white flour tortilla rolled with smoked turkey, diced scallions and English cucumber, curry powder, and of course cream cheese (personally I prefer White Rose brand over the Philadelphia, I must say—though most of my fellow Brooklynites would probably recommend some $18/lb. artisanal cream cheese that is produced by gently rocking a single locally raised grass-fed cow to sleep and reading to her from Goodnight Moon while milking). That one is pictured above alongside a grilled-steak-and-creamed-spinach variation. But you could experiment with all kinds of fillings, including some suggestions below.


  • Heat a flour tortilla/"wrap" briefly in the toaster oven, just long enough to soften up that leathery refrigerated texture.
  • Spread the tortilla with cream cheese, leaving a margin around the edges.
  • Sprinkle the cream cheese with veggies and herbs/greens, then layer on your protein—leaving a 1-inch margin on the left and right sides of the tortilla. Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you like. (See below for filling/seasoning suggestions.)
  • Fold in the left and right edges of the tortilla, then fold in the bottom side and roll up away from you, until you have a burrito shape.
  • Cut crosswise into 5 pieces (or whatever division ends up yielding uniform-ish 1-inch-ish pieces).
  • Turn the pieces so the inside is facing up as you arrange them on a plate—I mean, you don’t have to, but it looks all pretty and fancy that way.


Veggie possibilities are almost endless: diced raw red onion, red pepper, jalapeno, or tomato (water squeezed out); diced steamed asparagus; thin-sliced radishes; sautéed sliced mushrooms….

Ditto for chopped/shredded/torn fresh herbs and greens: think chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, cilantro; and/or arugula, red cabbage, radicchio…

Your protein can be any regular deli/supermarket cold cut (turkey, roast beef, ham) as well as fancy stuff like prosciutto and salmon—any meat sliced thin enough that it can be rolled up without unrolling.

Your seasoning could be a powdered spice like chili powder, cumin, paprika, what have you, or a shaving of lemon or lime zest, a spritz of lemon juice, or a restrained dash of Sriracha or chipotle sauce.

You can also experiment with variations in flavored cream cheese, like veggie, scallion, or walnut.

And that's not all! You can try different wrappers, too. A crepe (scallion, perhaps) or blintz would be quite exciting; just roll them up gingerly, as they’re more likely to tear. I’m personally not a fan of those “sun-dried tomato”- and “spinach”-flavored "wraps," since they just seem so processed and the leathery texture is ineradicable…but hey, if you like them, by all means.

Here are some pinwheel filling combos that might work well:

  • Roast beef, prepared horseradish, roasted red pepper, baby arugula
  • Salmon, dill, capers
  • Prosciutto, asparagus, peas, chives, lemon zest
  • Smoked turkey, crumbled bacon, avocado, chives
  • Serrano ham, sliced green olives, minced red onion

I've already touted these as an easy workday lunch. But going back to the original canapé concept, you could also make a bunch of variations of these, arrange them prettily on a big platter, and serve them as cocktail appetizers or a lunch buffet, perhaps alongside some dipping sauces. Presto, fancy finger food!

See, for a glorified sandwich recipe, that at least gave you a lot to work with, right? If you try one of the combos above, or come up with your own, please share in the comments! Photos are also appreciated—email ’em to, please.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. And the title? I saw what you did there. And I had somehow missed the non-soggy sandwich post and enjoyed that as well, as I will enjoy my future non-soggy sandwiches.