Saturday, April 3, 2010

How to Make Baklava

"Baklava is a dessert of Turkish origin, dating from the fifteenth century, today popular also in Greece and throughout the Middle East.  Layered with nuts and drenched in sugar syrup or honey, it is the best known of all the phyllo pastries.
In Greece it was originally an Easter specialty, made with 40 layers of pastry representing the 40 days of Lent."              from The Joy of Cooking, pg. 918

Good enough reason for us to make it; that and it's supremely nummiful.  It's also a bit fiddly, as you will see.

Before beginning any recipe, it is important to assemble all your ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 - inch baking pan.  (Oooops - forgot to butter the pans.  Oh well.  We don't have a 13 x 9 pan, so we used two 8 x 8 pans, unbuttered...)

Finely chop or coarsely grind:
3 cups coarsly chopped nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and/or pecans), toasted.

We used red millet, canary seed, white proso millet, oat greats, safflower seeds, nyjer seed, buckwheat, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, 1 1/4 cup walnuts, 1 1/4 cup pistachios.

Stir together in a small bowl:
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (ooops - no lemon.  Skip that ingredient)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter (it wasn't enough)

Stack flat on a work surface:
1 pound phyllo dough

(Or you may choose to make your own.  If you choose this arduous route, please give yourself an extra 4 hours and a glass of wine.)

Trim the phyllo into 13 x 9 - inch sheets (8x8, roughly) saving the scraps for another use (trash).  Cover the stack with plastic wrap and a damp towel.
Place 2 phyllo sheets in the baking pan and brush the top sheet evenly with the melted butter (or with nasal mucous, whatever you like).

Add 2 more sheets and brush with the butter, then repeat once more for a total of 6 sheets.  Sprinkle with half of the birdseed nuts and then half of the sugar mixture (since we were making two pans, we had to quarter these measurements as best we could).

Cover the filling with 2 phyllo sheets, butter the top sheet, and repeat until there are 6 sheets on top of the filling.  Cover with the remaining nuts and sugar mixture.
1/3 cup gruyere cheese

(This step is optional and may help to relieve the anxiety and/or frustration you will experience in handling the phyllo dough.)

Cover with all of the remaining phyllo sheets, adding them 2 at a time and buttering only the second sheet each time.  Brush the top with the remaining butter (there was none).

Using a sharp serrated knife so that the patry will not be crushed, cut through all of the layers  to make 2-inch diamonds or squares.

This is important because you will not be able to cut the baklava once it is baked without crushing the pastry; it also allows the syrup to soak in and around each piece (thereby ensuring maximum cavity production).  Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Continue to bake until the baklava is golden brown, 46 to 60 minutes.  During the last 30 minutes of baking, combine in a saucepan:
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup honey
Zest of 1 orange, removed in large strips (a potato peeler did the trick.)

Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Strain the hot syrup (let the fear of God enter you at this moment) and pour evenly over the baked baklava.  Let cool completely, at least 4 hours (HAH! Very funny!  Good luck on that one) at room temperature before serving.

Happy Easter and enjoy the Baklava with your favorite feathered friends.  You may now eat the gruyere.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The New Job

Hello and welcome to my new work place!

For some 4 weeks now, I have been working at a store called Shadowbox Paperie. And I am so thankful to be able to say I'm employed!

The store is located on Main Street in downtown Chattanooga, which is in a nice neighborhood that is currently being built up into a real posh shopping district, we all hope. There's some art galleries, and some good restaurants all within walking distance, so we get some good foot traffic.

As you can see, we sell more than paper goods. And as you can probably imagine, I have taken over merchandising and display in the store, although I can't claim credit for every beautiful display you see in these pictures. Mostly I've just been tweaking the displays some.

So if you're in the area, stop by and see me! I'll be the one whose happiness at finally gaining employment is causing a faint glow around her edges.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Walk in the Woods, Part 2

I've been workin' on the raaaillroad, all the livelong day.....

During a break in the recent rains we've been enjoying, we got out and took a hike in the woods near us. It was a beautiful fall day, warm in the sun with cool air, bright blue sky, everything I've been missing for the past several years.

Look at that sky!

I find nature can be so inspiring, even if it's manmade.
That's a joke, son.

At a glance, everything seemed to have come through the rains and flooding just fine.

But upon close inspection, we could see that the forest got flooded up to our waist height.
All the leaves were muddy.

But near the river, it was obvious the water had risen over our heads, as this bridge is that high. You can see it's covered with debris washed up by the floods.

Fall is on the way!

A Walk in the

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Last weekend, we went with some friends of ours from Singapore, the Bridgemans, to go apple picking. This was an outing I looked forward to every fall when I still lived in California, and missed terribly while I lived in Singapore. And, being the kinda tech-saavy girl that I am, I brought my camera with no batteries. So, I don't have pictures of the tiny little orchard we went to, or of how beautiful the blue, cloudless sky was, or of how wonderful the weather was. I can't take pictures of the temperature, anyway. But it was a lovely day and I was so happy.

We were warned that the orchard had suffered a hail storm (on May 15th!) so the apples were pocked, but still tasted good. We found that to be very true.

So with a huge quantity of apples (and a gigantic pumpkin, to boot), I started hunting for recipes. Apple butter is a bit too complicated, I think. So my first apple endeavor was applesauce.

I pulled all the winesap apples from the basket for this recipe; they are tart and perfect for cooking.

The flesh is almost hard, and very white. And the peels can be so dark, I almost thought they were plums when I went to pick them.

The recipe called for 3 or 4 pounds, and by hitting a conversion site online, I found that that was about 2 quarts, peeled and cored and quartered.

Here they are with the rest of the ingredients: a 3" piece of cinnamon stick, 4 peels of lemon rind, the juice of a lemon, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, and a cup of water. The recipe allowed that not all of the white sugar need be added, but I had tasted these apples and knew they were tart and so I added the full amount. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, and voila!

Apple mush! Now remove the cinnamon stick and the lemon peels which are hard to find but also hard where everything else is mushy.
Last year, when I went to clean out my mother's house, I inherited a food mill. I use it to make mashed potatoes now and then, and it is great! Now I used it to make applesauce, and it worked like a charm.

Have you ever had hot applesauce? I never had, but I have found a new love.

Home made applesauce is very similar to store bought, except perhaps it's a bit denser. I think Motts says they use gravenstein apples, but the winesaps make such a great flavor contrast: tart/sweet.
This was such an easy recipe, I hope you will try to make your own applesauce. I have so much, I may try to make an applesauce spice cake with some of it. We'll see. It was delicious with cottage cheese and walnuts for breakfast this morning, too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Chattanooga Farmer's Market

On Sundays after church, we have been going to the Farmer's Market downtown. Even though it has been very rainy, many people still make it there because it is so fun, and also, there is a roof on the pavilion where it is held.

It is not only a farmer's market, but also a craft show, and there's food and usually live music, too.

The last time we went, I had a delicious steak taco.

Then I went and got one of these potato chip things. Very decadent, also very delicious.

The veggies are always beautiful and tempting.

But maybe it's weird to have a bell pepper match one's dress.

More temptation.

On this day, we only bought some apples and tomatoes. The tomatoes will be made into a delicious fresh soup, and the apples?

They were used appropriately.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Camera!

And so no posts!

But I did want to share a recipe I invented/stole/adapted that was so yummy, you will want to try it out immediately. Like now.

Hot Craisin Chicken Salad

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 celery stalks, bias cut into slices
1/2 cup craisins
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 half-pint lite whipping cream
1 dollop fat free cream cheese
8 oz. bow tie pasta
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
salt, pepper, and olive oil

Saute celery slices in a little olive oil until hot and softened. Add whipping cream, craisins, chicken, poppy seeds, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to slow boil, add cream cheese, simmer.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to common sense.

Toss cooked pasta with chicken mixture and sprinkle with sunflower seeds, if desired. Or, place sunflower seeds on table and allow everyone to make up their own minds about them. I liked them.

My sister and I have definite plans to see each other "soon" so I will have my camera again. Until then, I will try to think of posts that require no camera.

And the unpacking continues....