Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baklava, Tortilla Flat, Braces

I had a hankerin' for a hunk o' Baklava this week, which I've never made but have eaten enough to know it's yummy. The first time I had it was during my study abroad in Israel. The most recent time I had it was at a restaurant in Williams, AZ on our Grand Canyon trip this past October. It's delicious, but too sweet to have regularly.
Anyway, after perusing sites and reading reviews and comparing recipes, I merged a couple of Baklava recipes to yield the following successful dessert. Have fun!

1 (16oz) package phyllo (fillo) dough THAWED (to thaw it takes 2 hours on counter or overnight in fridge)
1 lb. chopped nuts - I use walnuts and hazelnuts (Note: lightly toast nuts on nonstick pan prior to chopping)
1 Cup real butter, melted
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one lemon (OPTIONAL)

Honey Syurp (some recipes called for less, some for more - this is in between. Next time I might do a little less because it was pretty sweet):
1 1/2 Cup water
1 1/2 Cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey

1. Make honey syrup first so it has plenty of time to cool. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer about 20 minutes, then let cool to room temperature (place in fridge to cool faster if desired). Apparently a cool sauce poured on hot Baklava makes it turn out crispy.
2. Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 pan (I used glass, although metal might work fine, too).
3. Lightly toast nuts (unless they're already chopped too small) then chop (I used my blender). Toss nuts with sugar and cinnamon and lemon zest (if desired). Set aside.
4. Unroll phyllo dough. If the sheets are long and not pre-cut, cut the whole stack in half to fit the pan. Sheets may be a little long and a little wide - it's fine. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth or damp paper towel to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, then butter thoroughly. I used a pastry brush and melted butter. (Lighter but less tasty versions call for spraying cooking oil instead). Repeat, buttering every 2nd sheet, until you have 8 sheets layered. Butter the 8th sheet, also. Sprinkle 3-4 Tbs. of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, dough, butter, nuts, etc. until all the nuts are used up, but make sure you have about 6-8 sheets left for top layer. (Butter between every 2nd layer on top 6-8 sheets, too. Butter top sheet also).
5. Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You can cut 4 long rows, then make diagonal cuts. Make sure they're not so big they won't fit in the muffin cups if you use them for serving (which I recommend since they're so sticky). Bake for about 40-50 minutes until Baklava is golden and crisp.
6. Remove Baklava from oven and immediately spoon cool syrup over it. Let cool (and let honey syrup be absorbed). For extra crispness and a nice golden top, I then placed the pan on the lower racks under the broiler for just a couple of minutes (WATCH CLOSELY!). Let cool again.
7. Serve in individual paper muffin cups. Top each piece with chopped pecans or chopped pecans & walnuts, if desired.
8. Leave uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up. This freezes well, if you have any left over.

Tortilla Flat: Well, sometimes I just don't want to follow a recipe, so I make it up as I go. That's what happened here, although I'm sure there are plenty of similar recipes running through my mind that unconsciously contributed to the final outcome, which ended up being really tasty. I was surprised because usually when I make stuff up it's a total waste of time and ingredients.
I took some (12) corn tortillas and lightly fried (is there such a thing?) them up in some very hot vegetable oil. Alton Brown said if you fry things hot they don't absorb the oil, so it's the least unhealthy way to eat fried foods. I have no idea if that makes it okay, but I don't mind a little justifying as long as it tastes good.
I then took my fried up tortillas and baked them in a 350F oven on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes - I was going for crisp, not greasy.
1. 1 can of black beans, drained, then blended with a hand blender and about 1 tsp. cumin mixed in. Spread a thin layer of black bean mush on each crip tortilla.
2. Sprinkle cheese over black bean mush and pop back in the oven just until melted.
3. I sliced onions and tomatillos and sauteed them until soft and caramelized (sprinkle a little sugar for caramelizing and a little salt for flavor while suateeing).
4. Top with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, green onions, cilantro or whatever you like.
5. Serve with Mexican rice - I just cook long grain white rice in the rice cooker then when done I mix in monterey jack cheese until it's melted then dump in a little salsa and mix it up.
Everyone liked it, so that was a huge accomplishment.

The big news this week was that Samuel got braces! Friday morning while everyone else was at school, we were at our friend's orthodontic office.

Sam only has the front four teeth and the back molars on top in braces right now. We have to wait for baby teeth to fall out before he gets the full set.
Oh, while we were there, Andy lazered Sam's mouth because of a canker that would rub on his new braces. They got to wear cool glasses.

Final product (semi-final, actually, since there's a lot more to come): Glow-in-the-dark braces. Whoa. I told him that seeing floating, glowing, teeth would be just creepy, but Sam just smiled.

After braces and on the way to school, we stopped say goodbye to little cousin (my niece) Marianna and her mommy Annmarie. We've really enjoyed having them here and watching her grow up a little, but we're excited they can be back with Uncle Ted who has been serving as a Captain in the Army in Afghanistan (his 2nd deployment).

No braces here, but those are some mighty fine chocolate eyes. But Oliver, where are your glasses!?

Ah, there they are - Oliver lounging around (with his glasses on) and a winter storm in the background. We were sooo close to spring, until last night. As Jeff says, this is Idaho after all - it's too soon for spring. Boooo :(

While digging through some of my stuff, I found these jeans that Charlotte is sporting. Yes, they were mine. And I had long braids like she did (except my hair was red). And, best of all, my very own mother made these jeans. My, my time flies.

My mom also made this Strawberry Shortcake costume that the girls have fallen in love with. I wore it for Halloween when I was 6 or 7. The white dress Charlotte has on is actually supposed to drape over the pink one Eleanor has on, but both girls wanted to wear something so I split it apart (which is why Eleanor has on a pink stocking hat instead of her own Strawberry Shortcake hat - this is only one costume).

This looked so pretty I just had to post it. Happy Valentine's Day to me from Jeff.

1 comment:

  1. oh steph! every time i read your blog i get homesick for rexburg! your WONDERFUL home cooking, beautiful home, lovely family . . . why isn't it cheaper to fly home?! thanks for sharing all the great pictures!