Baklava, Lebanese Style

On Saturday we are going to a Mediterranean dinner and guess what I have been asked to bring…BAKLAVA!! Lebanese style, of course. Most people think its very complicated to make, but I’ll share with you my easy recipe, complete with pictures. The recipe is straight out of my memoir-cookbook, Eat Where You Are.

Making Baklava has to be one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in the kitchen, aside from making bread from scratch. This method was taught to me by my Uncle Eddy, a great Lebanese chef, some years back.

We will be making rolls of baklava.

Syrup: make this first.

6 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 Tbsp lemon juice

3-4 Tbsp orange blossom water (found in specialty/international section of grocery store)

Combine sugar and water in a pot; stir until dissolved and then boil it over medium heat for five minutes. Add lemon juice and orange blossom water and boil for five more minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool.

While the syrup is cooling, make the baklava:

4 ½ cups of crushed unsalted pistachio nuts

1 ¼ cup sugar

2 – 3 Tbsp orange blossom water

Combine these three ingredients in a bowl.

bak5

You will also need:

2 packages of fyllo dough (in the refrigerated or frozen section of the grocery store). Keep the fyllo dough covered with a damp tea towel until needed as it dries out quickly.

1 cup of melted butter

Assembly:

Place 2 sheets of fyllo on the counter or cutting board and brush them with the melted butter.

bak1

Place a not too thick line of the nut mixture across the center, width ways.

bak2PG

Take one end of the pastry and fold it over to the opposite end, covering the nuts. Tuck a little fold under the nuts and roll it all the way to the end, like a jellyroll.

bak3

Lay this roll in a 9 X 13 greased glass-baking dish and brush with butter. Then make another roll and place it beside the first one. Repeat this procedure until you have used up all the nut mixture. You will need three or four pans. Using a sharp knife gently cut across the rolls in each pan, making cuts every 2 inches.

bak4

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. The baklava should just be starting to brown when you take it out of the oven.

Immediately pour cold syrup over the baklava in each pan, using all the syrup. It looks like a lot but the syrup will be all absorbed. Let it cool completely before eating.

bak6

 

 

Making Fatayer With Gerri


 

My sister Gerri was here for a visit a couple of weeks ago and we had the most fantastic time! Aside from going blueberry picking and a trip to Mahone Bay, we decided to do some Lebanese cooking. In my family, Gerri is the Fatayer Queen! She always has some in the freezer to take out when someone comes to visit, and they are oh so good!

A favorite street food in Lebanon, these tasty spinach pies can also be served as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a meat main course. We often ate them growing up, but at the time we called them “flat tires” as that’s pretty well how the name sounds. Some people make them with filo dough, but the Savory pie dough that we used is the traditional way to make them. Fatayer can be frozen and reheated, and are just as delicious as fresh.

So we spent an afternoon making Spinach Fatayer.

First we gathered together ingredients for the dough. Notice the open Eat Where You Are book on the counter!

ingredients

2 cups warm water

2 Tbsp sugar

1 pkg dry yeast

¼ cup oil

2 tsp salt

1 egg

5 cups flour (approximate)

Place water and sugar in a large bowl. Add yeast and let proof 5 minutes. Add oil, salt and egg. Fold in flour gradually. Knead in the flour until the flour leaves the edges of the bowl and is smooth.

Smooth a little oil over the dough so it doesn’t dry out. Cover with a plastic sheet and then with a tea towel.

Let rise in a warm place for 30 – 40 minutes. We put it on top of the fridge because it is warm there and out of the drafts.

Here is Gerri, right in her element, kneading the dough.

kneading

While the dough was rising we got the filling ready.

 2 large bunches of spinach                         ½ cup oil

1 large onion, chopped                               1 ½ tsp salt

1 cup parsley, finely chopped                    ¼ tsp pepper

¾ cup lemon juice                                         1 cup pine nuts (optional)

Butter

Wash and drain spinach well. Chop and place in a large bowl. Add onions, parsley, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Toss well, and set aside.

Toast the pine nuts by putting them in a dry frying pan on medium heat, stirring constantly until browned. Add to spinach mixture. (We actually forgot to toast the pine nuts, but it didn’t take anything away from the final taste)

Here is the spinach filling, all ready.

filling

Heat oven to 400 deg

Divide the dough into 2 sections, and cover one part with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out to 4 inch rounds, about 1/8-inch thickness. Place a heaping tablespoonful of filling in the center of a round.

dough

Fold three sides of the dough over the spinach to make a triangle. Make one at a time, as the spinach will have a lot of juice. If necessary, squeeze out some of the juice before placing in the dough.

Secure triangle by pressing on the edges of the dough as you fold, making sure that it is well sealed around the edges.

Place fatayer on a greased cookie sheet.

uncooked

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Turn oven to broil for color, if necessary. When they come out of the oven, brush with butter and let cool.

Our recipe made about 80 fatayer! That’s enough to have some now and lots to freeze for later.

Can be served hot or cold.

finished fatayer

My Book is Finished but I Need a Title!

One year ago I wrote a letter here on my blog – a letter to  my cookbook. I apologized for not finishing on time and stated that I would try to do better…. In my naivety I said that I would finish by the end of the summer 2010. I didn’t realize that I would have to edit and re-edit and then do it again. I didn’t realize that some of my style would change over the course of a year. I guess I was ‘dreaming in colour’, as they say in French.

Well guess what” IT’S FINISHED!!!!!

Well, the cookbook/memoir part is finished; I am now working on the introduction, dedication and pictures for the dividers. I have been talking to a publishing company and I hope to have things in order for them before the end of the month.

The only thing that stymies me at the moment is a very important part – the title! I had thought in the beginning I would call it A Lifetime Through Recipes, but that doesn’t really convey the fun aspect or the essence of the book. The book is divided into seven chapters, each one with stories and recipes from different aspects of my life, like growing up in Newfoundland, being Lebanese, my years in Quebec and so on. I’d like to have the word ‘memoir’ somewhere in the title.

Any title suggestions out there? If I use your suggestion and you would like it, I’ll send you a free cookbook!

 

Stay tuned!

Making Yogurt

It’s the third day of Spring! It is beautiful outside, albeit a little cool for this time of the year. You could say romance is in the air, but so are allergies. You can’t have it all I guess.

Last week I wrote that I would share with you some of my ways to save money, and I showed you how to make sprouts. Today it’s yogurt, or laban as we used to call it growing up. Yes, I am a yogurt eater from way back. Long before yogurt was commercially available, my mother had a green ceramic bowl in which she always had some yogurt “setting”. Only two ingredients are needed to make it: milk and some “starter”, which is simply a few spoonfuls of yogurt left over from the last batch. When I was young, we ate yogurt with a slice of bread broken into bits tossed in. It would then be topped with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to cut the tartness. Often my parents ate it with a little salt. It was always homemade and it was always good. Nowadays we eat it with fruit, a little jam or on cereal.

A 600 ml container of yogurt costs between 3 and 4 dollars at the supermarket. I can make one liter (which is 1000ml) for the cost of the milk (about 1.70), and make it sugar free, sucralose free and almost fat free. Plus in this age of green, it’s better for the environment as there are no plastic containers to throw away. It’s not difficult to make, as  you will see:

Pour one liter of 1% milk into a pot. Add 1/3 cup of skim milk powder and stir. Heat the milk until it just starts to boil and then take it off the heat. Let it cool on the counter until the temperature is about           120 deg F; if you don’t have a thermometer, just let it cool until you can put your pinkie finger in and count to 20. It’s about the same thing.

Waiting for the temperature to come down to 120deg F.

When it is at the right temperature, stir in about 1/2 cup of plain prepared yogurt. Then cover it and put it in a warm place for 8 hours. Before I had a yogurt maker, I used to wrap the yogurt bowl and put it on top of the fridge because it is warm there. Or you can put it in the oven with just the light on. Cool in the fridge and then you can add sweetener, jam or fruit.

All ready to put in the yogurt maker for 8 hours.

Can you imagine, I bought  my yogurt maker at Frenchys for 4$ and it was brand new, still in the box!

Sugar Apple Pie Crisp

I decided that pleasing everyone shouldn’t be that hard…and I was not going to make Sugar Pie, Apple Pie and Apple Crisp. We would have one dessert, not three. After not giving it much thought, I decided to make a sugar pie, pile some sliced apples on top, sprinkle with cinnamon, and then put the apple crisp crumbles on top of that. After all, the three flavors do go well together.  And here is the result.

This dessert is truly delicious – I think I’ll be making it again, except the general consensus is that the sugar pie part should be deeper and the crumble topping should be thinner.  Served warm with vanilla ice cream makes it the ultimate end to a good meal.

I just wasn’t sure of the name. Should it be

sugar apple pie crisp

apple sugar pie crisp

crispy sugar apple pie

tarte au compote au pommes sucrees

What do you think?

What’s For Dessert???

“What’s for dessert?” Aaron innocently asked. Well. I haven’t been making desserts lately because, you know, healthy eating, dieting and the like. But it’s March Break and  the troops need something sweet. What to make? One wants tarte au sucre, one wants apple pie and yet another wants apple crisp. I can tell you, I won’t be making all three of these decadent desserts tomorrow, but I will be making one. I have an idea…maybe I can please everyone in one dish. Stay tuned  tomorrow for the incredible result.

The Rising Cost of… Sprouts?

The rising cost of living has always been an issue. So what’s new these days? Well, 2011 has started with a bang for sure: from the overthrow of government in Egypt, the unrest in Lybia, North Korea attacking South Korea, to the earthquake in New Zealand and now the triple disaster of earthquake followed by tsunami followed by nuclear explosions in Japan. You could say the ripple effect is in effect, and we are feeling the unrest in our wallets. Oil and gas prices have skyrocketed, as well as the price of sugar, dairy and meats. That’s not all. My favorite drug/vice/antioxidant is about to get more expensive. Coffee beans. What’s a person to do?

For my next few blogs, I will tell you what I am doing – maybe you’ll be inspired to do something as well. This time I’m talking sprouts, alfalfa in particular. Did you know that those little sprouts in plastic boxes in the grocery store are a powerhouse of nutrients? They have protein, fiber, trace minerals, vitamins A, C and K. They also have magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorous and potassium. But wait – look at the price of those things. You can pay a much as 3$ for a little square box of them, and most of the time they are already days old.

My family likes sprouts on our sandwiches, more than lettuce, spinach or anything else. I got tired of buying them half rotten and expensive at the grocery store, so we started making our own. It takes about four days from seed to leafy green sprouts, and at a fraction of the cost, they couldn’t be fresher. We pay 1.49$ for a bag of sprouting seeds at the health food store and there is enough there for about 10 one litre bottles of sprouts. That’s a saving of about 200%.

All you need to get started is a large mason jar and some netting for the cover, or you can buy mesh covers at the health food store for that very purpose. They come in sets of three sizes of mesh for different stages and sizes of sprouts. I put a tablespoon and a half of seeds in the jar and cover them with water for a couple of hours. After that I drain the water and put on a mesh cover. I rinse the seeds a couple of times a day through the mesh cover and drain. After a couple of days the sprouts are starting to grow; when they have leaves, put them in a sunny window until the leaves turn green, still rinsing twice a day. When the jar is full and the leaves are green, store in the fridge in the same jar. The next day I usually start another batch so that we are never without sprouts.

The sprouting process

We use sprouts on our sandwiches and also on top of salads. They are so pretty and they give a nice crunch to whatever you’re eating.

It’s so easy, I hope you’ll try it, and let me know how you did. If you have any questions, just ask!