recipes | Parsley, Sage and Sweet

Chocolate Marble Pumpkin Bark ‘Bars’ with Nutella Cookies and Salted Pepitas, for SRC

October 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Candy, Cookies, Holiday, SRC | 51 Comments
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I have never made any kind of chocolate bark.  No idea why..it’s one of simplest treats you can cobble together in no time, and the add-in possibilities are endless.  I’ve also never met or known a guy named Nigel who isn’t British, but that’s beside the point.  There have been a lot of  nevers in my life.  We all have a lot of nevers in our lives and some of them should stay nevers, but chocolate bark isn’t one of that should stay a never, for most.

Well..I just crossed the chocolate bark never off my list.  BUT, this did not come about until I made a no-bake cookie by my Secret Recipe Club blog assignment..Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic.  I love her blog..I loved all the goodies I could choose from..I loved her no-bake Nutella cookies, which I chose after mulling over many goodies.

Continue Reading Chocolate Marble Pumpkin Bark ‘Bars’ with Nutella Cookies and Salted Pepitas, for SRC…

Homemade Chevre, Cheeseballs and Cheese filled Turkish Flatbread for Cheesepalooza, plus Part 17

September 30, 2012 at 7:04 am | Posted in Appetizers, Breads, Middle Eastern, Twelve Loaves, Vegetarian, Yeastspotting | 43 Comments
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So..I’m making cheese, goat cheese – chevre to be exact.  Valerie from A Canadian Foodie has challenged a bunch of us to start making cheese from scratch with her Cheesepalooza challenge.  I was extremely excited when she announced this challenge because I’ve always wanted to dabble a little in artisan cheese making.

No, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will not be performing, but they will be making an appearance in my cheese!

I’ve made cheese from scratch before..Ricotta and Macarpone.  I’ve also made Paneer, but I didn’t blog it, so I do have some cheese making’ experience under my too tiht belt. However, all three were made with cow’s milk.  This time I’m working with goat’s milk and as mentioned above,  making chevre.  I love, love, love chevre, but the first recipe provided, from the book Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin , contains something called  C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter.  Although I’m 99.9% sure it’s perfectly fine and won’t result in a tree growing out of my ear 20 years down the road, I just didn’t like the sound of it.

C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter.  Mesophilic disease comes to mind.  Can’t they call it something like..Me So Making Yummy Cheese from Scratch Stuff?

I emailed Valerie about this and she linked me to a recipe for chevre on her blog that uses buttermilk in lieu of the bacteria/organism laden Mesophilic Disease, umm..Mesophilic stuff.

I prefer to keep my food as natural and chemical-free as possible, even in my artery-clogging desserts, SO, as long as I know exactly what’s going into the food I’m making and it doesn’t have numbers attached to it..it’s all cool.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is how I cook and bake.  I eat my fair share of foods that contain ingredients with numbers attached to them.  Golden Oreo, anyone?  Yep, I take care of other people but occasionally shove Golden Oreos down my gullet at warp speed, not to mention Rice Krispie Treats, Cool Ranch Doritos, well, you get the gist. .

Look, I love ALL cheese, so I’m sure my body is saturated with C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter, but since I have a choice in this chevre matter..I’m choosing not to use it.

Now, rennet is a different story because I read the Little House on the Prairie series and in Little House in the Big Woods, Ma used rennet to make cheese…and they used the rennet directly from the animal’s stomach lining back then…

Ma added the previous night’s skimmed milk to the cooled milk from the morning milking and put it on the stove to heat.  A bit of rennet inside a cloth is soaked in warm water.  Once the milk is warm, she squeezes all of the water out of the rennet in the cloth. She adds the rennet water to the milk and stirs it well.  The milk mixture is left in a warm place by the stove until it thickens to a quivering mass.  

The mass was cut with a long knife into cubes.  The cubes were allowed to sit until the curb separated from the whey.  The curds and whey were placed in a cloth and allowed to drain.  When all of the whey was drained, the curds were placed in a pan and salted.  The curds were then placed in the cheese hoop to be pressed.

Once all the whey had been pressed out, Ma trimmed the cheese, put a tight cloth around it, and buttered it.  Each day, she wiped the cheese with a wet cloth and rubbed it with butter until the cheese was ripe and had a hard rind on it. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well..that’s how you make cheese to this day, albeit with a lot more convenience, electricity and modern appliances.

So I made the cheese using goat’s milk, buttermilk (which actually contains the Mesophilic stuff, a little fact alerted to me by a reader, but I just felt better using buttermilk – it’s a mind issue) and a rennet tablet crushed with some water.  It turned out fantastic.  I wanted to blow this whole post off and eat it all with a spoon.

But I didn’t.  Thankfully.

It was so fresh that it had some subtle sweet tones to it along with a slightly salty tang.  The texture was extremely creamy, as it should be.  I think everyone should make their own chevre because it’s too damn easy not to.  The rennet and buttermilk gel the goat’s milk after sitting for 12 hours or until it’s similar to the texture of yogurt.

Have you ever made yogurt cheese?  Well, essentially, once the goat’s milk has formed into a jelly like mass, you do the same thing you’d do when making yogurt cheese – wrap up the milk jelly (I cut mine into pieces) in cheesecloth, tie it up tight, and let the whey drain over a strainer into a bowl overnight.

The next morning I had creamy, dreamy chevre!  I got about 16 ounces of cheese, so, after eating a few spoonfuls (uhh….4 ounces), I added crushed red-hot chili pepper flakes, herbs, garlic and lemon zest to the rest of it..rolling them into cheeseballs (I love cheeseballs as one word because it tickles the kid inside of me) and packing them into ball jars with a light olive oil.  I used the other half of my spicy chevre as a filling for a Turkish bread called Pide.  Pide – Pizza – Pita..you know..flatbread, in any language.

The only difference is, you fold the dough on each side partially over the filling in the middle, so you kind of have an oval slipper with some of the filling showing, which you can see in my bad photos.

If you have a moment, head on over to Valerie’s blog to see the chevre round-up, HERE. You’ll be amazed and inspired and hopefully it will inspire you enough make some yourself and/or take part in some of the Cheesepalooza challenges!

Homemade Chevre Recipe Without C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter

Spicy Garlic Herb Chevre Filled Turkish Flatbread (Pide)
Yields two flatbreads
Inspired by Fine Dining Lovers

Spicy Garlic Herb Chevre
12- ounces fresh chevre
2 garlic cloves, minced, then mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small lemon, zested
2 tablespoons red hot pepper chili flakes (you can add more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
1 cup of chopped herbs of your choice.  I used parsley, chives and basil
freshly ground black pepper

Flatbread Dough
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon neutral oil,, such as vegetable
4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 1/4 to 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

DIRECTIONS FOR SPICY, GARLIC, HERB GOAT CHEESE:
1.  In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients thoroughly.  Set aside, covered at room temperature, to let the flavors blend while you make the dough.  If you just want to make the goat cheese balls in olive oil, refrigerate the goat cheese mixture until firm, about an hour, then roll into balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and pack into jars with olive oil. Tap sealed jars on counter to remove any air bubbles.  I used 8 ounce ball jars.  The cheese balls in olive oil will keep for a month in the refrigerator.

DIRECTIONS FOR FLATBREAD DOUGH:
1.  Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/4 cup lukewarm water until foamy, then mix with the flour, salt, oil , yogurt, and remaining 1/2 cup water.  Knead to a smooth dough, adding more flour or water, if needed.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour or until doubled.

2. Gently punch down dough by folding it over itself. On a floured board, divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Cover with a tea towel and let rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F – Remove the top rack.  You will be using the rack on the middle shelf.

3. While working with one piece of dough, keep other covered.  Roll the piece nto an oval..about 14 inches by 10 inches. Place dough on a parchment lines baking sheet. Alternatively, you can use a pizza peel and baking stone, which will give you a slightly crisper bread, but either way is fine. Spread half the goat cheese mixture (6 ounces) down the center, leaving about 2 to 3 inches on each side.  Fold each side of the dough toward the middle, sealing and tapering the ends so you have a slipper looking flatbread with some of the filling showing down the center (see photos above).

4. Bake flatbread about 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown (I drizzled a little olive oil over the top before baking which made it brown a little more than it should have). Quickly remove bread from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before slicing. Repeat all the above with second ball of dough and remaining 6 ounces of cheese.

I’m submitting this Turkish Pide with Goat Cheese to this month’s  #TwelveLoaves theme – cheese, hosted by Lora of Cake Duchessand to Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.


Now to Bad Boy First Love Part 17.  I thought this part would be the end, but it isn’t. Will it ever end?  I don’t know at this point.

If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, Part 14A is HERE,  Part 14B is HERE , Part 15 is HERE, and Part 16 is HERE.

He continued to hug me, whispering in my ear something I’d dreamed of hearing from him for so long, especially during my starry-eyed teenage moments.

“Lisa, I want to spend my life with you, I want to marry you.”

Talk about bad timing.  It kind of made me sick.

“You didn’t answer my questions!” I sobbed to him

His answer was quick and to the point.  “No, No, No and absolutely NOT!”

I believed he didn’t love her, but I wasn’t sure about the three ‘No’s’ before it. Regardless, I still had to think about him with another girl.

I continued asking questions.  Is she pretty?  Where did you take her out?  Did you kis….I stopped short.  I knew what the answer would be.  I had no doubt in my mind that he kissed her and I didn’t want to hear it.

You see, kissing, to women, is the most intimate thing you can do with someone.  Some of us would rather find out our guy boinked the chick in a drunken stupor, rather than just kissed her – as crazy as it sounds.  Kissing is emotional.  That is all.

Of course he told me she was nowhere near as beautiful as me.  Whatever. They all say that, don’t they?  He was grasping at invisible straws all over the place.

He said he took her to the movies.  Oh, great, he probably held her hand, rubbing her index finger with his thumb or kept his hand on her knee or thigh throughout the movie like he always did with me.  Suddenly, I didn’t want to know anymore.  I put my hand up, which I could barely see through my tears, to signal him to stop.

The Mazda RX7 had morphed into a confessional booth and I wanted out of it – PRONTO.  I opened the car door and started to walk, breathing in the warm, night air – feeling it dry my tears.  Numbness was setting in.  He came after me and took my hand in his.  We walked in silence for a long while.  Now I really wanted to get back to school.  I needed to escape this pain desperately.

He finally spoke.  “You were never there when I called and when you did call me back, you seemed so happy there without me.  I was convinced you were seeing someone else – it hurt pretty bad.”

He waited.  I knew what he wanted, maybe to somehow absolve what he’d done.  I wasn’t going to give it to him and not because I was hiding it, but because I didn’t want him to feel the same pain he had just inflicted on me.  This was why we made the promise of not telling each other unless we actually fell in love with someone else, which of course would be the end of us.

SO, no hockey guy confessions from me.  “I was just having a good time with my new friends, enjoying Boston and studying my ass off well into morning – I barely slept.” I responded coldly.

He took me in his arms, rubbing my back to melt the ice and rigidity in my limbs.  Once he buried his face in my neck, and I felt tears again, it worked.  I relaxed and gave it all back.  I knew he loved me, maybe now more than ever.

I stared at the Empire State Building over his shoulder – the top was lit up in blue that night.  I wondered what it stood for?  I was mesmerized, so much so that I almost had a coronary when he turned me around and hoisted me up on the ledge of the stone wall that separated the street from the long, steep hill down to the Hudson River.  I thought I was going over for a split-second.

Yeah..just kill me so you never have to see the pain in my eyes and feel the guilt.

He stood between my legs so we were face to face – his arms around my waist.

“Babe…I don’t want anyone but you. I won’t date anyone else ever again if you don’t want me to.  Just because you’re away at school doesn’t mean we have to see other people.” he said softly.

I froze. As crazy in love with him as I was..I couldn’t make that promise because once back in Boston, it was a whole new world he was not a part of, a new world where the ‘other’ Lisa would soon emerge, the one who was growing up – the one who had the ability to put him ‘away’ to dull the pain.  There was only one response I could come up with, one that drives men crazy nuts..

“Whatever.”

He seemed to accept that answer for the time being. I could tell he thought the ‘whatever’ was because I was still upset from his confession, and he didn’t want to push it.

The nick in our shiny apple was now a small hole..clearly visible to the eye,  He hugged me to him, burying his face in the crook of my neck again.  As I felt his tears run down my collarbone, my love for him exploded.  I kissed his head, inhaling the sweet, familiar scent of his hair..little darts of pain shooting through my heart at the thought of another girl smelling that.

He lifted his head and stared into my eyes.  Oh, wow..that stare with those intense blue eyes always slayed me.  I was always held hostage by those eyes.  I tried to return his gaze without toppling backwards over the wall.  It never went away..the feeling was as intense as the first time he stared into my eyes the night we met.  Then, the thought of him staring into another girl’s eyes like that made my stomach churn my dinner into bile.

SO, that’s how it was, every little look, every little touch, every little nuance that used to belong only to us, had now been shared with someone else,  and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  There wasn’t a thing he could do without my thinking ‘ I wonder if he did that with her?’

Spicy, Garlic, Herb Goat Cheese Turkish Flatbread (Pide)

It was all too overwhelming.  Leaving him was going to be harder now, but the distraction and separation was desperately needed.

Two days later, after one of the hardest goodbyes of my life with him, I drove back to school with my mother.  The first half of the drive, I had to keep wiping away tears.  By the second half the excitement started to build. I couldn’t wait to see my friends..I couldn’t wait to see our super modern dorm/apartment that we applied for winter of freshman year since there was a waiting list.

I was rooming with one of my friends from freshman year and two strangers in the other bedroom.  The other friend, the first girl I met who became my best friend freshman year, was supposed to room with us, but her Mother didn’t get the deposit in on time.  It was okay, though, since lots of other friends got in and she’d be practically living with any of us whenever she wanted.

By the time we hit the border of CT/MA..I was excited to see hockey guy. What was wrong with me?

We pulled up around 10 pm.  A few friends were outside waiting.  My excitement grew as I looked up at my new digs.  We were on the 9th floor with a sparkling view of downtown Boston and the Prudential Center, glittering with lights, smack dab in the middle of our expansive living room window.

After getting all of my stuff up to our apartment, bidding adieu to Mommy dearest, who refused to stay the night, even though I offered her my bed, I ran, well, practically sprinted, from apartment to apartment with my roommate saying hi to other friends - marveling at each other’s newly svelte bods..the freshman 15 dead and buried – big, fat eating disorders sprouting from the earth around its tombstone.

Spicy, Garlic, Herb Goat Cheese Turkish Flatbread (Pide)

I was giddy.  The sadness from Dreamboat’s confession and our teary goodbye was fading.  This was just what the doctor ordered.

Everyone was chattering about a huge ‘welcome back’  bash the next night at a well-known guy’s huge off-campus apartment.  I wondered if hockey guy would be there.  We were all going.

After first day class sign-up…socializing etc, it was party time.  I took extra special care in choosing an outfit without looking like I took extra special care in choosing an outfit.  Black jeans and a snug white, sweatery top to show off me minus 15 and more.

Homemade Goat Cheese (Chevre).  Just 4 Ingredients and a few minutes cooking time!

The party was in full swing when we got there..this huge apartment packed to the gills…loaded with familiar and some not so familiar faces, but I was looking for one face in particular.  I scanned the large living room, and then I saw him, in a corner with some of the hockey players.  Damn, he looked good.

I made my way toward him slowly, weaving through a narrow maze of bodies, but talking to people along the way so it wouldn’t seem obvious.  He finally saw me.  We exchanged glances, nibbling and lollipopping around who was going to approach who first, like two animals sniffing each other out from afar during mating season.

After about 20 minutes of this..I turned and started to walk away from the game.  What was I doing anyway?  I loved Dreamboat…there was no need to start this up again.  I ran into a girl from my freshman sociology class and she pulled me over to talk to her. After some light chat..I made my way to the bar in the living room to get a diet coke. He intercepted me, poking me in the stomach.

“Hey, you trying to avoid me?” he said with a grin

I laughed…nervous laughter.

“You look great” he said softly.  “I thought a lot about you this summer..are you married yet?” he teased with a twinkle in his eye., grabbing my left hand to check my ring finger.

My legs turned to jello and I blushed.  Woah..what the hell?

We talked for a bit, then decided to go for a walk once the cops came due to the noise.  We took a leisurely walk around the campus.  It was a beautiful night..warm but the scent of Fall was already starting to perfume the air.  We talked about our summer, we talked about his upcoming season..we talked about some new movies. The point is, we talked, about everything and anything – and I needed that.

When we got close to my dorm/apartment, he stopped and leaned down to kiss me.  I backed away.  I wasn’t that sleazy…I loved Dreamboat and I wasn’t going to just kiss hockey guy, especially so soon, to get back at him for telling me about his little rendezvous.  I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, but Dreamboat did.

When I came home for Thanksgiving break..one night after a movie, as we sat in his car kissing, he stopped and pulled out a small, velvet black box., tickling my cheek with it playfully.

Part 18, coming soon.

Marinated Fresh Garlic-Herb Cheese Balls

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Potato Rosti with Bacon, Brie, Scallions and a Quick and Easy Brown Butter Applesauce – Plus, Bad Boy First Love, Part Four.

February 15, 2012 at 2:44 am | Posted in Breakfast, Daring Cooks, Dinner, Gluten Free, Pork, Vegetables | 44 Comments
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Happy Valentines Day, err, Eve, everyone!  I had this post scheduled to go up at 5pm last night.  Apparently I didn’t use GMT, so it’s now the 15th.  Well, it’s still Valentine’s Day on the West Coast! I hope you all had an amazing day and are now getting your lips kissed off – or eating chocolate.

Since I have Part Four of my Bad Boy First Love written and it’s like a mile long, I’m going to try and keep my Daring Cooks section as short and sweet as I can.  We were asked to make fried patties of some sort, and one of the recipes offered to us was potato rosti, which is sort of a mix between a giant potato latke and hash browns.  I added bacon lardons, scallions and brie to mine.  It was suggested that the use of a cast iron skillet was ideal, and I have three; an 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch, all well-seasoned, or so I thought.


Once the underside of my rosti was cooked, some careful inspection revealed there was no way I was flipping this baby over without it falling apart. SO, I stuck it under the broiler to finish it and brown the top.  We cut slices out of the pan, and it came out well, but it still would have broken into pieces had I tried to flip it.

I topped some slices with a sunny side up egg with roasted red bell pepper hearts (cutting the egg into a heart shape proved difficult since the white was so delicate and thin in some areas, but I did my best, and I think it still resembles somewhat of a heart ??).  For the rest of the rosti, I made a super quick brown butter chunky applesauce to top it, which was absolutely wonderful.

The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax (my pal) & Lis (one of my wifeypoos) and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties.

The next time I make a potato rosti, I will use a non-stick pan, or make damn sure my cast iron skillet is VERY well seasoned, and I will definitely use an 8-inch pan since I halved the recipe, and 10-inches gave me a rather thin rosti.  I prefer them a little thicker.

Now to Part Four, very apropos for Valentines Day eve, I think..until the twist.  For those reading for the first time, Part One is HERE.  Part Two is HERE . Part Three is HERE.


After drowning out my Mother’s yelling, I fell asleep, just to be nudged awake by my friend only a few short hours later.  We always hit the beach by 10 am at the latest and went all the way until 4 to 5 pm.  A savage tan was always the goal.  Crazy to even imagine it now – I don’t even entertain the idea of the beach without 1 billion UVB sunblock!  Being super young and feeling immortal is fun while it lasts.  I’m a staunch supporter of the occasional spray tan, nowadays.

On our way out the door, my mother warned me she was going to go to a pay phone and call my father (the cottage had no phone, but when you’re at the beach you really don’t care) to inform him we’d been sneaking out.  I blew off her threatening words as we pushed the door open and got the hell out of there.

After a breakfast of orange julius, we made our way to the most populated area of the beach…the one between the two piers.  We always rented places at the end of the boardwalk near Ortley Beach and usually used the less crowded beach there, but it really depended on our moods.  On that particular day we wanted quick access to some clothes and accessories we were eyeing at Sand Tropez, a cool sort of ‘everything’ store on the boardwalk.

I was still floating on air as we trudged through the hot sand to grab a spot close to the ocean.  I knew my friend wanted to talk about everything, but I just couldn’t give it all up..it was so special, so personal (little did I know, many years later, I would be giving every detail to a lot of people I don’t know, on a food blog no less!).

“Yes, we kissed, but I spilled lemonade all over his lap in the middle of it” I told her as I slathered bain de soleil up and down my arms,  We cracked up as I explained the whole scenario in more detail.

“Was he good kisser?”  she asked

That part, I also couldn’t contain, and I went all googly 15 year old on her.  “OMG, the best, we made out for hours!  I’m in love.  I know it sounds weird, but it’s for real.!”

She looked over at me, squinting, using her hand as a visor to shield her eyes from the bright sun, “You just met him, you can’t love him!” She said, laughing.

I just smiled and settled in to bake, Oh, little did she know.  I knew she was going to ask more questions so I quickly asked her about her night,  It was strange, but I needed to keep it all to myself for a while.  There was something so, so sacred about it, like if I told her all the details, the magic we had would blow away in wind and I’d never get it back.

Luckily, she bit.  She liked hunky monkey, but apparently he couldn’t keep his ‘paws’ off of her once they had some time alone.  He didn’t force it, but it left her kind of ‘meh’ on him.  But, she wanted to see him again, so he hadn’t been kicked to the friend , or worse, pig zone, just yet.

While we played in the ocean, baked in the sun, joked with guys who came armed with bad pick-up lines, and made up ‘pretend’ stories about people lounging around us..I couldn’t help looking over at the pier every so often, butterflies zipping through my digestive system, knowing he’d be there at 4pm, and then, at midnight, we’d meet again.  I kept replaying the night/early morning over and over in my head.  I could still smell him on me..especially in the crook of my left arm, which I’d bury my face in when lying on my stomach to even my tan.

On our way back to the cottage, well-baked, happy and exhausted from doing nothing, we passed the Casino Pier.  She grabbed my arm and pulled..

“Come on, go say hi to him now!”  she exclaimed, laughing hysterically.  She knew there was no way I’d show my NOT showered, ocean-haired, greasy skinned ‘self’ to him.  We pulled back and forth – screaming and laughing even harder.

I bet you can guess what happened.  I turned around and there he was, walking toward us – he’d taken a quick break to buy some sodas.

OH NO. OH NO. OH NO.  Now it was over for sure!  I quickly pulled my sticky, tangled hair out of the pony tail holder and fluffed as best I could.

Then. I started plotting my friend’s sudden death.

“Just get off the beach, silly girls?”  he asked as he approached us.  That smile again.  JELL-O legs.

He took my hand and pulled me to him for a kiss, then wrapped his arms around me.  I was so gross!  How could he even look at me, much less touch me!?!

“Mmmm…your skin is so warm – you smell like a pina colada.” He whispered while my friend, a few feet away now, watched us with a wicked smile.

I started explaining why I looked so hideous.  He laughed and told me I was “too cute” and looked beautiful.  I hadn’t realized he had such bad eyesight.

He lightly rolled a cold soda can down my back..which initially made me jump, but felt good in the heat.  Then he asked if all went well when I went inside after he dropped me off.  I told him the truth, leaving out the ‘curfew’ and ‘snuck out’ part, making it as if she was just pissed because she couldn’t sleep when it got really late and I wasn’t home.  He looked concerned, then said;

“Would it be better if we picked you up tonight so you don’t have to walk all the way down the boardwalk that late?  I’ll turn off the ignition and coast to the house next door, so we don’t wake her up.”

Potato Rosti with Bacon, Brie, Scallions and a Quick and Easy Brown Butter Applesauce

He was too awesome for words.  I wondered how many lives I’d saved in my previous life.

I looked at my friend and she flashed me an affirmative with her eyes.  Remember, we had ‘brain wave’ communication skills.

“That would be great, you’re so thoughtful..thank you so much.” I said, sweetly.

“You’re so polite.” He said, pulling me back to him for another kiss.  DAMN..can spontaneous combustion occur from one, little kiss?

“I’ll be there about quarter after midnight, okay?” He said pushing my disgusting hair back, his finger getting tangled in a greasy strand.  I wanted to die, but then he gave me a reassuring smile, laughing as he untangled it.

“Yes, perfect!” I replied too eagerly, but I didn’t think it was necessary to play it cool anymore. *I love you..I know I love you, I can’t explain what else this feeling is, but you saw me looking like this, and still want me – I am definitely in love with you*

Stop by tonight and visit me if you’re around the pier”  He said, kissing my cheek a few times then turning to leave.  I watched him walk away, mesmerized and still in utter disbelief that this man wanted me.

As we turned and started home, I got a whole bunch of “Are you going to thank me, huh? huh?” cracks from my friend.

Little did she know how precariously close to death she had been had he walked away in horror.

When we got back to the cottage, we showered then napped for about two hours.  During a quick dinner of chicken salad sandwiches, we devised a plan to sneak out without getting caught now that Mommy Dearest was on to us. We’d stay in tonight, just hang outside with our new local girl friends.  No ‘getting ready’ while my mother was awake, just a casual night in the neighborhood.  Then we’d get ready and stuff clothes and whatever we could find that resembled heads, under our blankets.  An oldie, but goodie.

All was perfect come midnight.  My mother bought our ‘casual night’ at home and conked out around 10:30 pm.  After confirming she was asleep for the long haul with some loud noises, we rushed to get ready..brushing our teeth, flipping and fluffing our hair in unison in front of the mirror, applying lip gloss, dabbing the sunburn on our noses with cover-up.  Earrings in, then a walk through a spritz of our favorite scents.  We were out the door by 10 after midnight.  Within minutes they were coasting up, headlights off.

When I settled into the front seat, he said he had a surprise for me,  He motioned toward a cup holder attached to the door next to me.  I laughed, but almost cried at his gesture.  I wanted to kiss his face all over – but saved that for when we were alone.  No need to disgust the backseat occupants chatting away about some obscure movie the monkey wanted to see.


We dropped my friend and hunky monkey off at his place, then he asked if I minded if we stopped at a friend’s house because he had to pick up some CD’s.  Like I said in previous parts of this story, as long as I was with him, I could watch paint dry.  Onward to your friend’s place, future husband – but really…

“Sure, that’s fine” trying to keep my voice from squeaking because I was way too overjoyed being in his intoxicating, foxy presence.

Then came the face kissing to thank him for the cup holder.  He laughed, even his laugh was perfect.. *Is it okay for the woman to propose?*

When we got there, his friend was hanging with his girlfriend watching TV.  Introductions all around.  Dreamboat came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, kissing my cheek as he and his friend talked.  I loved his affection, it was like being showered in warm, melted chocolate.  We stayed for about a half-hour, Dreamboat always near, holding my hand or keeping his arm around me.  I chatted with his friend’s girlfriend a bit and she told me how many woman were after my bad boy.  Great, just what I needed to hear.  I told her I’d seen it with my own eyes.  She laughed and said..

“He’s like a rock star on the pier, does it bother you?”

A little, I thought, but actually said  “Noo, not at all, I mean, he doesn’t even seem to notice it, he’s so down to earth and cool about it.”, patting myself on the back for such a brilliant, but chill, answer.

“He’s a really great guy, and he’s really into you - I’ve never seen him like this with anyone.” she said very nonchalantly while sipping her beer and glancing at a commercial about bed bugs.

Obviously I wasn’t the first girl who did a stint at Andy’s.  It didn’t bother me one bit, though because there was no way this guy was dateless and celibate before me.  I just hoped I was the one who stuck.  Wait, make that desperately hoped.

When we finally left..he told me he’d take me anywhere I wanted to go.  I wanted to go back to ‘our place’, the scene of the lemonade disaster.  He held my hand as he drove, in between switching gears.  The connection between us was crazy intense, just holding his hand sent all kinds of sexy reverberations from the tips of my toes to the hair on my head.

He kissed my lips off again for the next 2 1/2 to 3 hours, in between a walk along the bay, lots of playfulness, pure joy, and again, a monster connection.  I almost told him I loved him – but stopped short. You just couldn’t say that on a second date, it was impossible – we were feeling the ‘newness’, right?  Scratch that.  I KNEW I loved him by then.  I don’t care how crazy it sounds, it was there and it wasn’t going away anytime soon.  Thank god I had 8 days left with him.

The next night was much of the same, except we played on the boardwalk a while, then went to a secluded beach in Seaside Park – laying down a blanket and just staring into each other’s eyes in the moonlight, in between major make-out sessions, again.  This little romance was turning into a mix of every early Bruce Springsteen song where he falls in love beneath the stars over the boardwalk, under the boardwalk, on the avenue, beneath the carnival lights etc.

We had to pick up my friend and hunky monkey that night, so we said our real goodbye before we went to get them.  He told me he had the following Sunday off, all day and night  and he’d love to finally be able to take me out at a reasonable hour. *Any hour with you is more than reasonable – I’d go out with you every night from midnight on, forever, if need be.”

“We could drive down to LBI (Long Beach Island). ..there’s a lot of beautiful beaches there, then go out for an early dinner, maybe see a movie.” He suggested while stroking my hair.

I felt like standing up and jumping up and down like a little kid – not unlike one Friday night when I was 9 and  my father surprised me and my sister, telling us we were going to Six Flags Great Adventure the very next day.

I could spend a whole day and evening with him worry free, no sneaking out. I couldn’t wipe the damn, ’15 year old’ goofy smile off of my face as I pictured us doing all kinds of romantic stuff all day and night long.  I felt so grown-up, especially since I hadn’t been on many ‘dates’, unless you count pizza after school on a Friday, a date.

We made our usual plans for the next night, took forever to say goodbye, then drove to pick up the music/movie connoisseurs.

Potato Rosti Napoleon?  I just sandwiched three slices of rosti with some extra brie and put it in the oven for a few minutes. A glorious tasting mess!

My friend and I had them drop us off on the corner, not wanting to chance my mother being up and looking out the window.  As we walked up the street, I saw my father in the driveway  packing up the car.  It was 3:30 am!  What the…?  It was also a Thursday night, why was he here??  He wasn’t here at midnight when we snuck out!

I ran with all my might right up to him.

“What are you doing here?  It’s not the weekend, and why are you packing up the car?  That’s one of my suitcases!!” I questioned loudly, in a panic.

He ignored me and politely asked my friend to go pack up her stuff.  We were leaving because we kept sneaking out and my mother had called him yet again in distress.  He got in the car at almost 1 am and made the drive to destroy my life forever.

“BUT WE HAVE 8 DAYS LEFT!!  YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE MONEY!” I screamed, trying to sort of reason with him – anything to get him to change his mind.

“I don’t care, enough is enough, you continued to sneak out even when warned, you blew it, not me, not your mother” He said as he continued loading suitcases into the trunk, not once looking at me.

I begged I pleaded, I cried – all to no avail.  Then I ran down the street in hopes that Dreamboat and Hunky Monkey hadn’t gotten that far yet.  Maybe they were stuck at a really long red light, I pleaded to fate.  I ran as fast I could, stopping and spinning around at points, looking desperately for the navy blue Beetle.  I had to tell him, we hadn’t exchanged any of the vital info yet, like last names, phone #’s etc.  I could barely catch my breath..I was almost hyperventilating and my heart was pounding ferociously in my ears,  I was also shaking like a leaf, rivers of tears streaming down my face. It was all very The Notebook-y and all very over if I didn’t find him.

He was going to think I just up and left him.  I was going to shrivel up and die without him.  No Sunday, no more of his kisses.  I’d probably never see him again.

I sobbed as I walked back to the cottage.  Of course, as an adult, I would probably do the same if my teenage daughter was sneaking out every night – with older boys, but the 15-year old me felt it was the most awful thing any parent could do to their child.

The best 3 nights of my entire life, and it was over…just like that.

The car ride back home was NOT pleasant, to say the least.

Part Five coming soon.

If you have a few minutes, please check out some of the unique, creative and delicious patties my fellow Daring Cooks came up with, by clicking on the links to their blogs, HERE.  For a bounty of recipes for all kinds of patties, from the challenge, click HERE.

Rest in Peace Whitney Houston.  The tragic loss of a beautiful woman with the voice of angel.

Potato Rosti with Brie, Bacon and Scallions
Servings: makes two large rosti
Adapted from a family recipe from the Daring Kitchen, with my additions
2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons feshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cornstarch, or use all-purpose flour
1 lb slab bacon without the rind, or thick cut bacon
7 oz wheel of Brie or any other good melting cheese you like.  Great with cheddar!
! bunch scallions, sliced, dark ends saved for garnish
3 tablespoons oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Dice bacon into cubes and fry until fat is rendered and it’s a deep rust color. Strain off bacon grease and save for another use. Set aside on a paper towel in a bowl.

2. Cut white, papery rind off of brie (you can keep it onI prefer it off).  Dice into small cubes, or shred, if brie is cold and firm.

3. Slice white and light green parts on the diagonal.  Save dark green slices, also sliced on the diagonal, for garnish.

4. Grate the peeled potatoes with a box grater or a food processor shredding disk.5. Wrap the grated potato in a cloth and squeeze dry, you will get a lot of liquid over ½ cup, discard liquid since it is full of potato starch. Return dried potato to bowl add the egg, brie, bacon, scallions, cornstarch, pepper, and salt. Mix until combined.

6. Preheat a frying pan (a well seasoned cast iron is best,  8 to 10-inch) until medium hot, add 2 teaspoons of oil wait until oil shimmers.

7. Place half of mixture into the pan, flatten with a spoon until you get a smooth flat surface. Lower heat to medium.

8. Fry for 8-10 minutes (check at 6 minutes) the first side, flip by sliding the rösti onto a plate then use another plate invert the rösti then slide it back into the pan, then fry the other side about 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Repeat to make another rosti.

Quick and Easy Brown Butter Cinnamon Apple Sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick – 4 tablespoons - 2 oz)
4 large Granny Smith (or any tart apples), apples – peeled, cored and chopped into cubes.
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar, entirely depending on how sweet you like it
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 good pinch kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:
1.  In a large saute pan, melt the butter on medium low heat.  Raise the heat to medium and cook the butter until the liquid beneath the milk solids that rise to the top is golden brown.

2.  Add the chopped apples to the browned butter and saute until the apples start to soften.  Sprinkle on the sugar and let the apples caramelize in the sugar, stirring until the apples are caramelized and soft  Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, vanilla bean or extract and kosher salt.

3.  Pour the apple mixture into a bowl, scraping out all the caramel goodness left in the pan. Mash with a fork for chunky apple sauce, or give it a whirl in the food processor (or use a blender or stick blender) for a smooth apple sauce.  When cool, place in an airtight container in the fridge – it should last about 2 weeks, or serve warm over potato rosti.


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I Found My Thrill……With Coconut and Lime Plus the Winner of the Custom T-shirt Giveaway and another Giveaway! GIVEAWAY CLOSED

July 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Posted in Cakes, Dessert, Fruit, Giveaway, Puddings | 143 Comments
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First off..Happy 4th of July to all in the USA, and Happy July 4th to everyone outside the USA!  I’ve got the blue and the white (well..yellowish) but not the red.  No matter, this dessert is pretty awesome, red, white and blue. or not.

So what do you do when you ask someone to pick you up blackberries, and instead they bring you blueberries?  Nothing, because summer berries are so interchangeable..and all will taste great in whatever recipe that called for one berry in particular.  Just my luck, about 5 minutes after receiving these blueberries, a tweet from Mark Bittman scrolled past.  Blueberry Pudding Cake.  I clicked on the link, then ditched my plan for a coconut blueberry custard pie.  I could essentially have all the components of my pie in this easy, quick, one batter cake.

I’ve made plenty of chocolate pudding, aka hot fudge, cakes in my day, and who hasn’t?  It’s one of the simplest cakes you could make..one quick batter in a square pan, pour boiling water on top, and voilà, chocolate cake with a fudgy pudding/custard saucy deal underneath.  When rushed for a dessert, or a sudden bout of PMS chocolate craving, it was always a win-win situation, and it only took about 30 minutes from mixing bowl to table.  Before anyone/I could say ‘cake’ they/Iwere/was eating big scoops of cakey, chocolatey goo with vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Coconut Lime Pudding Cake

This pudding cake is simple, but it involves eggs and the separating of eggs.  I don’t know why, but when I see a recipe that involves separating eggs and beating the whites, which are then folded in, I cringe a little.  It’s not that it’s difficult, but when I’m in a ‘simple recipe’ mindset, it’s kind of like someone telling me the elevator is out-of-order and I need to take the stairs…the number of flights depending on the number of eggs.

Sometimes I’m a rebel, and just crack the amount of whole eggs in as is.

Sometimes the issue is forced when there’s a lopsided amount of yolks to whites.  Great..now I’m going to have leftover yolks or whites.  I’ll have to scour the net to find something to do with them outside of meringues, macarons and crème brûlée.  I’m not an egg white omelet person.  I like my omelets yellow.

In any event, I obeyed the recipe, and the results were worth it.  Of course, I made a few revisions to the recipe. As my usual mantra goes, I can’t leave most recipes alone..I always feel some could be better, or more to my liking.  I’m a futzer, a fiddler.  It’s a common thing in cooking, but baking not as much because baking is a SCIENCE and any little sway from the formula can completely change or destroy it.

My changes didn’t destroy it.  All I did was add some extra flavor, coconut and lime.  Kelapo Coconut sent me a sample of their coconut oil, so I used that instead of the melted butter, and I used lime zest in lieu of the lemon zest listed in the recipe.  Small changes, no big whoop, right?  Well..I felt it needed more coconut flavor, so I toasted some coconut and ground it with the sugar in the recipe.  Then, instead of plain buttermilk, I made coconut buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of  lime juice to the coconut milk.  The end result was perfect – plump, juicy blueberries floating in a sea of custard with a light, fluffy, slightly crisp, cake topping..a subtle background of coconut and the perfect hint of lime to cut the richness.

This is all great and good, but for the most part, you can’t tell that there’s coconut and lime in this cake pudding via the photos   because I only had one lime and a bit of shredded coconut for the recipe.  When it came time for photos, I had nothing to top it with that said..’There is lime and coconut in this pudding cake!’.

Another reason I’m a bad food blogger.

I don’t think of these things until the last-minute, when it’s already too late.  As far as all of you can see, it’s just a blueberry pudding cake.  I suppose I could type ..’with coconut and lime’ under every photo, but I’m not that obsessive a person..I think…I hope.

Now, the GIVEAWAY.  Part one is a yummy one. Jen from Kelapo Coconut contacted me a few weeks back and asked if I would like a sample jar of their virgin coconut oil to try.  Of course it was an affirmative, I love trying new things.  However, I thought it would be cool if she could also provide an extra jar to give away to my readers.  Affirmative again.  SO, when the winner is announced, Jen will personally ship a 15 oz jar of Kelapo Virgin Coconut Oil to that winner.

Blueberry Coconut Lime Pudding Cake

I admit, at first I was iffy on coconut oil..I heard a buzz here and there that it was bad for us.  Apparently, new studies have reversed that charge, and now they say it’s good for us.  UPDATE : a commenter named jean said that only the virgin and unrefined coconut oils are good for you, so Kelapo organic VIRGIN coconut oil, IS good for you! Refined coconut oil is NOT good for you.

Good to know, because coconut oil is also a flavorful replacement for butter, which is a plus for those who are allergic to dairy or just dairy-free in general.  It’s great for vegan cooking and baking too, not to mention a good substitute for neutral oils in most recipes. Personally, I love the stuff because it tastes and smells amazing, and I wanna saute something savory in it soon.  Coconut seared chicken something or other keeps sprinting through my brain.  Also, my friend, Suzanne just let me know that a health food store she shops at pops their popcorn in coconut oil.  Is that not a fantastic idea?  I’m definitely trying that!

The second part of this giveaway is the cookbook How to Cook Everything (10th anniversary Edition), by Mark Bittman.  I always wanted this cookbook, so I bought one for myself, and one for one of you!  It’s become sort of a habit now when I buy things.  One for me and one to give away here.

To enter this giveaway for both the coconut oil and the cookbook, leave a commentFor extra entries, you can leave separate comments for all or any of the below;

1.  Follow @parsleynsage on Twitter

2.  Follow @kelapo_coconut on Twitter

3.  Like Kelapo Coconut on Facebook

4. Tweet the following: A Kelapo Coconut Oil & Mark Bittman cookbook GIVEAWAY @parsleynsage http://t.co/NnhVqCG #giveaway

I’ll be choosing the winner 10 days from today using random integer.

Speaking of winners..the winner of the $50.00 worth of custom designed t-shirts from ooshirts.com is…

Number 19 is Carolyn of Cookin’ for my Captain!  Congratulations, Carolyn.  I will pass your email to Colleen at ooshirts.com so she can email you the code for your $50.00 worth of custom printed shirts!  I’m sure you’ll have fun making them!

Magic Blueberry Coconut Lime Pudding (Custard) Cake
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, with my revisions – For the original recipe minus coconut and lime – click HERE.
About 6 servings, but I say more like 4 big ones
Time: About 1 1/4 hours, plus time to cool

4 tablespoons Kelapo Virgin Coconut Oil, melted, plus more for greasing dish
1 cup coconut milk minus 1 tablespoon, plus 1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon juice or cider vinegar)
3 /4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
3 eggs, separated
1 /3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

1. Combine the coconut milk with the cider vinegar or lime juice..let it curdle.  Grind 1/2 cup of the sugar and toasted coconut together in a food processor or blender.  Set both aside.  Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8- inch square ceramic or glass baking dish or a deep dish pie plate with Kelapo coconut oil.

2. Put the coconut oil, coconut buttermilk, the 1/2 cup of coconut sugar, the egg yolks, flour, and salt in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour the batter into a bowl. Stir in the blueberries and lime zest and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until they hold soft peaks, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar while beating until the whites hold stiff peaks; fold them into the batter gently but thoroughly.

4. Turn the batter into the prepared dish and put the dish in a baking pan large enough to hold it comfortably. Add enough warm water to the baking pan to come to within an inch or so of the top of the dish. Transfer carefully to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the center is just set but slightly jiggly, about 50 minutes.

5. Remove the cake from the oven and cool the dish completely on a rack, cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours, before serving. This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.


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Phyllo Fail..Baklava Success

June 27, 2011 at 1:39 am | Posted in Daring Bakers, Dessert, Giveaway, Pastry | 76 Comments
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Back in 2009, a friend and I were discussing my 1st Daring Bakers challenge hosting gig, trying to decide what I should challenge everyone with.  I was throwing out ideas, and like many first pitches in baseball, they were all over the place.  Baklava was one of them and then we both joked how hated I would be if I made it a requirement to make the phyllo dough from scratch.  I swear on every pair of jeans with broken zippers, I never thought I’d see the day.  Well, that day has come, and Erica, nobody hates you, and in fact, I think they’re loving it.

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge.  Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Okay, it’s official..I suck.  I really do.  I gave it a shot, but not a good one.  We had a blast of humidity here, on and off the past month, and I just wasn’t able to muster up the motivation and desire to continue rolling out paper-thin sheets of dough for three hours.  I started and by sheet number 3, I threw in the towel.  They ripped, they stuck together, they laughed in my face, tatters of papery smirks.

I sloppily buttered each crumpled mess of my three annihilated phyllo sheets, sprinkled them with some of the sugar nut mixture for the baklava, then rolled them into roses (scrunch and roll, it’s actually quite simple), baked them, and plopped them on top of some of my baked baklava, drizzled with a little extra honey syrup.

I feel like a cop-out, but the truth is, I’m a horrible super, stretchy, thin dough roller. The proof is in the pudding - look at that strudel dough from back in ’09.  Everyone had gorgeous, stretchy, transparent sheets of dough that they rolled and stretched to kingdom come.  They could have been hung as sheer curtains, that’s how strong and perfect they were.  In the mean time, I was barely able to roll mine larger than a trash can cover, and it was completely unyielding.  It just sat, wouldn’t budge, no matter how long I covered it to let the gluten rest, then tore in half when I tried to lift it with the tops of my hands to stretch it.  I just used what I had, and ended up with maybe two flaky layers upon baking.  Master FAIL.

I think I just have to accept the fact that I’ll never be part of any tablecloth-dough stretching team for strudel or phyllo.

However, I’d never made baklava before, so this was definitely a challenge for me.  Thankfully, I bought 2 lbs of phyllo as backup, almost expecting the above phyllo failure.  With that said,  I am no longer intimidated by the process of putting together a baklava. I always put off making it, thinking there was no way I wouldn’t end up with a mess of crumpled phyllo as I layered it in the pan.  Oh, and the cutting/scoring part..I swore it would be impossible and I would end up pulling and tearing each square or diamond into an inside out mess before baking.

Well..none of the above happened, so I’m pleased as punch.  But, there’s a problem. I can’t stop eating it..and it’s scaring me.  I’m scared because I can feel my organs ready to burst in protest as each morsel of drippy baklava permeates my system with sugar.  I don’t think I’ve ever had this much sugar in my body at once, and I don’t think I’ve had this little sleep either.  I’ve been on a constant sugar high every night for the past week, but it’s just so damn good, I can’t help it.


I’d like to share a little of my history with baklava and sticky, dripping Greek (actually of Turkish origin, thanks to Emre!) pastries in general, with you all.  When I was in college, there were several pizzerias peppered throughout the streets of our city campus.  They each had a purpose, so they were all used, none left out.  One pizzeria was the after bar/clubbing pizza place.  You always went there after an alcohol-laden evening, even those who were hooking up.  It was fun seeing booze-induced couplings scarfing down gooey pizza before the inevitable boink .  Oh, and the pizza was good.

Another place made phenomenal subs.  In fact, every time I walked in, the owner knew ‘my sandwich’ and immediately got it started, and it was always absolute perfection.  It was a hoagie roll, split, spread with mayo, topped with provolone, toasted, then piled with crabmeat salad, the real stuff.  I know it sounds gross, but I loved it.

The next one was the ‘after game’ pizzeria, or after all classes pizzeria, for those who liked to supplement their food plan with pizza.  Sort of a college version of a first course, well, several first courses, prior to the main meal.

Finally, there was the baklava pizzeria.  We called it that because there was always a fresh pan of homemade baklava on the counter next to the cash register. It was a small place, so when it would get really crowded, my roommate, and others would grab a piece or two from the pan and scurry back to our table with devious looks.

Thievery!  Criminals! It was bad, but the baklava was oh.so.good.  This is where and when I fell in love with baklava.  I craved it immensely.  I couldn’t go in that damn place without buying a piece (Yes, I did pay).  This is also when I knew baklava was a very dangerous little pastry and it led me to other dangerous Greek pastries and many a Greek festival at Greek churches near every place I lived after college, where I indulged shamelessly.

Well..I managed to break the habit and stay away.  In fact, I hadn’t had baklava or any Greek or Turkish pastry for about 10 years prior to this challenge.  Now I know how to make it.  I’m SO screwed.  What’s even worse is, they make phyllo sheets to fit 13 x 9 pans perfectly, so it makes for quick and easy layering.  Once again, SO screwed.

Since I copped out on the homemade phyllo, and had 2 lbs of store-bought phyllo, I didn’t make a small 9 x 9 inch pan of baklava, which was the recipe given to us so we wouldn’t have to roll out 30 to 40 sheets of phyllo.  With 2 lbs of phyllo, I made a version of THIS RECIPE for a 13 x 9 pan ( I used the syrup from the challenge, though, with a few changes).  I love and curse this man at the same time.  This recipe is pretty much a compilation of all the awesome baklava I’ve ever had, from the pizzeria in college to every Greek festival I’ve ever been to.

I did make some changes.  I used equal amounts of cashews, pistachios and walnuts, but then realized I was a cup short of 6 1/2 cups of nuts and the only nuts I had left were macadamias.  I guess you could call this a crazy combo nut baklava, but it’s good crazy, as in, I wish I could stop eating it and trash it ‘good crazy’.  I also added a little fresh squeezed orange juice to the syrup, along with cinnamon sticks, orange peel and split and scraped vanilla beans, to flavor it before straining.

A few quick notes and hints;

  • Pour hot syrup on cooled baklava instead of cool syrup on hot baklava.  This prevents a soggy bottom
  • Even though I didn’t tear the slices of baklava inside out, I’m a horrid baklava cutter.  My rows were not only incredibly uneven, but raggedy.  Three sizes of baklava in one pan.
  • A super duper sharp knife comes in handy, as does a super sharp ability to draw straight lines.
  • Yes, I did attempt to make each slice pretty with phyllo hearts.  FAIL.
  • I didn’t want diamond shapes, I really wanted squares!
  • Baklava can last a month if the water in the syrup evaporates when cooked down, or obviously, if you don’t use water in your syrup.
  • Make this, then give it away after one piece.  You’ll thank me later.
  • I just ate another piece.

To see all the real Daring Bakers, the ones who actually made and rolled out tons of sheets of phyllo, and turned out some gorgeous baklava’s, click on the links to their blogs, HERE.  To get the recipe, plus step- by-step photos, for phyllo and the challenge recipe for baklava, click HERE.

My Nutty Take on an Awesome Baklava Recipe
adapted from, with my revisions, John’s Jotttings

Baklava
2 pounds phyllo dough (approx. 40 sheets)
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
2 cups finely chopped unsalted cashew nuts
1 1/2 cups finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
1 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 pound unsalted butter (melted)

Syrup
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups honey
1 cup water
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 large vanilla bean, split
1 long strip of orange peel, pith scraped off

DIRECTIONS:
Make the Syrup:
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot, scraping the vanilla bean into the mixture and throwing in the pods.  Heat over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.

2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and let cool.  Do not strain yet, let the flavors steep in the honey, water and sugar until the baklava has baked and cooled.

Build the Baklava:
1. Grease a 13×9 pan (bottom & sides) and set aside. Mix well the nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack.

3. Set aside one full-size sheet of phyllo dough. Cover with plastic wrap.

4. Cut remaining phyllo sheets into 13×9 sheets. Actually, measure your pan and cut the sheets to match the actual inside dimensions. On my pan it is actually 12″ x 8″, for example. With a big sharp knife you should be able to cut all of the phyllo at the same time. You will most likely have a lot of left over phyllo – consider finding another dish where you could use the smaller pieces of leftover phyllo dough.

5. Carefully lay the full-size phyllo sheet into the greased pan, folding over the pan edges. With a pastry brush, liberally apply melted butter.

6. Lay a cut sheet of phyllo into the bottom of the pan, and with a pastry brush liberally apply melted butter. Repeat 9 more times, so that you have the one full sheet and 10 smaller sheets as your bottom layer.

7. Sprinkle 2 cups of the nut mixture into the pan. Lay 6 more sheets of phyllo on top, making sure to liberally apply the melted butter between each sheet. Repeat this 3 more times, so that you have 4 separate layers of the walnut mixture. For the top layer place as many phyllo sheets on top as you have remaining, again making sure to liberally butter between each sheet. Using a sharp plastic spatula, carefully fold over the large sheet of phyllo that should still be extended over the edge back onto the top, so that you can see down the inside edges of the pan. In effect you now have one big baklava package wrapped with your initial phyllo sheet. Using a very, very sharp serrated knife, carefully score the baklava into whatever shape you want. A diamond pattern is the traditional shape. Try to cut about half-way down into the baklava when you do this.

8. Bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 300 degrees until brown.

9. Let the baklava cool completely.  Strain the syrup, then reheat until hot. Slowly pour over the cooled baklava.  Cover with plastic wrap and let the baklava absorb the syrup for at least 4 hours.  Can be kept refrigerated for up to a month.

Note from John: When working with phyllo be sure to work fast and keep the unused portion covered with plastic wrap at all times, as it tends to dry out pretty fast. Also, be sure to carefully follow the defrosting instructions on the phyllo – the sheets will stick together if you try to do a “speed defrost”.


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