Rob and I like to
name rename things. People. Animals. You name it, and we’ll rename it.
The previous tenant in the basement had a cat. A big, fluffy black cat that would watch us whenever we were in the backyard. It took us a while to figure out his name. By that time we had christened him with a new name: Muffin.
A dog followed us for a few days while on our jungle trek in Colombia. Rob named him Danger Dog.
After our recent Colombian adventures, our new home also has been christened with a Spanish name: Casa Tarragona.
Thankfully a late summer purchase was a new tarragon plant.
I first tried tarragon last year and since discovered it is an easy-to-grow perennial. Tarragon has a subtle anise flavour that I like, even though I don’t like licorice. Here, I pair it with blueberries in a delicious dressing sweetened by dates. Coconut-sauteed onions make this a luscious dressing with a hint of citrus from the lemon.
Wanting a hearty main-course salad, I paired it with French du Puy lentils and spinach. Toasted walnuts add a satisfactory crunch and fresh blueberries provide bursts of sweetness.
Definitely one of my favourite salads, to date, I feel like this is definitely the summer of salads!
What are your favourite ways to use tarragon?
I discovered where I inherited my veggie-loving genes.
You see, it skipped a generation.
I recently visited my grandparents. Not wanting to burden my grandmother with worrying about what I was going to eat, I took charge and delved into her kitchen to see what I could make….. While she typically makes traditional German food, I was delighted to discover she also had glass jars filled with oodles of dry beans, dried fruit, and whole grains (quinoa, millet, barley, rolled oats), a freezer filled with nuts and seeds, a pantry with tamari (my grandmother has tamari?!) and even things I have never eaten like Brewer’s yeast and soy lecithin. I almost forgot she also had a 20-year old juicer!!
My meal of the weekend was a double batch of my easy Curried Beans and Quinoa with Baby Bok Choy which was enjoyed by all.
However, my culinary bliss came when I juiced to my heart’s content. I juiced oodles of carrots, beets, apples, ginger and lemon to create the perfect breakfast juice. My first version had a strong kick from the ginger, but I held back on later versions.
All this juicing meant that I had lots of juice pulp. While my grandmother usually enriches her compost with the pulp, I wanted to make something a bit more
creative edible with the leftovers.
With my leftover carrot pulp, I decided to make raw carrot cake cupcakes. Super simple, no dehydrator needed, it was uncanny how they tasted like an even better traditional carrot cake. I don’t even like traditional carrot cake since it is typically a heavy and dense cake with little flavour. However, simply blend together carrots, walnuts, dates and raisins with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and you have a flavourful no-cook dessert. Moist and flavourful. Top it with the cashew-date frosting, and you have one sinfully delicious dessert. Way too addictive to keep in your fridge, if I may caution you in advance.
Even if you don’t have a juicer, do not fret. I am definitely going to try this again with grated carrots with the extra water squished out because I don’t have my own juicer.
I made some raw juice pulp crackers with the pulp from the beets, apples, and ginger. With a touch of curry powder, they were oddly good. More like a thin bread than a cracker, but still good.
This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by A.B.C, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Potluck Party for Kid Friendly Foods and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Rob and I did a 5-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida while in Colombia. You need a guide and we picked Magic Tours since they responded to our emails and assured me I would have vegan options on the trek. We started off with 4 other hikers, our guide, a cook and a porter (with 2 mules) for our 5-day 44-km hike.
We hiked through the Colombian jungle, with a well-delineated path, up and down many hills and through a river quite a few times! Gorgeous scenery with a great ruined city at the end. An unparalleled experience, to say the least.
I won’t lie. It was hard. We hiked in hot and humid weather, over 30C with at least 80% humidity. Shade from trees was a welcome treat after hiking in open sun. I also found the terrain difficult with many river crossings and steep hills. I wish I had had better ankle support on my hiking boots! By the fourth day, we reached The Lost City. There were 1200 steps to climb to reach the actual Ciudad Perdida with a further 800 steps within the ruined city, itself. Going up those stairs was not so bad; going down was worse! If you don’t like heights, this also won’t work well for you.
Before I left, I made a few energy snacks. This was one of them which was a great source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once).
I was drawn to this recipe immediately after Cara posted it. It reminded me of a souped up Raw Brownie with a heavenly base of walnuts, dates and cocoa. However, to make this a protein power star, there are hemp seeds and protein powder as well. I ended up increasing the mint extract and substituting agave for the brown rice syrup. Absolutely delicious straight from the mixer. I dehydrated them at 110F for 7-8 hours hoping to make them more portable. The sharp flavours diminished slightly but my snacks were now able to came with me to the jungle! Sadly, I didn’t wrap them individually so they kind of smooshed together towards the end of my trip. Still good, though.
I will admit that Rob and I overpacked for our hike, but I would still travel with my snacks again. I still need to share the winner of the energy snacks, so stay tuned. I had some bona fide Larabars as well, which also seemed to ooze some oily stuff under the heat of the jungle. If you are planning for a similar trip, definitely consult your tour operator to see what they recommend you bring. While Magic Tours had an extensive list of stuff to bring (sunscreen, hat, water bottle, clothes, etc), this is what I also found useful:
Foot talc powder- We didn’t bring any but if you are prone to sweaty feet or slipping into rivers, this is for you!
Sanitizer- We didn’t bring any, but considering the lack of soap and toilet paper, this would have been great to have to not get traveler’s diarrhea.
Compact camera- You do not want to bring a big D-SLR with you on this hike. We actually don’t have too many photos because we were more focused on hiking then taking photos.
After bite & antihistamines- We had deet (although only 30%), and were still bitten by bugs. Lots of bugs. This helped.
Ibuprofen- You may be sore. You may get a headache.
Travel pillow- On the hike, you sleep in hammocks and the occasional bunk bed. No pillows. I am VERY picky about my pillow. I often travel with my day-to-day feather pillow because I have a hard time sleeping without it. This pillow, albeit not exactly what I am used to, was a godsend, even outside the trek in other B&Bs.
Hiking poles- I love my collapsible hiking poles.
Non-cotton clothing- Want your clothes to dry? Make sure they are not cotton.
Water purification tablets- You want to make sure you are drinking potable water. These tabs add no taste to the water.
What else do you like to bring with you on long hikes?
Lettuce for hostage.
I almost had 3 huge heads of lettuce to go through this week. In addition to my two heads of lettuce, a friend left their lettuce in the fridge by mistake and went home solo. Oops!
I told him I would allow him to have his lettuce, if he would trade it for some blackberries from St Lawrence Market. Earlier, he had taunted me, telling me how small and sweet they were on his last trip.
Surprisingly, he agreed to the ransom! (To be fair, I rescinded a piece of the Raw Key Lime Pie)
So I was back to 2 heads of lettuce. And now blackberries. With avocados from the week before. And walnuts from the pantry. These ingredients, alone, would be a great combination of sweet, creamy and bitter… but then it is drizzled with a sweet ginger lime vinaigrette. I didn’t think it would be so flippin’ fantastic, but it was. Instead of my morning oats, these blackberries are being renewed for another round of this salad! Thanks Matt! What are you making with your lettuce?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s potluck party for fruit dishes, to this week’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for blueberries, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I miss the long-distance cycling trips. Two summers ago, Rob and I would jaunt around Southwestern Ontario on our bikes. Anything within 180km was fair game. We cycled from Toronto to see his parents in Woodstock and the following year, I cycled to Kitchener/Waterloo for a party. While it was fun, there was pain, too. This was challenging training. I had never done this much cycling before.
Unfortunately, after tackling the Kingston cycle last summer, Rob and I have not really done much long-distance cycling. Life gets busy. Weekends get booked up. It wasn’t until I cycled to Niagara Falls recently, that I realized how much I miss it. The cycling, the camaraderie, exploring the countryside, and of course, the multitude of snacks I would create every week. Not the pain, of course.
These are the snacks that I toted with me to Niagara Falls. A quick whirl in the food processor combines walnuts, raisins, dates, cinnamon and nutmeg into a delicious snack. Chewy from the raisins but with a big whiff of cinnamon. A great pick-me-up before and during long exercises. I should remind myself that they are good any time, really. I may have made 2 batches of it because I ate the first one through numerous “sampling” (and before I photographed it). Sweet and chewy cinnamon treats, oh yeah. As I gear into studying lock-down mode, they may turn into my late night studying snacks, though. Swapping cycling for studying seems so sad, eh?
Other sport snacks I have made:
Homemade Almond Chocolate Lärabars
Chocolate Brownie Power Nibbles
Cocoa Mint Nibbles
Maca Chip Energy Balls
Carob Blueberry Energy Bars
Peanutty Energy Bars
Paley’s Energy Bars
Blueberry Oat Bars
Fruit, Nut and Seed Power Bars
Cacao-Cacao Chip Cookies (recipe elsewhere)
Dark Chocolate Mint Cookies (recipe elsewhere)
Gingersnap Nuggets from Radiance 4 Life
Still interested in winning recipe #5?
5. Sarah’s Raw Brownies!
Of course, Rob needed dessert for his party.
Rob specifically requested a new raw dessert. Apparently Raw Mango Paradise Bars weren’t enough!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s recipe for Raw Brownies and figured a rich chocolate dessert would appeal to the masses. While a cashew-based dreamcake would have been nice, too, I wanted to try something different.. and gasp, something even easier to make.
1 food processor.
As a make-ahead dessert, this couldn’t have been easier. And the results were great. Fudgy raw brownies. Not too sweet due to the raw cacao powder with great texture from the partially chopped almonds. You can’t really compare them to traditional (baked) brownies, but they are delicious in their own right.
I smushed the batter into a 9×9″ tupperware container and while it doesn’t look like a lot of food, these are very rich and filling. When serving, do yourself (and your guests) a favour by making small pieces.
While my Mom made new recipes for me, with new-to-her ingredients (TVP-what? chickpea flour-oh my!), I also reciprocated by bringing yet another Turkish dessert for my parents to enjoy. Yes, I will still bake with ingredients that I don’t eat myself. They both adore my baklava and were tickled pink by the Nightingale’s Nests I made last summer. When I spotted shredded phyllo dough at the grocery store (No Frills at Don Mills and Eglinton, for my Toronto peeps!), I knew I had to try to make Tel Kadayif, another Turkish dessert.
When I originally spotted the recipe in The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan (recipe here), it looked like the most simple baklava. Instead of patiently layering each sheet of phyllo, you have a mess of shredded phyllo dough on the bottom, a middle of sweetened crushed walnuts, topped with more phyllo dough dusted with butter, then doused in a (not too) sugary syrup. Super easy and super tasty (so I hear). While we didn’t use all of the syrup, I think next time we’d even use less, because as you can tell by the photos, it was sopped up by the top layer as well.
While travelling in Turkey, my favourite dessert discovery was kunefe. I think I was in Fethiye, on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, when I stumbled upon it. I was wavering between kunefe and Noah’s pudding (asure) on the menu. As I typically do, I consulted with the waiter – which did he recommend? Kunefe, hand’s down, he told us, if we didn’t mind waiting 20 minutes. It was made to order, he explained.
What arrived was a bowl full with toasty, crunchy shredded phyllo with a cheesy filling, doused with a not-too-sweet syrup. Delicious, melted cheese.
After I discovered it in all its cheesy glory, I wanted to try it again. Sadly, the price doubled by the time we made it back to Istanbul (such is life in a larger city). But what was even more sad, even after I bit the bullet of the higher price, was that the restaurants were somehow “out” of kunefe that night. I couldn’t even find it! Too difficult to make, made-to-order, shenanigans is what I figured. We weren’t travelling during tourist season so they had likely scaled back their desserts. Sadly. However, if you swap this walnut filling for a cheese filling, you have kunefe! For a more glorious single serving, I think it gets made in a small frypan, made to order. Neither of my parents like cheese too much, so that’s one Turkish dessert, I likely won’t be making for them.
Up next? Who knows? But it may be Turkish delight! How does Bryanna’s Pomegranate and Walnut Turkish Delight sound to you?
(and a big thank you goes to Rob for the photos, since I didn’t even bring my camera to Ottawa!)
Here is a variation on the ALC. We have WOC: walnut, orange and cranberry! Simply delicious! Thank you, Tess.
Adapted from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, I made this a main course salad by adding adzuki beans to a shiitake, walnut and cranberry salad with an orange-balsamic dressing. First, the mushrooms are pan-fried until warm and soft. They are combined with an orange vinaigrette that is drizzled overtop a bed of spinach. Then, sprinkled the entire salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. Lovely!
Nope, this is neither vegan nor free of refined sugars and flours.
But it wasn’t for me to eat.
It was a gift Rob and I made for my Dad.
This weekend, we travelled to Ottawa to celebrate his upcoming big 6-0 birthday.
Homemade gifts always appeal to me because you can taste the love in every bite.
My Dad adores baklava, but I decided to make him a different Turkish treat for his birthday. Not that he would balk at a repeat of baklava (I just gave him a batch for Father’s Day), but I wanted to try something new. There must be something wrong with me…. I can’t make the same recipe too often! Even if I don’t eat it myself, it would be too boring to prepare it a second time! Ack!
(But for some reason, I made Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah and 15-Minute Zippy Garlic-Basil Marinara with Zucchini Noodles for everyone this weekend without problems.. AND to positive reviews).
I consulted the same Turkish cookbook, The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan, for another possible dessert. I picked out a few contenders, but was fixated on the Nightingale’s Nests which as you can see, are cute nests of phyllo dough filled with walnuts and topped with pistachios and a not-too-sweet syrup. Basically all the same ingredients in baklava, just in a different shape. After watching this video, it honestly looked less tedious than baklava. I just needed to find a thick stick first.
The Turkish rolling pin, or oklava, is a rod-shape and quite thin. Ozan suggested using a dowel from the hardware store in a pinch. Rob and I got creative, though. We found an old clothes hanger with a thick base and wrapped it in wax paper. It worked like a charm!
Once you figure out the technique and have a good oklava substitute, this is easy to make. Baklava is easy, too, just tedious, especially when you layer 2 packages of phyllo dough. But dare I suggest that this looks even more remarkable than baklava? You’d think we slaved in the kitchen, but we know better than that! It is a good thing my Dad doesn’t pay much attention to my blog.
My brother and sister-in-law recently moved into their new condo. The best part, though, is that they live closer to me. I think we’ve been able to see each other more often this past month than I have during the past year.
As I said, I invited them over for dinner and giggled as I planned my menu. I nonchalantly pointed out that I didn’t want to cook in this atrocious heat so I would make tacos. I told them to come with an open mind and a hungry belly! You see, I wanted to make raw tacos.
A few weeks ago, Rob and I had a celebratory dinner at Raw Aura, where we were blown away by the food. In particular, we devoured the raw nachos which included corn chips with guacamole, cashew sour cream, fresh tomato salsa and walnut taco meat. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was delicious. The corn chips had so many levels of flavour, the cherry tomatoes were so fresh, the sour cream so creamy, and the walnut meat.. let’s just say I was blown away that it was made from walnuts, which I don’t typically like. The flavours were impeccable. I wanted to try to make it myself. I remembered seeing Sarah’s post for post for raw tacos, so I was eager to try my hand at something new.
So what exactly are raw tacos? The main component is the “meat” which is simply coarsely chopped walnuts with cumin, chili flakes, tamari and a bit of oil. Super simple to whip together in a food processor. My brother snuck some before it was served and exclaimed, “This tastes like taco!”. The walnuts are really a vector for the seasonings (aka a heavy dose of cumin and soy sauce) and in this case, I thought the meat itself was a bit salty when eaten solo. Combined with the rest of the ingredients, though, it worked wonderfully. I also whipped together a cashew sour cream with lemon juice, and a delightful cherry tomato salsa (my favourite part of the wrap). I used Swiss chard leaves to eat my tacos, but had tortillas for my guests.
I was worried they may have turned up their noses if they knew they were going to eat raw food, but as they pointed out – it wasn’t like I was going to feed them raw eggs or meat, so they weren’t phased in the slightest.
The perfect dinner guests: adventurist eaters with lovely conversation.
For the record, these tacos were great, but not nearly as fantastic as those at Raw Aura. It just gives me more incentive to go back to the resto. At least it is closer than Thrive Juice Bar in Waterloo, which is my other favourite restaurant.
Not all nuts are created equal. I have a particular fondness for almonds, pistachios and even hazelnuts on a good day. I adore cashews as well, although they have saturated fats. Walnuts, I do not like as much. Pecans, neither.
But I still use walnuts in my meals. All those omega-3s are good for me, right? Beyond their health benefits, I find they can whip up to be nice and creamy, and have worked well in my energy balls and create a nice base for muhammara, the delicious Middle Eastern roasted red pepper and walnut dip. However, I find that baklava is brought to the next level when you substitute the (traditional) walnuts for pistachios.
With my recent adoration of all things miso, I decided to forge ahead and combine miso with walnuts in this warm asparagus and carrot salad. Adapted from Color Me Vegan, you create a lovely miso-walnut dip with mirin, tamari and rice vinegar. It was sweet and creamy and spread nicely over the warm vegetables. Thankfully in Southwestern Ontario, local asparagus can still be found! It paired well with the asparagus and carrots, but do not let that stop you from trying other vegetables.
I also loved this as a cold dip with freshly-cut vegetables as well (again, carrots worked well!). However, then you’ll need to make a lot more of the dip, because it will disappear quickly!
I had a love/hate relationship with my bicycle last week. I still loved my bike, but I think she had enough of me after I biked 250km last weekend to/from Woodstock. It wasn’t the distance that bothered her, it was the rain. The light rain, we could deal with, but the torrential downpour, is what she was complaining about.
When I arrived to greet her Monday morning, a bit earlier than usual to take her down to get cleaned before heading to work, her back tire was flat. I can do this, I thought to myself. So I removed the tire, replaced the tube and put the tire back on. It took me a good 30-45 minutes, but I was still pleased with myself. My first time changing a tire solo!
Then I pumped up the tire. I almost had it at 120 psi. I know it can be difficult to pump it up that high, so I almost left it at 90. Nah, I’ll give it a good push or two, I can do it! So I pumped, and pumped… and then FOOSH!! My inner tube exploded and popped off my tire! Without any extra inner tubes, I had to hightail it to work by subway instead.
Emails flew between my family and friends. I obviously squished my tube between the rim and tire, they told me. I figured that could be the culprit because I didn’t really check to make sure it wasn’t squished. Next time, I’ll know.
But my woes, don’t end there. I felt pretty silly having only 1 spare inner tube, so I wandered over to Bikechain, the student-run group at the University of Toronto that teaches you how to fix your own bike – and also sells cheap inner tubes. There was only one staff at the time, and I was sans bike, so I quickly picked up 5 inner tubes and brought them home.
So I lugged out my old bike (I have no clue how I lasted 7 months with a daily commute on that heavy clunker!), and rode to the closest bicycle shop. To clear them out of inner tubes. I only bought 2. And they were over $1 more expensive than those from Bikechain, and the exact same inner tube.
Armed with the proper inner tube, I decided to replace my inner tube yet again. It didn’t take me nearly as long; I must be improving, I thought. Next, I checked to make sure I had no squished tire. I didn’t. Great! And then I pumped up the tire. And pumped, and pumped, and got it up to 120 psi! Woohoo! I removed the pump and took a sigh of relief. Not an instant later, the tube explodes AGAIN! Now I am positively in tears, and know I need someone to help me figure this out.
Thankfully, Rob was coming over. I told him it was do or die because I only had one tube left. He supervised me and showed me a different way to assemble the inner tube and tire. I was putting the inner tube on first, then the tire. He assembled the inner tube inside the tire first, and then mounted the whole thing on the rim. Sounded good to me. So we pumped, and pumped, and pumped. 120 PSI! No blow-out! We pumped my front tire to 120 psi. I was good to go! I just need to get more tubes since my back-up tubes are down to zero, but no rush..
The next morning I ride to work. Perfect! It was just technique that was the problem. I return to my bike after work, drive it no more than 6 feet, when I feel like my breaks are rubbing my tire. I look down and I have a flat! No way! Not again! And I have no spare tube.. gah!
I take the subway home, grab 2 new tubes from another bike store. Another $2 more per tube. I ask whether some inner tubes are more prone to leaking. I only biked 5 km before I got a new flat, I explained. He suggested that perhaps I had something stuck inside my tire that I couldn’t see. I should clean the inside really well. Excellent suggestion, I thought, and planned to do that next.
Before I went to bed, I cleaned the inside of my tire, feeling nothing, but thinking it was something small I couldn’t see. I made sure my inner tube didn’t touch the floor and mistakenly pick up rocks, etc. I replaced the inner tube, with the new Rob-style technique. I pumped it up. And no explosions! Woohoo!
Two days go by… I bike to/from work. I rack up 20km. No problem. Those invisible rocks sure were problematic. Or maybe it was the even more expensive inner tube that did the trick. Who knows. I was doing a little cheer every time my bike still had a tire full of air.
Friday morning, my bike greets me with yet another flat tire. I am almost not surprised. What am I doing wrong? I notice that there’s an actual direction for my tire. Maybe I had it backwards and that was the problem? I don’t know.. this is all voodoo. I replace my tire again. I figured out where my leak was. Reasonably close to my valve. Maybe it was the metal hooks I was using to help reassemble my inner tube. Apparently that’s a no-no known to cause small leaks if you squish the inner tube. OK, I will look for my plastic ones. I clean it, I replace it, I pump it up. It doesn’t explode. I ride to work.
Now I am paranoid. I have no explanations for these flat tires.
So far so good, though. I make it to work intact.
I meet Rob after work to cycle to a friend’s house. I tell him about my flat tire woes and about my paranoia. How far will I get this time? The first time was 5km. Then 20km. Now what?
He looks down at my tire nonchalantly. What’s this?, he says, pointing to a small matte area on my tire. It was less than 1 mm. I have no clue but it looked like a small rock attached to the tire. I try to flick it off but it is wedged in nicely. I use my key to dislodge it and out we pull a big piece of glass! My culprit! My front tire had a smaller piece wedged in as well.
After successfully cycling 100km the following day, I knew I was in the clear.
While there are many great tutorials on how to change your tire online, here my tips that I have each learned the hard way:
1) Ride your bike with a spare tube (with the proper valve), pump and plastic hooks to change a spare tire. Try to repump your tire to see if it is a slow leak.
2) Remove the tire first with the hooks
3) Remove the inner tube, including any valvular attachment to the rim. If you can figure out where the hole is, great! You might be able to patch it too. Soapy water helps but I also tried to squish out any air all along the inner tube.
4) Try to figure out WHY you got the flat tire. Check the outside, inside of the tire and rim. Sometimes you won’t see anything if it is from having low tire pressure that gets squished over a bump, etc. Even if you can’t see anything, clean everything.
5) Pump up the inner tube slightly, then reassemble it inside the tire. Reattach this to your rim without any hooks, if possible, and make sure your tire is in the right direction. Make sure the tube is not being squished by the rim. Be careful around the valve because that area can easily be damaged, so I usually tried to push the final bit of tire in the rim away from the valve.
6) Slowly re-inflate the tire, making sure nothing got caught. Pump up until you get to your max pressure. Make sure you have your pump on with a straight valve. Once that breaks, you need a new tube, too (a lesson from my first lat tire change).
7) Reattach your tire to your bike, making sure it is properly positioned without any friction from the breaks. Re-hook your breaks.
It seems so simple, but it can be so complicated.
And now, about the recipe: Chocolate Brownie Power Bars. This has been my favourite energy bar for biking so far. I prefer moist, not so sweet bars that travel well. I really liked the cocoa mint nibbles, but they tasted like dates after they had been warmed in the sun. They were much better straight from the fridge for their fudge-y texture.
Adapted from Enlightened Cooking, these are similar to the cocoa nibbles but had more substance to them. They tasted more like a brownie and stayed that way after travelling with me all day. They also had a creamy taste which I think came from the milk powder. I originally threw it in because I had leftovers without a purpose (I originally bought some from the bulk store to make Momofuku’s Crack Pie). Now I think I have a super purpose for it, though, and will have to get myself some more.
I will not delve into the debate of where baklava originated because it is a common dessert across the Middle East. However, I will tell let you know that I play favourites: I like Turkish baklava the most.
Before I visited Turkey, I did not like the oftentimes sickeningly sweet walnut and phyllo dough pastry drenched in honey. When I went to Turkey, though, I was hooked after our first bite the night we arrived. We sampled baklava at nearly every restaurant we encountered it on the dessert menu. I wanted to try a variety of Turkish desserts, but my dad only wanted baklava (I never would have discovered kunefe if I only stuck to baklava!). It was never tooth-aching sweet. It was nice and light, usually with a pistachio filling. There was a sweet syrup but it complemented the pastry as opposed to clashing and overpowering the dish. It wasn’t like anything I have had in Canada.
One of the greatest things about baking yourself is that you can recreate these dishes at home. No longer are you a victim to honey baklava, which reigns in Greek and Persian stores. And while it may seem difficult, baklava is easy to make at home. It is time consuming, but very straightforward. The bad news is that most recipes make a lot of baklava, so you will have to share this treat with family and friends. If they weren’t your friends before, they will be now! Is that such a bad thing after all?
I made sure to get a baklava recipe from a Turkish cookbook and the recipe in The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan fit the bill well. It was exactly how I remembered the best baklava in Turkey, except the filling was with walnuts. I remember pistachios being a phenomenal filling for baklava so I will try that next time (update- I have made it multiple times, and pistachios are hands-down my favourite filling!). Ozan specifically mentions to use clarified butter which is simple to make at home. It is an important step to make sure your pastry layers are nice, light and fluffy and to reduce any sogginess that can come with the milk solids. It also allows your baklava to have a longer life at room temperature. Personally, they were gobbled up so fast, I didn’t have to worry about that.