Tag Archives: Lemon

Baklava


I’m not real fond of sweet desserts but I am helpless, when it comes to Baklava.  I simply cannot resist it.    If I see it on the menu somewhere, I’ll order it, or torture myself with   ” I shoulda/coulda had that” if I don’t get it.   I love nuts, human and otherwise.

And where I am going with this?  Well, a few months back, when Debi Jordan was kind enough to come out and show us how to make Stuffed Grape Leaves, Robin also brought the makings for Baklava.    I’ve been really remiss in not posting about that, but I didn’t have a recipe, just lots of pictures of how to make it.   And if I had realized just how easy it is to make Baklava, well, let me just say, I would have made it for years now.  And eating it as well.   Which may not be all that great cause I really have trouble not eating it when it is in the house.

Here are the basic ingredients:

Fillo Dough, sugar, butter, walnuts, lemons, honey.   Simple huh?  You put all those things together and you get WOW.
You actually start by melting some butter.  Set that aside for a minute and get the fillo dough out.  Unroll it, then, using a sharp knife cut it in half.   We actually put it on a large baking sheet.

Brush the bottom of the pan with some of the melted butter to start with.

Also, it helps to cover the fillo dough  with a damp towel once you’ve unrolled it.  This stuff dries out and gets brittle fast.  Take out a sheet of fillo dough, place it into the pan you’re using and brush it with some melted butter, repeat until you’ve built up a layer of 8 sheets.   Once it’s melted, layer the fillo dough in an oven safe pan, and brush the layers with melted butter.   Robin was working on three pans here.  But she was up to it. She knew what she was doing.    It was a regular assembly line.
If you notice, the fillo dough extends up the sides of the pan, you need at least a 2 inch deep pan for this.

After you get the first layer of fillo sheets down, and buttered, dump about a cup to a cup and a half of chopped walnuts down on top of the phyllo

Spread it out evenly, then continue with the next few sheets of fillo dough.   you do want about 8 or so sheets of dough down.    Then spread out some more walnuts, layer with more fillo sheets.  And of course each sheet gets brushed with some of that melted butter.   And no, you can’t hear your arteries clogging up, you really don’t use as much butter as you think on the sheets of fillo.

Just had to say it.

Continue on with the next layers of fillo dough, about another 8 or 9 sheets.
You then cut it all the way through to the bottom, (trust me on this, you don’t cut it after you’ve baked it).

If you happen to have a little butter left, just pour it on over the top.

You want to make the honey/sugar syrup to pour over the top while this is baking.  So go ahead and place the pan in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is nice and brown.

In a small pot place 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, a cinnamon stick if you choose, and about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice together and bring to a boil.  Let it cook down for about 10 minutes or so, until it is nice and syrupy.  Add the honey and stir to combine.

After you remove the Baklava from the oven, pour the honey/sugar syrup over the top, and let it rest.    You really can’t eat this right away, it needs to sit and age for a couple of days –  really it does.   I know from experience.   But after a few days, YUM is all I can say.   I had to hide this from myself, and only allow a piece every few days.   And I made that pan last, sigh.

 

Sorry had to keep taking pictures, but doesn’t this look YUMMY?  sigh, now I’m in the mood to make some more Baklava.

Hey Robin, you wanna come over my house and bake again?

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 lb Walnuts – Finely Chopped
  • 1/2 C. Sugar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1.5 C. Butter (3 sticks), Melted
  • 1 Package Frozen Phyllo Dough (16 oz) Thawed
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1 C. Water
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 C. Honey (Net weight 12 oz.)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla

Mix the walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together, set aside.   Melt the butter, and place in on a warming pan to keep liquid or use a small crock pot.  Works, really.
Take out the thawed phyllo dough   (notice I’m using both spellings here, just saying) and place on a large cookie sheet, cover with a damp towel.   Preheat the oven to about 325 degrees, or maybe just a tad cooler.
Take out the pan size you’re going to be using.   We used three pans here, but a nice big 9×13 pan would work.  Brush the bottom of the pan with some of the melted butter, and then place one sheet of fillo dough inside, brush it with some of the melted butter, and continue with another sheet of fillo dough until you have 8 sheets layered.   (Here is where you make a choice about how many layers you want.  You can do up to four layers of nuts and dough.  I’m going to give directions for three layers. )  Spread out 1/3 of the walnut mixture evenly over the pan.  Spread another sheet of fillo dough over, brush with butter and repeat 7 more times.  You can stagger the sheets of dough here so that they do cover the top evenly, and extend up the sides just a tad.  That helps to keep the filling inside.
Repeat with the last layer of walnuts and dough.  Take a sharp knife and cut this into squares or diamonds at this point.  Cut all the way to the bottom.   You can’t cut it after it has baked, the phyllo dough shatters.   And if you have any butter left, just go ahead and pour it over the top evenly.   Place in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes to an hour and bake.
While it is baking, make the sugar syrup.  Place a cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice  into a pan and bring to a boil, let it cook for about 10 minutes or so until syrupy.   Then add the honey and vanilla and stir to combine.
Pull the pan of baklava out of the oven and pour the sugar/honey syrup over.   Set aside while it cools, then cover lightly and put in a safe place for at least 1 day if not 2 or 3 for it to set up before you eat it.  If you can wait that long.

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Shrimp Piccata and Tapa’s night for August.


We had our monthly Tapa’s Night this past Saturday, and as usual had fun as well as enjoyed some great food.
I made a Shrimp Piccata as my contribution this month, as well as putting out a couple other items.

And I will share the recipe a little later.   I’m kicking myself I didn’t get pictures of the awesome Pineapple Surprise cake or the Carrot cake that was brought, but hey, it’s my party and I can have fun if I want to, and forget to take pictures sometimes.

So here goes:

Zucchini Bake

This dish was so light and flavourful, so good.

The Spanish Omelette was really good as well, and I didn’t get a picture of the Sofrito sauce that was to be served with it.      I thought the omelette was pretty just on its own.

Spanish Omelette
And doesn’t this Charcuterie platter look pretty.   It also had some awesome smoked salmon in the center, you can sort of see them in between the crackers.
Charcuterie platter
Smoked Grouper Cheeks, Smoked Amberjack and Quail Eggs. It has been years since I’ve had quail eggs so seeing them and eating them well, I was a very happy person.    Danes also love smoked fish, well, many of us do, so to have some smoked fish, well, I was in heaven.  I kept heading over to the platter and snatching a bite or two.
I could just envision them with a nice slice of fresh french bread and a glass or two of Akvavit, with a beer chaser. sigh.   Sorry, got side tracked there.
Sliced lunch meats
Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

There were some stuffed Cherry tomatoes, and they were so tasty as well.   I was in awe that someone sat and did this, but don’t they look pretty?

Smoked Fish, Ciabatta Rolls and dipping oil
Kugel

I love Kugel, and helped myself to a generous spoonful, I tend to eat this whenever I see it.
Another friend brought these large beans and told me this is common dish served in Greek taverns, and it was delicious as well.

Greek Taverna Beans

We also had some great dark fudge, which made some of us very happy.

Filled crescent rolls

And these little rolls, with a filling.  I’m such a sucker for, and really enjoyed the one I had.

So now for my contribution.
I had a heck of a time trying to figure out what I wanted to make this month.   I knew it should be something with shrimp, I’ve been craving shrimp lately, but what to do with it?    It wasn’t until I was driving into town to get the shrimp that I finally decided.   What a relief.   I had thought of making Shrimp Scampi, but dismissed that idea.   Then it dawned on me, Shrimp Picatta!  I love Chicken Picatta and make it on a regular basis, and the combination of lemon, butter, capers and shrimp just seemed like it would work.    So I bought three pounds of fresh shrimp, some lemons and went home.

I prepared the shrimp by shelling and de-heading them, and went to make up a nice boil to poach them in.  Realized that I didn’t have any Old Bay seasoning, but I didn’t let that stop me.  Not much stops me anyways, when it comes to cooking something.    While I was preparing the boil, I dumped some ice on top of the shrimp to keep them cold.   (I use a fair amount of disposable aluminum baking pans, you can buy them at Sam’s Club for about $7 for 30 of them.  I use them to cook my dog’s food and to serve them their food, less clean up for me.   And if I use a pan for shrimp, like I did here, I just wash it and use it for the dogs,   I do wash and re-use the pans as much as possible as well, until they break down)

I got out a pot and put some plain water in it, then added some cayenne pepper, a couple of cloves of crushed and roughly chopped garlic, a bottle of beer, a bay leaf and some lemon juice.  Brought it to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes so that the flavours would infuse together.   Tasted it and it was bland, so I added a small handful of lightly crushed peppercorns and a little salt, maybe a half teaspoonful, and some more lemon.   Let that come to a boil and tasted it again.  This time it had flavour.
While it was boiling I got a bowl out and put some ice into it, because after poaching the shrimp for a couple of minutes, I wanted to dump the shrimp into some ice water to stop the cooking process.   Nothing worse than a chewy over cooked shrimp.

You can see the bowl behind the pot of water.

I them dumped the shrimp into the boiling liquid, turned down the heat a little, let the shrimp turn pink and removed them with a slotted spoon and placed them on ice.   Very important to not over cook shrimp, they turn tough and rubbery.   You want them to ‘pop’ a little when you bite into them.   Only cook them for a minute or two.

Since my guests weren’t expected for another hour or so, I just quick cooled the shrimp, by tossing them with the ice,  then placed them into the fridge so I could finish them off later.   Oh and by the way, I did devein them as well after they cooled down.  (Note to self, next time, you need a lot more shrimp than you realize when you have to prepare them this way,   I may just buy them already deviened and shelled the next time.)

Before the guests arrived I made the sauce I wanted to reheat the shrimp in.    I melted one stick of butter in the pan, added a couple of cloves of minced garlic, a half cup of white wine, juice of one lemon and about 2 tablespoons of capers.  Also added a half a lemon in slices.   Let that simmer for a couple of minutes, tasted it and added another half cup of wine and more butter.   And it was good.

I then placed the shrimp in the butter sauce and let it warm over low heat until the shrimp were warmed through before I served it.   And it was popular.   I even caught a person dipping some of the slice Ciabatta rolls in the sauce and eating that.  OK, so it was me dipping the bread, but hey, the sauce was that good.  And there weren’t any shrimp left anyway.

Here’s the recipe for the boil and the Picatta Sauce

Boil
1 quart water
1 bottle beer
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
Juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes so that the spices can infuse into the water, taste and adjust the seasonings.   This will taste spicy, but it really doesn’t make the shrimp all that spicy, just adds a nice kick.    You can also use this spice mixture for a peel and eat shrimp boil.   Add the shrimp and let it come to a boil, but only cook the shrimp for a minute or two,  they just need to turn pink.

Piccata Sauce *

12 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white wine plus 1/2 cup white wine **
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons capers
2 minced garlic cloves
6 lemon slices

Simmer all of this together until the wine reduces by half, then add another half cup white wine, let that reduce a little, add the shrimp and stir it together until the shrimp warms through.   You don’t need to cook the shrimp, just warm it up in the sauce.   Serve immediately.

*I would serve this with a nice basmati rice or short grain rice or some bow tie pasta for a meal.  And you can use the sauce for chicken as well.  Nothing like a multi purpose sauce. giggle.
** You can substitute chicken stock here as well, the wine adds a nice note of flavour however.   And if you use chicken stock, use the low sodium.

Judging by how quickly the shrimp disappeared, I would say people liked this.

And I also served some sliced Ciabatta Rolls with some dipping oil and some sliced lunch meat, for those who wanted something more.

As usual, we had a great time, and got to try some good food as well.