In case you were looking for a reason to smile, we’re over here building pixelated smiley faces with our baklava
Yesterday the bomb cyclone hit the east coast, from Florida, my hometown, all the way up here to Boston. I watched Eric and Chris the Cat stare out the uncurtained windows in wonderment until the sun fell. At times it looked like the sky was stomping on the city with its snow boot. Parts of the Seaport and coastal areas just minutes away were flooded and then later iced; I’m sure it will take through the weekend before parts of it are recovered, and I am praying for anyone who had to go outside into that monstrous bomb.
I will also like to point a finger at this storm for having us over here eating baklava (yum) and making complicated pho soups while sitting wrapped in individual blanket forts and simultaneously working from home–better referred to as Living My Best Life. In every big upheaval there is always a period of calmness present and a feeling like someone or something is strong-arming us to slow everything down. I love that the ‘new year, new me’ has stopped resisting.
I thought to acknowledge this beautiful new year because it’s traditionally a time to think about future goals. While there are so many things to look back on and celebrate from 2017 (check the bottom of the blog for my growing list) and even more things on the horizon to look forward to in 2018, for the first time in my life I am enjoying spending the majority of my thoughts on each present moment, just as they come. That’s my 2018 goal because all other thoughts, I’m learning, have the potential to rob me of my current joy.
Back to the Baklava: There’s no honey in this one (which is a traditional ingredient). I use maple syrup and I add a bit of rose water (which was originally intended for spraying on my face) to give it floral kick the honey would have had, but next time I will probably add even more just because I LOVE rose with pistachios! I chose not to use honey this time, because I wanted to make it vegan-friendly.
HERE’S HOW I MADE THIS BAKLAVA:
Notes: You’ll need: a 9X 13 inch sheet pan with a little lip. And you can also use 2 1/2 cups of pistachios or another nut if that’s all you have.
- 10 sheets of whole wheat phyllo dough (or regular is fine too)
- 1 cup of roasted and salted pistachios
- 1/2 cup roasted pecans (or another nut or more pistachios)
- 1 cup of hazelnut meal (or almond meal, or ground up hazelnuts or almonds)
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
Maple Syrup (I doubled my original recipe because I had to make extra):
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp rose water
- juice of 2 small lemons
Thaw the Dough Overnight: First thaw the phyllo dough, otherwise you may want to kill someone nearby out of pure frustration; it crumbles and cracks when it’s not completely room temperature because it’s so thin and fragile. Usually the package is sold in the freezer section of the grocery store, and if that’s the case, I like to let it sit in the fridge for a day/overnight, and then let it thaw on the counter for an hour before unraveling it to use. Also as you’re working with this type of dough, you want to cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp cloth on top of that–if the cloth is sitting directly on the dough it will make it soggy and stick together, so for that reason the plastic is helpful–and then pull from the stack as you need a sheet.
When it’s time to make the baklava, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Make the filling: Pulse the pistachios and roasted pecans (or other nut) together until it’s a little coarser than meal. Transfer to a bowl with the hazelnut meal (or almond meal), cinnamon, and the coconut sugar to combine.
Build the Baklava: Cut the sheets of phyllo in half so you have 20 pieces. Lay the first sheet down on the baking sheet. Brush the top with some of the melted coconut oil. (You can use your fingers if you don’t have a pastry brush, and it doesn’t need to be perfect, you’ll use a little less than 1 tbsp per layer) Then lay another sheet of phyllo on top. Do this until you have 6 layers of the phyllo dough. Dump 1/2 the mixture over the top of the layer and spread it out evenly. And then continue on, layering another 6 sheets of phyllo on top, oiling between each layer. Once those layers are finished, spread over the last layer of nuts evenly and finish layer over the last 8 sheets of phyllo dough, and brush the top with a the last bit of coconut oil.
Score the tops of the baklava–not all the way through though!– just through the top 8 layers–this will make it easier to cut when they’re done baking and it will also give the top a nice uniform cut. Bake for about 1 hour or until the tops and edges brown.
Make the syrup: You want the syrup to be hot when you pour it over the hot baklava. So if you do make the sauce in advance, just reheat it so it’s hot and ready when the baklava comes out of the oven. In a saucepan, combine the water, maple syrup, rose water, and lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Once the baklava is done, remove it from the oven and finish cutting each piece all the way through to the base. Then carefully and slowly pour over the hot syrup so it touches every inch. You can also remove a corner piece to make it easier to fill in all the crevices. Let the baklava sit, preferably overnight, or a couple hours to harden before eating.
Looking for a new health plan for 2018? I highly recommend “8 Weeks to a Healthier You” This program is actually waitlisted now because it’s (that awesome and) very interactive, but you can email the creators, Wendy Lopez and Jess Jones- Nutritionists and authors of 28 Day Plant Powered Health Reboot, to be placed on the waitlist. I’ve been working with these beautiful ladies since last year and since, I’ve been able to consciously implement healthier practices into my lifestyle with ease. While I’m revisiting their program again this year, I am also drinking an apple cider vinegar and baking soda mixture diluted in water every morning on an empty stomach + loving the hell out of my beautiful body + cutting back on caffeine, alcohol and dairy more than ever.
Currently in love with in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of NOW.
For the purpose of indulging in gratitude and the abundance of life, I’d still like to take a moment to appreciate the blessings I’ve experienced through food and the collaborations that took place with really amazing people and teams throughout 2017:
Meeting and making so many new friends through social media, traveling and work projects!
Writing my First Cookbook!!
Shooting a Cookbook with Starbucks!
Graduating with my Masters in Gastronomy from BU! This is a photo from my super fun beer and spirits class on food pairing day.
Working with Tastemade!!
Making huge strides in my spirituality
Hitting a turning point in my life and stopping to ask what it is I really want to live for and create (and it’s not dese doughnuts although they are worthy of considering)
Traveling to SO many places including Europe and the UK with Eric and getting to witness his face while he saw these places for the first time
Working independently with Megan Elias on a project about African American Foodways and writing detailed a proposal for a Web Series inspired by Malinda Russell, an African American freed woman from Tennessee who published the first known cookbook written by a black woman in the United States. An incredibly fun and inspiring project!!
Having my entire family come to Boston on a whim to ring in the New Year with us. <3 and then clink some champagne glasses on a BOAT!
And then all the other fun food writing projects, podcast interviews, food panel discussions, food inspiration and good music on the scene to keep me constantly inspired!