Friday, May 24, 2013

Around the World in Food Month, Greek Baklava & the Parthenon

The Parthenon
     It is hard to believe that May is already almost over.  Where does the time go?  However in honor of “Around the World in Food Month”  I wanted to share a photo and a recipe with you.  Lots more photos of my trip will be appearing in the next several weeks, but this site I am exited to share with you.  Mr. Love From Scratch and I had the opportunity to go to Athens, Greece and to see the Parthenon and other sites.  First off I have to say I like Athens, and I like the people of Athens.  Very nice people and very helpful and hospitable.
    
     So obviously one of the biggest tourist attractions of Athens is the Acropolis, which includes the famed Parthenon.  I guess the best way to describe the Acropolis is as an ancient fortress or citadel high up above Athens.  The Acropolis is home to many ancient buildings, but by far the one we hear about the most is the Parthenon.  No one really knows for sure how long ago people began living in that area, but what we do know is that Pericles, (495-429 B.C.) oversaw the construction of the Parthenon, among other Acropolis buildings.  You always hear that saying “if these walls could talk”, well in this case I definitely wish the walls could talk.  Think of all of the history they have been a part of.
    
     The Parthenon is a temple, dedicated to the Goddess Athena, who is said to be the patron deity of Athens.   Something new that I learned while I was there was that the Parthenon actually was built to replace a previous temple dedicated to Athena.  So who knows when the original building was constructed.  The Parthenon has been occupied and used in many different ways, the history of the building itself is really quite fascinating.  I will tell you right now that in going to the Parthenon be prepared to walk a lot of stairs.  However the site is incredible, and once on the hill you have an amazing view of Athens.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to see the Parthenon and see some of history in real life
Baklava
     While in Athens we also walked through a few markets and shops.  Every port and stop we went to on the trip had goods and local delicacies for sale.  One of my absolute favorite desserts is baklava.  Sadly baklava is no longer on my allowed foods list, cursed gluten-free!  Greece is EXTREMELY well known for their baklava.  I saw it (and smelled it) every where I went.  Believe me, it looked and smelled delicious.  I gave serious thought to disregarding the doctors order and savoring a few pieces of this treat, but I decided to be good.   How is that for willpower and dedication?  I have seen a few gluten-free recipes for baklava online, but to be honest they don’t look all that appetizing.  It is on my list of things to figure out how to fix now gluten free.  It seems like that list is expanding at a rapid rate.  However I do have my old baklava recipe that I would love to share with you.  It is super simple, I have given the instructions using pre-made phyllo dough, I usually make my own when I make this recipe, but it turns out delicious either way.  This is definitely a crowd pleaser, and slightly addictive.  I myself have been known to eat several in one sitting, probably not the best for my waistline I know.  There are so many different variations of baklava, I tend to stick to the basic traditional recipes.  These are simple ingredients, but they really morph into something special.
Love From Scratch Baklava

Ingredients

1 (16 ounce) package of phyllo dough 1 pound chopped nuts (I like to use a combination of almonds, walnuts and pistachios)
1 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup honey

Directions

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan, I usually dust it with a little flour as well, you do not want to miss this step!  Once baklava sticks to a pan it can be very hard to remove!

     Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon, I like to toast these ingredients together, it makes for a much more aromatic end result. Unroll the phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover the remaining phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work, beware it dries very quickly and can become very brittle. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 3 heaping tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
Using a sharp knife (emphasis on sharp) cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts.  I usually clean my knife after each cut, it makes it so much easier!  Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

     Make sauce/glaze while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add the vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes, watch it carefully, don’t let it caramelize.

     Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. I usually serve it in cupcake liners if I am making it for a crowd.  While this recipe does freeze very well, do not plastic wrap these, they will get soggy.  I usually will put them in a Tupperware that isn’t completely full and they do just fine.









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