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Savory Baklava (or, how to turn vegetables into dessert)

17 Jan

JetSet and KimmieKef recommended the sort-of-new cookbook Smashing Plates. I got it last week, and pretty much every page is already dog-eared for future cooking. I hope you’re all looking forward to some new Greek Easter dishes this year… or at least being conscripted into taste-testing the recipes I try.

Our recipe for today actually comes from the author’s web site, which is equally replete with new takes on traditional Greek fare. It also answers the question JetSet has been wondering for the last 7 years or so: how can we make vegetables dessert? The answer, it turns out, is to combine caramelized onions cooked down with cinnamon, tomatoes, feta, almonds, dill, and dates, and then to layer them with phyllo and butter.

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Yeah, she went a little crazy with the filter– sue me. At least I’m trying.

It’s important you know that this pie is neither sweet nor savory–it’s the best of both. MrKef  and some non-Greek, normal eaters gave the swavory thing big thumbs up, and I would definitely recommend this pie for a brunch–because who the hell knows which meal or flavor we’re supposed to be eating at 11:30am with a bottomless carafe of mimosa, anyway?

Tomato, feta, almond and date baklava

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium white onions, finely sliced or minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of granulated sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 bunch dill, finely chopped (or 3 teaspoons dried)
  • 10 vine plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped (keep half of the juice)
  • 3 TBS tomato purée
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet phyllo pastry (9 sheets)
  • about 1/2 stick butter, melted (sub olive oil- this is just for spreading on the phyllo)
  • 3/4 c sliveredalmonds, ground down to a crumble (either by food processor or just by banging them)
  • 7-8 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely sliced
  • 2 c feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons clear honey (optional)

Assembly

  1. Lightly butter or oil the bottom and sides of your longest pyrex pan or rectangular aluminium baking dish (I used a 13×9 pyrex). Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large-bottomed pan. Gently fry the onions over a low heat, add the garlic, cinnamon and sugar, then increase the heat. Fry for about 12 minutes, until caramelized. Add the dill, tomatoes and half of their juices and the tomato puree and cook for another 10 minutes, until reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove outer bag from phyllo, and gently roll out the dough. If you are new at phyllo, lightly dampen a paper towel and cover the dough with it, as it dries out if you are moving slowly. Place one sheet of phyllo in the greased baking dish, then gently brush it with melted butter or olive oil, being very generous. Be sure to get all the corners and ends. Repeat 3 more times, for a total of 4 layers. Don’t worry too much if these layers rip, as they will be covered by deliciousness in a minute anyway.
  4. Spread half the onion mixture over the pastry, top with half the almonds, the dates and half the feta. Repeat butter/phyllo layers for another 4 layers, and top with the remaining onions, almonds and feta. Do another 4-5 layers of phyllo/butter, making sure that the last one is as pretty and untorn as possible.
  5. Lightly score the top, cutting diamonds or squares, brush with butter and splash with a little water. Place on a baking tray and cook for 30–35 minutes until golden.To get maximum flakiness, turn up the heat to 400F for the last 5 minutes of baking, keeping a close eye to avoid burning.

Skillet Sensation #2: Lemon Almond Cake

15 Jun

A one-bowl treat cooked in a pan? The New York Times gets crazier and crazier by the day. I’d cook on my hands if Mark Bittman said it would result in a better meal on my table, but he really goes off the deep end in the video associated with this recipe when he resists calling this a tart, and suggests instead that we call this an almond fritatta. I’m not quite ready to go there. The lemon is refreshing, it’s not too sweet but not savory either, and it has a bunch of protein from the eggs and the almonds…so I’ll just go ahead and call it a recovery cake, then. Eat that, Bittman.

I made mine without the powdered sugar, so it didn’t look so hot– here’s the beautiful work of the NYT to show you what yours could look like if you’re as good at life as they are:

Capture

 

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • ½ to ¾sugar (I used 1/2 c of coconut palm sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ground almonds
  • ½cream
  • ½sliced almonds, more for garnish
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 TBS butter
  • powdered sugar, for garnish

Assembly

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, ground almonds, cream, sliced almonds, lemon zest and juice.
  2. Melt butter in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat; when foam has subsided, add almond mixture to pan, tilting pan to distribute batter evenly. Continue to cook tart on stovetop until edges just begin to set, then put pan in oven and finish cooking, about 10 to 15 minutes more.
  3. When tart is done, put it in broiler for about a minute or until just golden on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Serve.

Nutella Brioche Flower, Bad Pictures, and a Frosty Valentine’s Weekend

19 Feb

Just in case anyone thought I was playing around, I made the most amazing treat over the weekend. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Nutella Brioche Flower!photo(4)I fell in love with the idea of this when I saw it on Instagram (first, follow me @ChefKefiRN…then, search #FOODWINEWOMEN to be amazed at the stuff people come up with) and decided it would be the Valentine’s Day treat that I would bring to MrKef’s family on Staten Island. I found this recipe and knew within about 15 seconds that it was the one for me: it promised my kitchen would be filled with the “smell of lemon and nutella” (umm..yes, please!) and the woman who narrates the amazingly-instructional video does a dead-on Mrs. Potts and what’s better than cooking with Angela Lansbury, really?

Before you make any judgment as to your ability to make this bread, I implore you to watch the video–it really is not skills intensive at all, especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook!

Since this one is full of gluten and full of sugar, I did not taste it, but it got very positive feedback from those who did, and –as promised–the kitchen smelled really amazing. I am looking forward to making all kinds of iterations of this one–a FIG jam tsoureki flower, a s’mores flower, a peanut butter and jelly flower…. the possibilities are endless. I will try the next one with Cup4Cup to see how it fares as a gluten-free brioche (which seems about as oxymoronic as you can get, but a girl can dream).

Next on the docket: Valentine’s Day weekend. MrKef and I are not that into the holiday, but as it’s fallen around a long weekend for the last couple years, we usually try to do something out of the ordinary together. This year, we went up to New York to see our families, a play, and check out a fun hotel. But before all that, we ate our body weight in paella at Guardado‘s in Bethesda. They say the $35 served-still-steaming pallea feeds 2-3, but honestly I think 4 really hungry people would still struggle to make a dent in it! We went for the Valenciana and the Black varieties, as I will order pretty much anything with squid ink, and I highly recommend it.

photo 2(1) photo 1(1)

Moving right along from dimly-lit restaurant photos: frosty, blustery, freezing New York. Every time I go home, I think to myself, “Why don’t I live here?” and then I remember that it can be in single digits for days and days and I snap out of my NY nostalgia pretty quickly.

After a really lovely visit with MrKef’s family, we went to see Disgraced, which is an intense 90-minute play about Islamaphobia and assumptions in America (is anyone surprised that was our Vday pick? I don’t think so.). We both loved it and I would actually really like to go and see it again–lots of threads to tease out. In addition to being reasonably-timed, it is extremely reasonably priced because the Lyceum is such a big theater… and it has Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother and the woman who played Jimmy’s mom in Boardwalk Empire. So, really, go see it and we will unpack it all over coffee.

Following the play, we met up with JetSetKef and his FIANCEE, KimmieKef. They are being totally Amish about their engagement status (MamaKef says it still isn’t “official” until it’s on Facebook), so I am not even stressed that I am grinding JetSet’s gears by not taking the time to find the accented-capital E to correctly use the word fiancée above. QueijoKef joined us and we recreated this amazing evening. But first, we took a selfie:

photo 3Once all that fun was over, MrKef and I headed back to the VERY highly-recommended Paper Factory Hotel in Long Island City. Very hip, reasonably priced (on a Sunday night, anyway) and super close to the subway, we had a blast at this place–especially in the Mediterranean/Latin American fusion restaurant, Mundo (grape-leaf-wrapped halloumi and yucca fries, anyone?), and at the PINGPONG TABLE. Check out MrKef’s moves:

photo 2 photo 1Whew, that was a long one. Finally we come back full circle: the recipe!

Nutella Brioche Flower

Ingredients

  • 3c + 3TBS bread flour or all-purpose flour (I used all purpose)
  • 6 oz room-temp milk
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 2 oz butter, melted
  • 2 room-temp eggs, beaten lightly
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • Nutella (I used about half a jar and it was a little too much) or whatever spread you’d like
  • 1 TBS milk + 1 TBS water (for glaze)

Assembly

  1. Whisk together the yeast, sugar and milk. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and lemon zest. Make a well in the center and add the butter, beaten eggs and yeast/milk mixture. Mix to a soft dough–if you’re using a standing mixer, just use the dough hook on med-low, otherwise just use your hands (this dough is not particularly sticky).
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or 4 minutes by mixer.  Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly-greased bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place until the dough has about doubled in size (about an hour). I always use the microwave for this.
  4. Cut a circle 12″ in diameter out of parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. If you haven’t watched the instructional video here yet, do it while the dough is rising.
  5. After the dough has doubled, punch it down for any air bubbles and knead it for another 3-4 minutes by hand or 1 minute by mixer. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each piece into a ball.
  6. One at a time, roll out each ball  into a circle measuring about 10″ in diameter. The dough should be about 1/8″ thick. Do not be intimidated- this is a study dough and you can do this without very good pastry skills (like me!)
  7. Place the rolled-out dough onto the parchment circle and use a flat spatula or knife to spread an even layer of nutella, leaving a small border at the edge. It really doesn’t have to be a very thick layer, or the center of your flower will look a bit too nutella-heavy.
  8. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough but do NOT spread nutella on the top of the final layer.
  9. Leaving a small circle at the center, cut the dough in half, then quarters, then eighths, and finally sixteenths.
  10. Take a pair of adjacent segments. Lift and twist them away from each other through 180°. Lift and twist through 180° again, then twist through 90° so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process for all pairs of segments.
  11. Cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours. Preheat the oven to 360F.
  12. Mix together the water and milk. Brush the brioche with the glaze and then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until center begins to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
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