March 28, 2008

Field Photos and Baklava

Well, I'm just back from another trip up to Half Moon Bay, but this time I actually had to work. I was working as an archaeological monitor, which basically means that I stood around a construction site and made sure no one accidentally dug up any artifacts.

Oh well--if you have to work, there are few more beautiful places to do it.

Of course it also helps that in addition to beaches and parks, the tiny town of Half Moon Bay has some great restaurants, two excellent bakeries and four (!) independent bookstores. Lest I sound to much like a travel brochure, I should also add that HMB has godawful traffic to rival L.A.'s.

Where does baklava fit into all this? It doesn't really, so you'll have to forgive the non sequitur. In a rare fit of cleanliness, I was cleaning out my pantry right before I left for Half Moon Bay and trying to figure out what to do with all the miscellaneous items that I'd acquired over the past year. One of these items was a tub of pistachios I had brought back from Greece last summer and that were, surprisingly, still perfectly fresh and edible. Seeing a chance to use my new food processor, I immediately thought of making baklava. I realized I could throw in other random items in my pantry as well: half-used jars of honey, rose water I had bought on a whim but rarely used, and half a package of filo in the freezer.

This recipe is a variation on basic baklava - rosewater and cardamom take it to a whole new level. It's important that the syrup be completely cooled before it's poured over the (hot) baklava, or the filo will get soggy.



1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup honey
3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons rose water (or to taste)

1 cup raw or blanched almonds, and 1 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped or ground (I don't like huge chunks of nuts, so I tend to grind them pretty fine)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 pound (about 12 square sheets) filo dough
About 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

1. Syrup: Stir the sugar and water over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rosewater. Let cool completely.

2. Filling: Combine nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom in a medium bowl.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 9 inch square pan.

4. Assembly: Place a sheet of filo in the pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with 4 more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with 2 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Spread with the remaining filling mixture and end with a top layer of 5 sheets, brushing each with butter. Trim or fold under any overhanging edges.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips through the top layer of pastry. Make diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.

6. Bake for 20 minutes at 350. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.

7. Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

March 23, 2008


Just about the only way I celebrate Easter these days is through the consumption of Peeps. Preferably the bunny-shaped ones. So, in the spirit of the holiday, here are some Peeps links:

Peeps research - highly scientific, of course.

More Peep research at the university library at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. -- "a study of small fluffy creatures and library usage" (who says librarians don't have a sense of humor...however odd it may be).

Lord of the Peeps - these people clearly had way too much time on their hands.

**Bonus peeps! More links, thanks to mom: Peeps diorama contests from the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.