April 12, 2007

Where Have I Gone This Time?

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Why try one new recipe in an evening when I can try 4? That means I have 4 times the chance of messing something up. To throw another wrench into the machine, I’ve also ventured into the unknown territory of Arabian cuisine. Let me apologize upfront for the bastardization of any recipes that I try in my attempt to make new things. I mean well. If any of you know how to make these dishes properly, you’re welcome to come over to my house and serve them to me. So what possessed me to take on this dinner, composed of foods that I shamefully know nothing about? Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey? has chosen Arabian cuisine as the theme for the 9th Monthly Mingle. I’m never one to turn down a challenge and I love traveling to new places via my kitchen so all that was left was to find a recipe. But I found many recipes and had trouble narrowing things down to just one, so I didn’t. I chose 4; Green Lentil Soup, Lebanese Kibbeh, Persian Rice and Baklava.

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The Green Lentil Soup was mild but flavourful and served as a nice starter to the meal. It was quick to make too and didn’t require much attention. That was a bonus as the Kibbeh certainly required more work. Kibbeh is basically a fried oval shape made up of a mixture of lamb and bulgar which coats another mixture of lamb and spices. As is often the case with me, I made things more difficult than they had to be. I thought I was being so smart too. I looked at the recipes, made a shopping list and went into town to get my ingredients. I didn’t even consider putting bulgar on my list, (a key ingredient in the Kibbeh) because I thought of course I would have some in the cupboard. I was already well on my way to assembling ingredients and putting things together when I realized that all I had in the cupboard was an empty bulgar container. But at this point there was not going to be another trip to the store so I had to look for a substitution. In retrospect I should have used couscous. In reality, I used pearl barley. I don’t think I’ve ever used pearl barley for anything before so why I decided to use it in a brand new recipe, I don’t know. It wasn’t the right choice.

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One bad choice led to the need for more changes to the recipe. When I tried to blend things together there was way too much liquid so I started adding multigrain flour despite the fact that flour is not called for at all. Then I forgot the cilantro and had to go back and add it in. The end result wasn’t awful, but I know it could have been much better. The barley was chewy and my Kibbeh was dry. To try to hide the dryness I slathered it with a yogurt sauce that I made up by draining yogurt on cheesecloth and then adding about a teaspoon of za’atar. Za’atar is combination of spices that I’ve never used before either, I just picked some up a few days ago and I thought it sounded Middle Eastern, so I decided it fit in with the rest of the meal. The tangy and cool yogurt was a welcome accompaniment to the unfortunately dry Kibbeh. I’ll have to remake this recipe properly one day because I know it has potential. I love lamb so I should really get into more Arabian cooking as many of the recipes call for it. I’m sure Meeta’s round up of the Monthly Mingle will be chockfull of excellent recipes that will soon be plastered all over my kitchen.

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The final recipe that I made was Baklava and I hope that it will find its way into some of your kitchens. My Aunt used to make baklava and I’ve always loved it. I remember thinking it seemed exotic and unlike most sweets that graced the holiday table. Mom enjoys baklava as well and has been pestering me to make it for ages. I’ve been putting it off because of the phyllo dough. I don’t enjoy working with phyllo dough. I find it fiddly and aggravating. It either gets too dry and cracks or too wet and clumps together. And it’s never the right size for what I need. And basically I’m a big baby. I’ll try to keep my whining at bay while I tell you that this recipe was actually quite simple to put together and produced excellent results. The only thing I was irritated by was shelling pistachios. If you can find them unshelled, you’re all set. Then you too can add baklava to the list of dishes you’ve made successfully! I’m hopeful that one day my success list will surpass my failure list. I’d better get back in the kitchen…

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Baklava (Adapted from Medierranean: Food of the Sun by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow)

1 ½ cups shelled pistachios

¾ cup almonds

¾ cup walnuts

1 T ground cardamom

2/3 cup butter, melted

1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

18 sheets phyllo pastry

2 cups sugar

1 ¼ cups water

2 T orange blossom water

First you will make a simple syrup by combining the 2 cups of sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the orange blossom water and let cool.

Preheat oven to 325F. In a food processor, combine all of the nuts and pulse until lightly ground. Add the confectioners’ sugar and cardamom and pulse again to combine.

Brush a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with melted butter. Using one sheet of phyllo pastry at a time, (and keeping the rest covered with a damp towel) layer 6 sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each one with butter after you lay it down. Pour half of the nut mixture on top of the phyllo and press it down evenly. Continue to layer 6 more sheets of phyllo, brushing with butter between each one. Pour the rest of the nuts on top of the phyllo and repeat the layering process one more time, using up your remaining 6 sheets of phyllo. Pour any leftover butter over the top. Cut the pastry diagonally into small bars using a sharp knife, (it’s easier to do this before the pastry is baked as it is softer at this point).

Bake for 20 min and then increase oven temperature to 400F. Bake for 15 more minutes until golden on top.

Remove from the oven and drizzle with the orange flower blossom syrup. Let stand about an hour so that the syrup can be soaked up. Remove from the pan and try not to eat them all in one sitting.

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K and S said...

You continue to amaze me, great job!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You do crack me up..wine all you like, I'm sorry to disappoint but I've been counting and you successes far out number any flop and both are more fun to read about than ... well, you are fun and you do know how to step up to the plate!!! The Green Lentil Soup looks loverly but then I'm a real lover of lentils.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Bri, the feast is set for an Arabian Queen! One of the things I just love about you is the fact that you step up to all my challenges ... and make a great job of it. I wish I could try all these brilliant creations and I am sending you huge hugs for this one!

Ilva said...

Why didn't you invite me around to share this wonderful meal? Why? Why?

thecoffeesnob said...

I always have to resist popping into one of the many Greek bakeries i have to pass by on the way home.Yours look so much better than theirs! I can imagine how delicious this was

Anonymous said...


Pearled barley is overlooked, really.
If you're interested in trying something wonderful with it, check my archives, I've got a great recipe.

Oh, I was just wondering... Is there some magic wand you can tap me with so that I can learn to make baklava like yours?? Please fairy god mother, PLEEEEEEEASE!

Mercedes said...

So sorry about your kibbe- in the future, if you don't have bulgur I would try using flour or something similarly fine-grained. I do hope you try it again as kibbe are wonderful.
The baklva look lovely- baklava is truly amazing stuff. I like to use ghee or samne in mine, as it makes it more flavorful.

Truffle said...

What a great assortment of recipes. The baklava looks absolutely stunning!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

We all have off days and thank you for sharing one of yours with us. Without failure we couldn't appreciate success! Plus, it sounds like the tasty yogurt sauce and baklava more than made up for the kibbeh.

sher said...

Amazing! Most people would be satisfied with just one of those amazing dishes. The colors on the photos are so lovely.

Anonymous said...

well, it all looks darn good to me, tough barley and all. And kibbe sounds very interesting, I had never heard of it and now will have to do some research and try it.
The Arabian dishes that never fail me are hummus and falafel, full of flavor and quite good for you as well.

Lis said...

Well I've never ate what you made, either - but everything looks hella good!


Julia from Dozen Flours said...

Finally! A recipe that uses orange blossom water. I bought some a few months ago because I thought it smelt really good. I'm curious though, what was the end resulting flavor? Did it taste like the way it smelled? I want to try using it in something.. but I'm afraid it will taste like I'm eating an orange grove.

Excellent blog! I'm adding it to my RSS feed!

Anh said...

My eyes are fixed on the baklava recipe. I am crazy over baklava but too afraid to make them myself since I can really finish the whole lots!

Brilynn said...

Julia- I had never used orange blossom water before either. I would probably decrease the amount a tiny bit next time I make this. You should definitely experiment with it, but keep in mind that a little goes a looong way.

Freya said...

I love Baklava! I know that it's too sweet for the teeth but I wanted to make some for this event but ran out of time so well done you for making that AND everything else!

Peabody said...

I also am not a fan of working with the phyllo dough! Your baklava looks fantastic.

Warda said...

I just love how your baklawa looks. We can see all the nuts inside.It is so so colorful

Helene said...

What a feast! I love the shiny look of that Baklava! B. asks for Kibbeh once a month...I have got a great supplier in the little middle eastern joint next to work. i just can't find good tasty lamb (of if I pay a fortune) but he always does...so he's my dealer!

Gattina Cheung said...

your baklava is GORGEOUS!!! I like anything with Mediterrean touch, I don't mind handling phyllo sheets, but perhaps I have a terrible sweet tooth, or phyllo is practically tasteless... maybe I sprinkle sugar between the layers too??!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I've been meaning to make baklava forever, Brilynn - it looks so beautiful.

Oh, and I have to say you're showing off. ;)

Rachel Rubin said...

First of all, I'll make sure to note that everything looks awesome. But I can't help but thinking "you must have a really sharp knife." If I made the baklava it would come out fine from the baking and I'd ruin it upon cutting.

Anonymous said...

i love your baklava photos!! i just made baklava for SHF 30, but your photos make me swoon...