Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Baklava ala "It's All Greek to Me" for Cook the Books Club

Before I entered the world of caregiving for my folks and the world of blogging, I had started a club that I called "The Cook and Book Club".  There were 10 of us in the group and each month one of us would assign a book, we would all read it and then the person who assigned the book would host the meeting and feed us all a meal that was inspired by the book we read.  Our group lasted for a loooooong while.  I think about 9 years.  People moved away, got married, had babies, became caregivers, changed jobs and through it all we would meet each month and eat and gab, sometimes about the book but more often just about what had been going on in our lives.  I miss that monthly meeting very much.

cookthebooksSo, needless to say, I was extremely excited when I was invited to join the Cook the Books club here in blogland.  It is much the same as my club was except that we each cook something inspired by the book and then we meet each month and share our thoughts and recipes.  It is fun and you should join us.  This current selection was for July/August.  I read it in one sitting so you have plenty of time to jump in.  You can learn how by going to the About page and the Guidelines page.

Our host this month is Simone of Briciole, and she chose "The Wedding Bees" by Sarah Kate Lynch.

As I said, I read this book in one sitting, which lets you know just how much I loved it.  It is a love story with absolutely no smut included.  It is the story of Sugar, a girl running from her past and a dysfunctional family who moves from place to place as chosen by her honey bees, a legacy from her grandfather who was the only constant normal in her life.  As she moves from place to place she meets other lost souls and cares for them, developing close relationships that she did not have with her family.  This book starts with Sugar moving into an apartment building in a shady area of New York City.  The apartment complex is filled with a conglomeration of people suffering from their own shattered lives and quirky personalities.  This book will make you laugh and make you cry and it is well worth a trip to the library or the price of purchasing it.

The Wedding Bees is filled with tons of delicious food all described in mouthwatering detail.  The dish I decided to make was Baklava, a dish that showed up a few times in the story.  The baklava in the story was made with pistachios and sounded absolutely delectable.

Once I decided on Baklava, I knew there was only one place to go for the recipe and that was in a cookbook that I won from Debbie Matenopoulos called "It's all Greek to Me".  I have taken several recipes from this book, including Roast Chicken, Greek Meatballs and Pilafi.  All of these recipes were winners so I feel safe assuming that means all of the recipes included in the cookbook will be just as wonderful.

When I went to Debbie's recipe I found that her Baklava is made with walnuts instead of pistachios and that she cuts her Baklava prior to baking it.  It looked lovely and sounded scrumptious so I followed her directions to a T.

I placed the nuts, cinnamon and sugar in the food processor and pulsed until finely chopped.

After baking drench with the syrup.
I was worried about clean up but it came off easily.
Make sure you butter the seam of the roll.
You can see that I forgot that step on one of my rolls.

Not as gorgeous as Debbie's but not bad for my first try and they tasted perfect!

from It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos

1 1/4 lbs Walnuts (about 5 c.) finely chopped
2 T. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 of a  (1 lb) pkg. phyllo dough sheets, thawed (You need 18 sheets)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 c. honey
1 (2") piece of lemon peel
2 T. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325*

Mix together nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  (I placed the walnut halves, sugar and cinnamon into my food processor and pulsed until finely chopped and left them in that bowl).  

Working quickly, and keeping the unused phyllo covered, lay out 1 sheet of phyllo onto your counter. Brush with melted butter.  Cover with  second sheet, brush with butter and sprinkle with 1/2 c. of the nut mixture.  Repeat this process with twice more using 2 sheets of phyllo and 1/2 c. of nut mixture each time.  Starting at the long end, gently roll the phyllo sheets up into a tight, fat roll.  Brush the seam with butter to seal.  Repeat this entire process twice more making 3 rolls.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the rolls into 1" slices and lay the slices, cut side down onto 2 large ungreased, rimmed, baking sheets.  (I lined mine with parchment).  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and using tongs flip the baklava over and bake for another 20 minutes or until cooked through, golden and flaky.

While the baklava is baking, combine the sugar, water, honey and lemon peel in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over med high heat stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice and simmer for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Remove the Baklava from the oven and slowly pour the syrup over the pieces while still on the rimmed baking sheet. (I used a ladle).  Let stand 1 hour to soak up the syrup. (I flipped mine halfway through the soaking period).  

Transfer to individual cupcake liners and serve immediately or cover and keep at room temperature for up to a week.  Print Recipe

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  1. That sounds like a WONDERFUL read and a DELICIOUS recipe!! Yumm!!

  2. Yummy. Sounds like a good book!

  3. Great job with the baklava. I am glad you liked the book and also glad that our virtual club allows you to continue a tradition you so enjoyed. Thank you for contributing to this edition of Cook the Books.

  4. I often think I'd like to join a book club (in the flesh:), but dislike driving myself anywhere at night these days, so our club is perfect. Your baklava sounds so perfect as well. Want some now!

    1. It was delicious Claudia and I am so glad that we have such a great group to join with.

  5. Saving this for my FiL who loves the stuff. We even bought this for him one year instead of a birthday cake. I love your original CTB club. How much fun was that?

    1. It was fun Debra. That's why I was so excited when I was invited to join here. I love this club.

  6. Those look delicious Wendy! I loved the book too!

  7. Hi Wendy, a while ago you stopped by my blog and mentioned this culinary challenge inspired by books, similar to the linky I run on my blog. I bought The wedding bees, and am half way through with it. Unlike you, I struggle with it, as I usually avoid chick-lit as a genre. I am considering joining in with your linky, but cannot find when the deadline is, and also where to add a link once the recipe post goes live? Thank you! Could you maybe reply to me on Twitter, I am @maximka25

    1. I am responding to you on twitter but I'm afraid we are on to the next book now.

  8. Well baklava is a labor of love so more power to you!

  9. Your baklava is just gorgeous Wendy and perfect for the book.

    I am very delinquent getting around to see all the posts this round (and in welcoming you to Cook the Books!) but I am so happy to have you reading and cooking along with us. ;-)


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