It’s funny how sometimes on certain holidays, you need a holiday from your holiday. You know the ones, where you’re excited to be there so you feel like you need to do and see so much that when you get back you’re exhausted, but in a good way. I always aim to be like a sponge on trips, just soaking up all my new adventure has to offer.
This trip was a mixture of beautiful and extremely hot. Having grown up in Chicago I feel that I’m always ill-equipped for warm holidays. I just simply can’t get a handle on heat, with you cold you add layers. When it’s hot, there’s only so much clothing you can remove before you’re dancing along the fine line of publicly nudity. Embraced the heat has its perks such as being able to see ruins up close and personal. I highly encourage it if you get the opportunity, especially in countries like Turkey because they tend not to regulate as we do in the united states so you can interact with history much more by going and touching, sitting, exploring.
One thing I wasn’t really expecting was the cuisine, at points it felt like I was on a kebab tour. Lunch, kebab. Dinner, kebab. I mean while I know a bit of that is my own fault but when ordering in a different language but seeing pictures of brains on the menu I found myself slightly weary of being too “adventurous”. That said they do make a mean cup of coffee. Turkish coffee is similar to espresso but it’s thicker and more meaty. It’s often served with sugar and garnished with a tasty piece of turkish delight.
My favorite bit of Turkish cuisine though is going to have to be the baklava. (Although I swear they put crack in the rice, it was SO addicting.) The perfect harmony of rich nutty flavors that in a creamy consistency like pecan pie filling, sandwiched by phyllo dough, served up with vanilla ice cream with a ground pistachio garnish makes my heart go pitter patter.
For the Syrup:
1 3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cinnamon stick
For the Filling:
10oz Pistachios (shelled & toasted)
16oz Walnut (toasted)
2 sticks of butter (melted)
I used store bought phyllo dough from the Fillo Factory.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and make the syrup. Add the sugars, lemon juice, water and cinnamon sticks to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then let cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Until it’s about 2 cups. Set aside and let cool completely.
2. Grind the toasted nuts in a food processor. A few light pulses should do the job. You don’t want to overgrind and release the oils. Set them aside for now.
3. Start assembling. Lay a sheet of dough that covers the bottom of a 9x13in pan. Brush the sheet with the melted butter; repeat for 8 layers. Then add a thin covering of the ground walnuts and sprinkle the walnut layer with the ground pistachios. Add 8 more layers, brushing each with the butter in between. Add another nut layer. Finish with 8 more layers of dough. Sprinkle the top with some pistachios
4. Cut the uncooked baklava into 4-6 rows and then turn and cut again on the diagonal.
5. Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Re-run a knife through the cuts. Pour the cooled syrup over it slowly, making sure to get a good coverage. Let it cool completely.