Archive for March, 2010


Easter Lily from Neil 

I decided to make baklava to bring to our 13-Bedar picnic last Saturday.  I’ve never made baklava before and decided for search for a recipe online. After browsing through several recipes I decided to go with Alton Brown’s below. One of my biggest changes to the recipe was to reduce the amount of cinnamon and add cardamom instead of allspice. I really don’t think cinnamon is the flavor you want to have here and the amount in the below recipe really overpowers everything. I remember baklava tasting like cardamom and rose water, which by the way are some of my favorite flavors. Here is the original recipe with my changes in blue. Unfortunately the pictures turned out blurry.
Prep time: 2 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
Level: Intermediate
Yield: Makes 24 large pieces


For the filling:

  • 1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground  (I just used a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon since I don’t like my baklava to have lots of cinnamon.)
  • 15 to 20 whole allspice berries I substituted the allspice with cardamom because that’s the flavor I remember in baklava.
  • 6 ounces blanched almonds (I changed this to 9 ounces)
  • 6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts (I changed this to 9 ounces)
  • 6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio (I changed this to 3 ounces and used it top the baklava instead of the filling)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (I don’t think you should add water to the rose water, you would probably need about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
  • 8 ounces clarified unsalted butter, melted

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/4 cups honey
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I took this out completely and added a little more cardamom)
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel (I used a lemon peel since I didn’t have orange)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.

Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.

Combine the water and rose water in a small spritz bottle and set aside.

Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch metal pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly. Spritz thoroughly with the rose water. Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts and spritz with rose water. Repeat with another 6 sheets of phyllo, butter, remaining nuts, and rose water. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. I cut my triangles before placing in the over since I read it was easier this way. My total cooking time was about 50 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cut into 28 squares. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours (I waited 15 minutes)before adding the syrup.

Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick.

After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. sprinkle with ground pistachios. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.


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Yes! This is my second Iranian post. This is perfect since the Persian New Year was Saturday, March 20th. You can read all about Nowruz on Wikipedia. This is my mom’s 7 sin, which is the traditional new year set up.

7 Sin

On Sunday mom and I decided to make kotlet, which are tasty fried beef and potato patties. The pic is not that great. My photography skills really don’t do this dish any justice.

New 062


Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
Level: Intermediate
Yield: makes about 40 kutlets

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cooked, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, peeled and grated
1 pound ground beef (I did organic, 10% fat)
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp of some other kind of spice that you like for instance lemon pepper or a steak seasoning

You’ll want to boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes so they are slightly cooked. Then you can peel and grate the potatoes and combine them with all the other ingredients (you want the mixture to be heavy on the potatoes). Mix all the ingredients really well with your hands.  Then start to make small patties about 2 inches long and 1 inch across. Heat a large skillet with about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup oil and place enough patties in the hot oil to fill the bottom of the pan. It’s very helpful to have two people doing this since you need to do it in batches. On person can make the patties, while the other flips and removes the meat as it’s cooked. You need to brown each side of the patty and set aside on a paper towel to remove access oil.

You can serve this dish in pita bread with tomato and cucumber slices or eat it with a side salad.

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Thai Salad



Thai Salad

I took a Thai cooking class a couple of  weeks ago and this was one of the recipes we learned. The instructor didn’t provide us with actual measurements so here is what I tried at home. I have to admit, I didn’t think this would taste that great at first, but once I tried it I was hooked. This recipe is fresh and the flavors are wonderful together.

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 15 minutes
Level: Easy
Yield: makes 2-3 servings


  • 4 fried eggs
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 fresh Thia chili pepper (remove seeds if you want less spice)
  • Picked carrots and radishes (recipe below)
  • Cilantro to garnish


  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (don’t skip this, it’s really the most flavorful part)
  • Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and you’ve got dressing

Picked carrots and radishes:

  • 1 cup carrot, julienned
  • 1 cup white radish, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • Cover and marinade for 2 hours

Start by frying the eggs, over well and set aside. Chop all your vegetables and combine in a bowl with the chopped eggs, and pickled veggies. Top with cilantro and sauce, toss to combine. It’s that easy. Really the hardest part is chopping all the veggies.

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Lasagna Slice

Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 70 minutes
Level: Intermediate to Hard
Yield: makes 8-10 servings

This recipe is adapted from Baking and Books.


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (I cut them into small cubes)
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided use
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided use
  • 2 15oz containers of ricotta (I almost felt like this was too much, you could go with slightly less)
  • 4 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided use
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan, divided use
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 biscotti cookies (not sweet ones, we used almond & walnut biscotti with a hint of anise flavoring) (I skipped this all together)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 10oz package no-boil lasagna noodles (I used fresh lasagna that I purchased from Pastaworks)
  • (I also added about one cup of toasted hazelnuts)

For béchamel:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment: 9 x 13 inch baking dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onion and cook over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Raise heat to high and continue to cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. (I didn’t remove and set aside; I just added the squash and herbs to this pot)

In the same pot, add the sliced squash, vegetable broth, 3 tablespoons of thyme and 3 tablespoons sage. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

While squash is cooking, in a medium bowl combine ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan and the remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggs and mix well. Set aside.

When squash is done, cool slightly and remove 3/4 cup of the excess liquid (1 cup if there is an excessive amount of liquid). Transfer to food processor. (I used my handy dandy immersion blender; what an amazing gadget!) Break the biscotti in half and add to the processor. Blend until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking frequently. Whisk in the nutmeg. This sauce is called “béchamel” and it’s done when it coats the back of a spoon. (Make the bechamel just before assembling the lasagna, if it sits too long it will develop a skin).

Now it is time to assemble the lasagna. Coat the bottom of your baking dish with 1/2 of the béchamel. Then layer the rest of the lasagna as follows:

  • 1/3 of the ricotta mixture
  • Noodles (make sure they are not overlapping)
  • 1/3 of the squash mixture
  • 1/2 of the onions
  • 1/3 of the remaining mozzarella
  • 1/3 of the ricotta mixture
  • (1/2 of the hazelnuts)
  • Noodles
  • 1/3 of the squash mixture
  • 1/2 of the onions
  • 1/3 of the ricotta mixture
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella
  • Rest of the béchamel
  • Noodles
  • Remaining squash mixture
  • (1/2 of the hazelnuts)

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Then remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and starting to color a bit.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

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This recipe was an absolute hit. It’s not too light but not too heavy, it’s just a perfect balance of smooth chocolaty cheesecake. The mixture of caramel and chocolate is to die for. The recipe was a little intimidating at first but easier than I originally thought. That could be because Neil was helping me out.

Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 45 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Yield: makes 8-10 servings

This recipe is adapted from Gourmet.


  • 1 crumb-crust recipe (recipe below)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Make crumb crust as directed in below recipe.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook sugar in a dry heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork (or wooden spoon), until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove from heat and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in sour cream.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy, then beat in chocolate mixture on low speed. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 55 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. Cake will continue to set as it cools. Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours (I only chilled mine for 5 hours) . Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Crumb Crust Recipe


  • 1 1/2 cups (5 oz) finely ground graham crackers or cookies such as chocolate or vanilla wafers or gingersnaps
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.

saturday dinner 006

saturday dinner 007

saturday dinner 013

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This recipe is from another one of my fave food blogs, 101 Cookbooks. It’s easy and the flavors mesh nicely together. I’ve made some slight modifications to the original.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Level: Easy
Yield: 3 servings


  • 2 tablespoon butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • fine grain sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small onion or a couple shallots, sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine, if you don’t want to cook up a pot of dried chickpeas)
  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu (cut into bite size squares)
  • 1 cup of chopped kale (you’ll want to remove the stem of the kale)
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon


Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter/olive oil In a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in a big pinch of salt, the onion, and chickpeas. Saute until the chickpeas are deeply golden and crusty. Stir in the tofu and cook just until the tofu is heated through, just a minute or so. Stir in the kale and cook for one minute more. Remove everything from the skillet onto a large plate and set aside. In the same skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of butter/olive oil, add the zucchini and saute until it starts to take on a bit of color, two or three minutes. Add the chickpea mixture back to the skillet, and remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, taste, and season with a bit more salt if needed. Turn out onto a platter and serve family style.

Note: I’m not a big fan of tofu and I didn’t think it was that great in this recipe. I think this recipe would taste just as good without.You could probably even serve it over rice if you wanted to. The rice and beans will make a complete protein.

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Salmon and Wild Rice

This was a super easy dinner that I threw together one night. I’ve been trying to eat more fish, but I’m just not a big fan of the stuff. My mom always makes salmon this way and I really like it.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place a piece of salmon skin side down on a baking sheet. Top the salmon with olive oil, lemon juice and capers. Place in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes. That’s it for the salmon!

For the rice I made a combination of wild and brown rice.

  • 1/2 cup of wild rice
  • 1/2 cup of brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 tbls butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Wild rice requires a 3 to 1 ratio with liquid while brown rice requires a 2 to 1 ratio. Wild rice also takes slightly longer to cook. Therefore I started with the wild rice and all the chicken stock (also the salt and butter). Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes before you add the brown rice. Then cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is almost done. At this point you’ll want to add the frozen peas. Once the liquid has cooked down, your rice should be done.

That’s it! Super easy, right?

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