I recently spent time in the Middle East with friends who have relocated there. I saw some of the most beautiful sites my eyes have ever seen. Experienced heat comparable to being roasted in an oven, and tasted foods that made my pallet rejoice. Of all the things I took in over my long journey, what I miss most is the food. Sure we have local restaurants that claim to be the real thing- Trust me, once you have had the real thing, the local restaurants will never quench the hunger. I don’t know if it is because the ingredients were local, or if there was something in the water, what I do know is that nothing compares to falafel outside of the Damascus gate in Jerusalem. Kenifa in the Ballad, Hummus off of Rainbow Road in Amman, even the soda was better overseas (this may be because… A) I don’t usually drink soda. B) that was one of the few cold beverage choices).
Since being home I have tried my hand at recreating the delicacies I can’t seem to find here….. My lebnah, a fresh cheese made from yogurt, is to die for. Falafel, made with the special tool I picked up in the old part of Jerusalem, good, but could use work. Baklava – Well lets just say, in a blind tasting, I would win. But lets be honest, it takes forever to make! Layers upon layers of phyllo dough, butter, and just the right amount of the nut/cinnamon mixture. Repeated several dozen times to obtain the perfect ratio of filling to dough. Once that is assembled it must be cut prior to baking. When the cut baklava is in the oven you need to start on your syrup mixture to ladle over the baklava after is as reached its radiant golden color. Standing at the stove top, stirring the sweet concoction waiting for the magic to happen, you can’t step away or the sugars will surely burn. Here comes the worst part. When the baking is done, after you soak the pastry in the syrup, you have to wait for it to set before you can eat it! Now trust me on this one. I have tasted the baklava in every phase of the process. I have gotten wicked sugar burns from being impatient. It is worth the wait.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making it yourself I suggest you just get this Holiday Baklava Assortment. Trust me – After all I am an expert.