Okay I’m not proud of the title to this post. But I haven’t written since last semester so I’m just warming up. Speaking of things I haven’t done since last semester – I took a little hiatus from teaching as I was paranoid about my knee injury and now I’m teaching today for the first time from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR. It’ll be rough around the edges but I’m pumped to get back into it.
Today I’m hoping to explore Natarajasana, also known as dancer pose. Strangely enough, none of my yoga books talk about this pose so I’m a little skeptical about how traditional this pose is. The one thing I know is it’s challenging for beginners to accept is how they look in this pose. Usually we want to look like this:
When it’s great to look like this:
But really, none of that is important. What’s important is the long lower back, open chest, and thigh stretch. If you feel those things working, then great. I definitely don’t look like the first picture, so you don’t have to either. Fears abated? It’s all about, santosha (contentment): enjoying here not there.
Meanwhile, I created one of my favorite dishes a couple weeks ago. The friendly, exotic, heartwarming pistachio baklava. I borrowed the recipe from this website with a few tweaks.
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rosewater
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
12 ounces raw unsalted, untoasted pistachios
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, and cooled slightly
1 pound frozen phyllo, thawed
cardamom and cinnamon to taste
To prepare the sugar syrup, combine sugar, water, rosewater, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon in small saucepan and bring to full boil over medium-high heat. After everything dissolves, move to a small glass bowl and set aside to cool while making the baklava. (Apparently you can do this 4 days ahead of time and just leave it).
For the nut filling, pulse the pistachios in the food processor until very finely chopped (coarse sand!). Add the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and pinch of salt and toss to combine or grind a little more. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the ground nuts to be used later as a garnish on the finished baklava.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Hopefully your phyllo dough will be 13″x9″, but if not, cut it so it fits your baking dish. TRUE FACT: Phyllo dough is insane to work with. It’s highly breakable so be wary of handling the phyllo dough. If it breaks, fear not, you can still make disjointed layers that look artisanal. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying and cracking. Brush a 13 by 9-inch glass baking pan with some of the melted butter.
For assembly of the layers, it’s important to note here that you should save the best-fitting, most intact sheets for the top and bottom layers of the baklava. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking pan, and brush the sheet until completely coated in melted butter. Repeat with 7 more well intact phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, until you have 8 phyllo sheets stacked on each other.
Evenly distribute about 1 cup of the nuts over the 8 phyllo layers. Cover the nut layer with a phyllo sheet, and dab butter all over it (if you try brushing it on, the phyllo will slip all over the place). Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, for a total of 6 phyllo sheets on top of the nut layer. Repeat the layering process with another 1 cup of the ground nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo and butter, and the last 1 cup of nuts. Finish off the layering with 8 to 10 sheets of good, intact phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter except for the final top sheet. Use the palm of your hands to press down on the layers, starting at the center and pressing outwards to remove any air bubbles. Then, drizzle 4 tablespoons of butter over the top layer and brush to cover completely. (so I actually didn’t have as many layers as this paragraph suggest, but just go by ear and figure out how you can evenly stack your phyllo dough layers and salvage the pistachio blend).
Using a good, sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds—I found it easiest to make one long cut from one corner of the pan to the other and then making parallel diagonal cuts every couple inches on either side. I then repeated this on the other side of the baklava, to make complete diamonds.
Bake in preheated oven until lightly golden, about 50 minutes to an hour. Once removed from the oven, immediately pour all of the reserved syrup over all of the cuts lines and then over the surface of the baklava. Garnish each piece of baklava with a sprinkling of the reserved ground pistachios. Cool to room temperature, for about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hours. (I didn’t actually end up doing the whole 8 hours because my friends mauled it, but it still tasted amazing. So I’m curious to see what happens after 8 hours). Apparently stores for a couple weeks!!