Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kofte, Baklava and the Search for Harissa

For me, the ideal date night with my husband is when we go out to a fabulous restaurant and order like we are rich.  Because we live on a budget these date nights are few and far between, but the food is always worth it, even if I have to quell my husband's sticker shock.  These meals can cost up to 120 bucks, which in our world is just below my average weekly grocery budget.  That is just a small price to pay for some fabulous food and one on one time with my husband.

  Almost two weeks ago, my husband and I went out on one of these dates.  This date night was what finally inspired me to start my food blog, an idea I have toyed with for years.  I question whether the friends on my Facebook really get as excited as I do over food, and if they get sick of me posting about it so much. Sometimes 140 characters isn't enough space for me to express my food love.  So you can all thank the wonderful folks at Troy Mediterranean Restaurant in Savannah for finally giving me the push I needed to start writing almost daily about one of my great loves in life.  They are also the ones who inspired the recipes I will be sharing in this post since our dinner last night was based on the scrumptious dinner we had there.

Troy is a small Greek/Turkish restaurant located in a non-descript shopping mall right around the corner from our house.  I wonder if people realize the delicious food they are missing while driving past it on Abercorn .  We had went there two years ago for Valentine's day and I think my husband has been craving their lamb chops ever since (a meat I have yet to tackle).  So when it came down to us decided what we wanted to do for date night this past month, we chose to go there again, knowing we were in for a real treat.

When we go out on these date nights we usually order 3-4 courses and literally pig out.  That night at Troy was no exception, we started off with kofte and a salad that we shared.  Both these items were off the specials and I think I ordered them to make the waiter feel better about having to list off the 10+ special list for that night. I had never heard of kofte before that night,  surprising to me since I used to frequent a Turkish place in Staten Island before we moved to Georgia.  But God, I am glad I now know what this funny sounding food is.  They are turkish meatballs that are grilled and served with tzatziki sauce.  Troy's kofte were made with beef and lamb fat, so good that they had me using bread to sop up the drippings from the plate. For entree, Mike had his lamb chops and I had seafood risotto which were both excellent.  What topped of the night besides the kofte was my dessert, homemade baklava.

Having grown up in NYC, I grew up with baklava, whether at the Greek owned diners my parents frequently took us to the times I would go to Astoria (a huge Greek neighborhood located in Queens) and visit local Greek bakeries for a piece.  Baklava is actually a Turkish dessert with variations being made in Serbia all the way to Armenia and Uzbekhistan.  It is butter brushed phyllo dough layered with nuts, baked  and once cooled, a honey syrup is poured on top.  Troy's baklava was out of this world but now after making my own, I think mine takes the cake with Troy a close second.  It is buttery nutty sweet goodness that is heaveny.  After writing this, I think I just might have a piece..

So after having this awe inspiring meal, the next day I came home and searched for recipes on the internet.  The kofte recipe I will be posting is from an internet site.  The baklava recipe is from my friend Rob Callas in Staten Island.  He is Greek and when he saw I had linked a recipe to baklava from an on-line source he went to his aunt and rallied for her baklava recipe since he wanted me to have an "authentic" version.  I totally understand this feeling of food pride, Greeks just like Italians live through their  cuisine.  I am especially grateful to Rob for doing this for me because this recipe has now become my go to baklava recipe.

So yesterday, I had it planned to make this turkish inspired dinner.  Mike was at school all day and I try to ensure he comes home to a really good meal after 8 hours of classes.  So during Nate's nap I decided to start my baklava, but sometimes I am a real ditz and forgot that I needed to let it defrost.  So as it defrosted, I made my tzatziki sauce, this is one sauce that really needs to come together flavor-wise before serving.  I also advanced 4 levels in Angry Birds on my IPad so believe me, the time wasn't wasted.  Once the phyllo was defrosted I started working on the baklava.  Before I even get into the recipe, I am just going to put it out there that this dish is not health conscious at all.  I double checked Rob's aunt's recipe and saw it called for a pound of butter, melted. Since I am not Paula Deen, I shook my head but still proceeded along.  I have always worried about working with phyllo dough since it is fragile and can dry out easily.  Now that I conquered that fear, it is definitely easier than I thought (is making spanokopita in my future?).  Baklava is definitely a forgiving dish, any pieces that were cracked got smeared with butter and another piece of phyllo was put on top.

I baked the baklava before I left to pick up my daughter for school.  Before leaving, I placed a shoebox around the casserole pan filled with baklava goodness. Our Boxer, Rex, has been known to get on the counter and eat whatever food was left out.  This dog ate 6 cupcakes, wrappers and all, one night so I definitely wasn't trusting him around my baklava.  I made a list of last minute items I needed for dinner and I questioned if I could even find harissa in Savannah, since the kofte recipe called for  middle eastern pepper paste aka harissa.  After getting Lil, I took the kiddies to World Market (one of my favorite, favorite stores) in search for harissa.  They didn't have it.  We moved on to Publix (my favorite grocery store) in search of the elusive harissa.  Nothing.  Out of desperation, I picked up a tube of chili pepper puree and called it a day, I even had an out-of-commissary experience with a senior citizen, making me reevaluate my thoughts on old people and grocery stores. We finished and and rushed home, I had been gone over 1.5 hours and I imagined my baklava half-eaten on the floor with Rex passed out next to it. I even imagined how I was going to salvage the baklava if it met it's end at Rex's paws.

When we got home, the baklava was still intact so it didn't even phase me that Rex had gotten into the left over phyllo dough I had forgotten on the counter.  I was just happy to be home with a baklava in one piece.  I prepared dinner and it was a smash hit with the kids and though my kofte wasn't as tasty as Troy's (Mike begs to differ), you know it's a good sign when your husband tells you that you are going to make him fat.  After the pieces of baklava Mike has eaten, he just might be right.
coffee and baklava, the lunch of champions

No comments:

Post a Comment