Diana Abu-Jaber read her essay for Under the Sun about her family’s heritage of hosting guests during the holidays. Here are a few recipes you might want to add to your holiday table. One is more elaborate–perhaps for a host to serve. The other is super simple–perhaps something a guest can contribute to a party. These recipes are from Abu-Jaber’s memoir, The Language of Baklava (Pantheon Books).
For when you need to serenade someone. (Recipes reprinted courtesy of Pantheon Books.)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Splash of lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 pound walnuts
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 box phyllo dough, defrosted
1 pound butter, clarified (melted and with the top layer skimmed off)
In a saucepan, boil all the syrup ingredients until the mixture turns clear. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator to cool.
In a food processor, grind together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon to a fine, sandy consistency. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Carefully unfold the phyllo dough, making sure not to crack or tear it. Keep it covered with a piece of waxed paper to help prevent it from drying out.
Butter the bottom of a shallow baking pan. You can also use a cookie sheet that has at least an inch-high lip. Carefully unpeel the first sheet of phyllo and lay it flat and smooth in the bottom of the pan. Brush with the clarified butter.
Continue layering sheets of phyllo dough and brushing each sheet with butter until you’ve finished half the dough.
Spread the nuts and sugar mixture over the dough.
Place another sheet of dough on the mixture and butter it. Continue layering and buttering dough until you’ve used up the rest.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut through the baklava in long, straight lines to form diamonds or squares (about 2 inches long).
Bake for about 50 minutes or until golden brown. Pour the cooled syrup over the hot baklava. Eat when ready!
For when everything is falling apart and there’s no time to cook.
1 cup cracked wheat (bulgur, fine-grain)
2 small bunches flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Wash the bulgur and let it soak in water to cover for 1/2 hour. Drain thoroughly and add the vegetables.
Add the oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Cover, and let the tabbouleh marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.