If you know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em, you’re halfway to enjoying today’s food holiday already. November 17 is National Baklava Day!
It’s also National Homemade Bread Day. A tempting holiday to celebrate, especially given the fact that Tara makes a really good beer bread from scratch that I can never seem to get enough of. But baklava is more exotic, and with our food challenge rapidly winding down – seriously, only 44 days left! – we want to take advantage of some of the more unique foods we might not otherwise eat again for a long time. Or ever. So, baklava it is.
This classic Mediterranean dessert is made with layers of phyllo dough, nuts, butter, and sugar, and topped with syrup or honey. Assyrians have been baking similar sweet layered pastries since the 8th century B.C., though the exact origin of baklava itself is in dispute. Even the name itself is a mystery. It may come from the Mongolian root baγla meaning “to tie, wrap up, pile up” while baklağı and baklağu point to possible Turkish roots. Indeed, the oldest known recipe was found in a food and health manual printed in Turkey in 1330. Other claims include a Mesopotamian, Persian, or Byzantine background. This is just one of those foods that we’ll never really know for sure how or why it came about, but we can be thankful for because it’s so stinkin’ good regardless.
I searched for “baklava” and “Portland” on Yelp and got a bunch of good hits. After skimming through the reviews, we settled on a Greek deli called Ozzie’s. Grabbed some gyros for lunch on Saturday, and brought back baklava. It was wonderful – crispy, chewy, and sweet.
- Last Baklava (hicamsbyecams.wordpress.com)
- Baklava draws crowds (toledoblade.com)
- Mmm Mmm…Baklava (feastingwithfriendsblog.com)
- Baklava (natashaseats.wordpress.com)
You’re going to flip over today’s food holiday. The 5th of July is National Apple Turnover Day!
A turnover is nothing more than a portable pie – one that you can take with you wherever you go. How convenient is that? They date back to the end of the 18th Century; in 1798, the Oxford English Dictionary defined them as A kind of tart in which the fruit is laid on one half of the rolled out paste, and the other half turned over it. Turnovers can be either sweet or savory; that same year, Sporting Magazine wrote, It is occasionally used for savoury fillings, such as meat, but a sweet fruit filling is the norm, and…most turnovers are in fact apple turnovers. Alright, then. Most recipes call for tart apples like Granny Smiths, which help to offset the sweetness of the other ingredients. As for the dough, it can be made from homemade or store bought pie or puff pastry, depending on how lazy (or talented) you are.
To celebrate, we picked up some apple turnovers from the Fred Meyer bakery. They were flaky, fruity, and worthy of celebration!
March 2nd we celebrate yet another pie. Two months into this challenge, and we are already feeling all pied out. But there are more to come! Lots more: there are 20 different pie holidays this year. This means 5% of the time, we’re celebrating pie. Fortunately, a bunch of those holidays overlap with other food days, ’cause no matter how you slice it – that’s a lot of pie. Today is one of my faves, though: banana cream pie!
And I am not alone. In 1951, the U.S. Armed Forces conducted a survey asking soldiers which pie was their favorite. The top answer had to be censored (damn soldiers and their one-track minds!), but the top non-dirty answer was banana cream pie. This led the government to conduct a top-secret study to determine if banana cream pie could be altered to create superhuman strength in the soldiers who ate it. Sheesh…too much Captain America on the brain for some people! What a waste of time. Everybody knows that it’s canned spinach that gives you strength.
Cream pies are also a favorite of comedians, who use them as a gimmick to throw in people’s faces. I always thought this was a waste of a good pie, until I read that most of these pies are really just tins filled with whipped cream or shaving cream.
What a waste of whipped cream and shaving cream!
For today’s challenge, we went to the ever-reliable Shari’s, which we are now officially renaming Pie Central. We bought, and shared, a slice of banana cream pie. As you might have guessed, it was heavenly! Those soldiers had the right idea.
- My mom’s banana cream pie (theback40.org)
- Banana Cream Pie (meggieskitchen.wordpress.com)