Zucchini almond gratin… & the pursuit of real food & community

Our childhoods are made of joy (hopefully), sorrows, regrets, losses, traumas small (and sometimes big). They’re also made of unsuspected blessings we didn’t have the tools (or wisdom, or distance) to appreciate at the time. As an adult and especially as a parent, I have found myself sorting through these childhood experiences, processing, understanding, accepting what needed to be processed, understood or accepted (a lot of that goes on while I chop, fry or whisk). A sort of spring cleaning, decluttering of the soul, if you will.

So there are some things about the way I grew up that I am only now grateful for. Things that were just part of my environment in France, that were in the order of things where and when I grew up, in a small town in Normandy in the 80’s. Things that were just the norm then and there, but that have become the object of a deliberate pursuit today.

Like real food, for example. A trendy topic if there ever was one. Real food was just regular food when I grew up. Processed foods were minimal, artisan products were the norm. Going to the market, eating seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as meats and fish (a lot of meats and fish are seasonal in France, scallops for example can only be fished between October to May), from small local producers… all that was just the way it was. There was no other alternative, really. Only now do I realize what a blessing it  was.

Or things like a sense of community. It wasn’t as explicit as that. We lived in a small town, walked most places, knew the baker, butcher and fishmonger enough to have a chat with them and know their kids’ names. I never really saw the benefits of all that then.

Now that I am a mom in Los Angeles, whose toddler is being offered junky popcorn from CVS in art class, it’s a whole different ball game. But there’s a lot to be said about creating these things we value for ourselves deliberately.

This week, my husband, my son and I went to our little neighborhood farmer’s market. It’s close enough for us to walk to, through a residential neighborhood, where I noticed the purple jacaranda trees blooming and raining purple onto the streets. It reminded me that the first anniversary of this blog is coming up in a couple of weeks. I can remember taking a picture of the purple leaves and talking about the farmer’s market in one of my first posts. My life follows the rhythm of the seasons again. There’s some calm serenity to that, in stark contrast with an anxious-ridden sand-through-fingers sense of time passing.

As soon as we arrive at the market, we notice a buzz, a hustle bustle we haven’t felt in a few months. The trepidation of the warmer season. We always stop by our friend Sam’s organic fruit stand first. Sam is kindness incarnate. He always takes time to cut up a piece of fruit for Pablo. He has a soft spot in his heart for Pablo. And it’s mutual. Pablo looks forward to going to see Sam at the farmers’ market.

So there, at Sam’s stand, is where I start to get very excited (and proceed to flood Instagram with shots of produce!). Stone fruits are here. Tender delicate apricots, white nectarines so sweet they make the apricots taste bland. Cherries.

We stay there longer than we need to, just to baste in the warmth of the moment. Pablo munches on a nectarine, the juice dripping from his chin, peeks at the cherries. People pass by and smile.

Then we’re off to our favorite tomato and vegetable stand. The first tomatoes grown outdoors are here. And fava beans, and zucchini. It’s held by a family farm, a couple and their two grown sons. They throw in a couple of free tomatoes and fresh basil. Last time, they handed Pablo a bunch of carrots he proudly held and walked with.

Pablo has become almost famous there. He feels at home. He makes his stops. Grabs an ice cube or two (or three) from the fish guy. Stares down one of the produce stands for samples. Grabs an olive from the Greek vendor.

On our way out, we notice a new stand. A bakery held by an Armenian family. They laugh as they see Pablo run with abandon and hop like a bunny.  We chat and they tell us they mill their own wheat with a handcrafted stone mill they brought back from Switzerland. I can’t wait to go visit their bakery. The bread is beautiful, artisanal. New friends.

Then it’s getting late, it’s bath time and soon dinner time, and we’ve gotten everything we need. But we don’t want to leave quite yet. This half hour spent there, is a half hour of happiness. And real food. And community. We don’t take it for granted for a minute. Well, Pablo takes it for granted, as he should. To him, that’s the norm. He’ll appreciate it some day. In 20 or 30 years. But right now, it is contributing to who he is inside, and who he will become.

And as we walk home, I feel a moment of pride. Of contentment. I am able to provide this environment for my son, here and now. That’s my job. Providing him with the right environment, and then trust him to thrive in it. Or to struggle in it, as he inevitably must. But an environment where he feels safe, loved, trusted, with a sense of community, and real food.

This morning, we ate the boysenberries we got at Sam’s stand, and they seemed even tastier with the image of Sam’s smile in our minds. Last night for dessert, Pablo and I shared some plain yogurt and an apricot, two spoons in one bowl. His little chubby hand grabbed the apricot half, he looked at it, then looked at me and said, smiling, “Sam!” before biting into it wholeheartedly.

So among the exciting new produce of the season, we came across some zucchini, which we love, as simply as just cold, boiled with mint vinaigrette, or in a terrine, or in a ratatouille.

I was overdue to share a gratin with you here. Gratins are a family favorite for vegetables. This one was scrumptious, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Zucchini almond gratin

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes des Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 35 min

Age for babies: 10-12 months, in bite size pieces as finger food can work well (avoiding the sliced almonds, which would be hard to gum down)

4 zucchinis
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1 pinch of nutmeg
3.5 oz of grated Parmesan (a packed cup) (You can also use Pecorino, Manchego, or Gruyère)
4 tbsp almond meal
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sliced almonds
Salt & pepper

Wash and slice the zucchinis (no need to peel them). Melt 1 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp of olive oil in two large frying pans  (each) (or do several batches with one pan). Place the slices of zucchini in the pans and fry until just golden, about 2 minutes on each side. (By the time you’re done flipping over the slices in one pan, it’s time to do it with the other pan). Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and place on absorbent paper or cloth to let cool a bit.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs and yolk. Add nutmeg, salt & pepper, a third of the Parmesan, and the almond meal.

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Butter a baking dish (with your hands, it’s way more fun). Place one layer of zucchini slices at the bottom of the dish. Pour a bit of the cream/almond mixture over it. Add another layer of zucchini, then another layer of cream, and so on until you’re out of zucchini slices. End with a layer of cream. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over it, and the rest of the Parmesan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden.

Serve it warm, as an entree with a butter lettuce in an almond oil vinaigrette, or as a side dish with a roasted chicken, for example.

Healthy French Food Recipes

 I am very excited, and honored, to be doing this guest post for Karen. Her work and crusade are so worthwhile. I am a French mom living in LA, raising a 19 months old son, and writing my FrenchFoodieBaby blog about our journey in educating his taste buds and making him a gourmet and healthy eater, the French way. And I’m here to debunk some of the myths and mystique behind French family cuisine, and try to show families that the French approach is much simpler than it seems.

The French way of eating, and their approach to educating children’s taste buds, has definite benefits (including the fact that kids actually enjoy eating vegetables, and have lower rates of obesity). So the next logical step would be for more people to implement and adapt those methods for their family. And a lot of families have indeed been inspired by it, as demonstrated by the great deal of interest in Karen’s book and work in general. But I have found in my interactions with a lot of moms and families mostly in the US, that there’s this ingrained belief that French food is fancy. I say “French-style cuisine” and a lot of people visualize intricate sophisticated dishes, hours laboring by the stove, expensive ingredients… all of which would make it quite impractical to most families, and wasted on young children. (Note that I talk about “French-style” cuisine or “French way of eating”, because I’m not so much talking about what the French eat and French cuisine per se, but how the French eat, the way they approach food and nutrition. You can adopt that approach with any type of international cuisine, and in fact, a lot of French families cook from a variety of cuisines from around the world.)

I started becoming more aware of those preconceptions about French cuisine when I started my son on solids when he was about 5 months old. I was following a Mommy & Me class which happened to be around lunch time, and started bringing my homemade baby purees to class. Soon came the era of finger foods, around eight months, and I started bringing a mini-version of a “4 course meal” for Pablo in class, basically a finger food as appetizer (hearts of palm, green beans, cauliflower, etc.), a homemade protein & vegetable puree, a kind of cheese, and a bit of fruit compote or yogurt for dessert. There I was, thinking I was doing nothing out of the ordinary. And one day, another mom commented on the “gourmet meals” I was making Pablo, and that he was the “best fed baby in LA.”

This same perspective a lot of North Americans have of French cuisine, shows up again when you start telling them what French kids are served for lunch in school. When I first told my husband we were served a sit-down hot four-course lunch, he just couldn’t believe it, rethinking with some nausea about the sloppy Joes, pizzas, stale spaghetti and overcooked burgers he ate in school.

Karen’s brilliant idea to post the menus from French school lunches on her blog, really shows some concrete examples of what goes on every day in French schools, and by extension, what they eat at home too.

I am often asked by busy moms browsing through Pablo’s menus, “How can you do these fancy meals for Pablo every night?” Well, I hate to kill the bubble and gourmet aura around French family cuisine, but I’m here to tell you that it’s just not that fancy. Well… it is, and it isn’t.

If by fancy, you mean that it tastes really good, then yes it’s the idea. If by fancy, you mean some thought and finesse has been put into the dishes that compose a meal, then absolutely. If by fancy, you mean that care was put into presentation and preparation, definitely. That approach is the cornerstone of the French view of food as a pleasurable, worthwhile, sharing experience.

However…

If by “fancy”, you mean I slaved by the stove all day to prepare them, well, that’s…

Myth #1 – French style meals take hours to prepare.

Most French moms work, and are definitely back at work by the time they start their babies on solids, so they can’t spend the whole day by the stove. I found that most family dishes we cook on a weekly basis require 20-25 minutes of preparation with some additional cooking time, during which other stuff can get done.

As Karen has mentioned, studies show that the French do spend on average 13 more minutes cooking per day than Americans, cooking on average for a total of 43 minutes per day. Feeding a family a fairly balanced diet with a wide variety foods, vegetables in particular, doesn’t require a lot more time, but it does require a bit of thinking and effort. I think the French think of “the education of taste” as an important parenting and family priority. They find a way to devote it a little bit of time and effort, because eating well as a family is of value to them, the same way they would devote time to homework, or getting their kids to practice the piano.  

Tip: It is mostly a matter of being a bit organized, by making a meal plan, having some cooked veggies or soup made ahead for the week, and planning on a balance of simple preparations (smoked salmon or canned sardines or a slice of ham, or pan-fried meat or fish, or crock pot recipes) to help keep busy nights stress-free. (If cooking is stress provoking, kids will pick up on it, and it will definitely put a dent on that food/pleasure association in their mind). It is also a matter of accepting to take a little extra time to do it. Trying to think of cooking not as a chore, but as an opportunity to slow down, be in the moment, and do something really good for our family.

If by fancy, you mean that French-style cooking uses hard to find, obscure ingredients for intricate dishes, that’s…

Myth #2 – French style meals are very complex and sophisticated

To the contrary, I would argue a lot of French family dishes shine by their simplicity, from chocolate mousse, with only a few ingredients, to mixed vegetable salads simply tossed together. Most French family recipes are not any more complicated (often less) than making chocolate chip cookies, muffins or pancakes.

One French secret is the way they name their dishes. It always sounds sophisticated. As Karen reported recently, Cornell researcher Brian Wiansick found that using attractive names for foods do make them more appealing. And to children especially. And if you peruse the French school lunch menus, you will see many “fancy” names for very simple dishes. For example, saying “Jardinière de légumes” sounds better than “mixed vegetables”, it gives the image of a garden where the vegetables grew. The French, known to take food very seriously, wouldn’t give foods silly names to get kids to eat them (not on the official school menu anyway), but even the restaurant-like names on those menus might just make the kids feel like they’re important enough to be served “fancy” dishes.

And the dishes also often look sophisticated, as care is definitely given to presentation, for children included. The French really consider that the aesthetics of food is key to children’s education of taste and appreciation of cuisine. All five senses are involved in the pleasure of eating.

Tip: I pick a lot of fairly simple recipes that make their ingredients shine. For that, it is important to choose good quality ingredients and fresh produce as much as possible.

Another secret is the use of herbs and certain condiments to add some subtle flavor to dishes. My mother can’t cook without thyme and bay leaves. Tarragon, parsley, basil for salads. These simple herbs are the “je-ne-sais-quoi” of French cooking.

If by fancy, you mean that it costs an arm and a leg, that’s…

Myth #3 – French meals are expensive

I guess that this is relative to every family’s budget, and certainly the price of food has gone up everywhere. But in our family, using seasonal produce, cooking with fresh (or frozen) foods and planning our menu has eliminated a lot of waste and saved us a lot of money. We’re not talking

truffle and lobster here, but peas, carrots and chicken.

Tip: Finding ways to cook with what we’ve got left in the fridge can lead to very creative recipes and fun meals. Also the advantage of cooking on a regular basis, is great money-saving leftovers. I’m pretty thrilled on an exhausted evening, to find we have leftover watercress soup, mustard pork tenderloin and sauteed apples and onions in the fridge…

In an attempt to illustrate my points here, I picked a lunch menu served last October in a French school in St Manvieu Norrey, Normandy, sharing the recipes with you here. It sounds really nice, but is actually very simple to make, with inexpensive ingredients, taking a reasonable amount of time to prepare (with the possibility of making some of it ahead.) And last but not least, it is really delicious, and offers a wide variety of vegetables in one meal. So why not try it?

Appetizer: Tomato mozzarella salad (not much of a recipe, just slice, drizzle with olive oil, add herbs and serve!)

Main course: Chicken cutlets with “sauce chasseur” (hunter’s sauce, cool name), with jardinière de légumes (this is a fancy name for gently sautéed vegetables)

Fromage blanc (rough equivalent here would be Greek yogurt)

Dessert: Wafer cookie (store bought)

(For a home meal, I would forgo the cookie, give a piece of cheese, and the Greek yogurt as dessert, sprinkled with a bit of sugar or a few berries.)

Chicken fillets with sauce “chasseur”

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time – 15 + 10 minutes

Age for babies: 10-12 months in small quantity, to give a taste of the sauce. The mushrooms make a good finger food.

Note that you can use this sauce with any poultry. You could also serve it with a cut up chicken, or a whole roasted chicken.

4 pieces of skinless chicken (either breast or thigh)

1 lb mushrooms, washed and sliced

6 tbsp of butter

4 shallots, peeled and minced

2 heaping tbsp flour

1/2 cup white wine (or white grape juice, or juice from canned mushrooms, if you want to go alcohol-free)

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tbsp of tomato concentrate

1 bouquet garni (in a piece of hollow celery rib, put some thyme, parsley, sage, 1 or 2 bay leaves, cover with another piece of celery rib and tie with kitchen tie.)

Salt & pepper

5-6 sprigs of fresh chervil (if you can find it, I’ve had a hard time finding it in LA), stem removed, minced

5-6 sprigs of fresh tarragon, stem removed, minced

Cut the chicken in strips and set aside.

For the sauce:

In a saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the mushrooms. Add in the shallots, and cook for a few minutes.

Sprinkle flour, stir and let it get a bit of color.

Stir in the wine and broth. Add the tomato concentrate, bouquet garni, salt & pepper.

Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer over medium low for about 15 minutes.

At this point, you can keep warm, covered, on very low heat, while you cook the chicken.

In a frying pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the chicken strips until cooked. Salt & pepper to taste.

Before serving the sauce, remove the bouquet garni, and incorporate the minced chervil and tarragon.

Pour sauce over the meat and serve immediately!

Jardinière de légumes (Mixed vegetables)

Serves 4

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 35-40 minutes

Age for babies: 8-10 months, the veggie pieces make great finger foods.

I use two magical ingredients here, which make the vegetables taste delicious and slightly sweet: the sprinkle of sugar, and the coconut oil (which is so good for you too). Kids usually love it.
You can add more vegetables or omit some, adjust quantities to your liking. This tastes really great reheated, so you can make a big batch, refrigerate and eat the next couple of days.

7-8 carrots, peeled, diced
7-8 mini turnips, peeled (or 1 or 2 medium, peeled and quartered)
15 small potatoes, peeled (fingerling type, or medium red potatoes, peeled and quartered)
2 handfuls of fresh green beans (or frozen)
2 handfuls of shelled fresh peas (or frozen)
6 pearl onions, peeled but left whole
2 garlic cloves, peeled but whole (optional)
Fresh thyme (leaves from 3 sprigs)
Bay leaf
Coconut oil
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
Salt & pepper

In a large pot, melt the butter & coconut oil over medium heat. Sprinkle with the sugar, stir a bit, and wait until the sugar has melted.

Then add carrots, turnips, potatoes, pearl onions, garlic, thyme and green beans. Add salt and pepper, stir and cook for about five minutes over medium heat, stirring once in a while.

Add 1/4 cup of water, and cook on low, letting the water evaporate, stirring from time to time, about 20 minutes.

Add another 1/4 cup of water and the peas, and let cook until the water is almost evaporated and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. (There should be a little “sauce” in the bottom, a treat to soak it up with good bread!)

Bon appétit! And I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you do try these recipes and this multi-course meal!

Thought for food… and crudités

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to food as an end, and food as a means… Of course, we are looking for strategies to get our kids to eat and to eat well, have a diversified diet and an open-mind about new foods. That’s one side of the coin. But because Pablo enjoys food so much – because we get excited about it as a family, because he loves to touch and squoosh and smell and get all sensorial about it, because we involve him in gardening, and going to the market, or quite simply because it’s so good! – I realized that we can use food as a means as well, an amazing teaching tool in fact. For example, teaching a sense of aesthetics & beauty.

Food can also be the perfect vehicle to learn, teach and practice the art of anticipation (otherwise known as “knowing how to wait”.) We can learn patience as a necessary evil, one of those inevitable burdens, like gravity. Or… we can learn the trampoline! We can learn to enjoy the wait, to have it enhance our experience, to embrace the anticipation. This seems like a really complex lesson which I’m still teaching myself on those chomping-at-the-bit days… But somehow, by watching me buy or grow the food, photograph it at every angle, look for what’s beautiful about it, then cook it and finally eat it, Pablo senses that whole process is a big part of the pleasure of eating. We’re in the early days of toddlerhood, so he’s got a long way to go patience-wise, and is still just dying to pull on that green tomato because it just takes too long to get red. But I have seen him enjoy the wait and anticipation a few times, when waiting for the punchline of a song for example, as moments of excitement and complicity. And I want to find every possible way to nurture that. I suppose it’s just another way of saying that what counts is the journey, not the destination. I never expected food to help me teach him that, in a way that’s not superficial, but ingrained, a gut kind of learning.

Now this art of anticipation business brings me to the French four-course meal. (I know, it’s a big jump. As the French would say with their love of food-related expressions, I’m going “from pear to cheese”. But bear with me…)

I have recently read Bringing up bébé by Pamela Druckerman, after hearing about the “French method” on the radio and at the playground. Other parents would hear me speak French to Pablo and ask me about this “method” of ours. I had no clue what the “French method” was… So I read the book, and found it very interesting. The author knows us French better than we know ourselves! I identified with and recognized a lot of what she describes. She points out one thing in particular, which I had never realized explicitly: the nutritional benefits of eating in courses the way the French do.

In France, the four-course meal isn’t just for fancy restaurants, it is common-place in most households and schools. It usually goes something like this: you start the meal with “crudités” (raw or cold vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, grated carrots, green beans, asparagus etc, with vinaigrette); then you proceed with a protein (meat, fish…) served with a starch, and maybe another hot veggie, pureed or sautéed; then cheese, with maybe some plain lettuce with vinaigrette (for digestion); and dessert  in the form of a yogurt or a piece of fruit. As she remarks in the book, most of the veggies are served at the start of the meal, when we are most hungry! Somewhat satiated, we can go on and be satisfied with smaller portions of the richer foods that follow.

Four-course meal, nutritional benefits: check. Now for the life-lesson benefits: when eating in courses in this manner, you can take your time, and anticipate the next course. Enjoy the meal as a journey, versus something to get over with as soon as possible. So even though I was raised eating this way all my childhood and youth, Ms. Druckerman helped me understand this implicit fundamental French approach to food, and to life.

This brings me to the recipe: the crème of crudités (This was a four-course blog post! I figure I’d serve the recipe as dessert, and my thoughts and ramblings as the first and main courses… J Do forgive me, force of habit.)

Raw crudités tend to be crunchy, and with 13 months and 8 teeth to his name, crunchy is somewhat out of Pablo’s league for now. So I puree them into a “crème of crudités”. You can mix whatever raw vegetables you want, as long as you’re mixing in veggies that have a lot of water (tomato, cucumber). This is also a great opportunity to have baby taste some fresh herbs. I list possible ingredients you can include below. Last week, thrilled to have found wonderful watermelon radishes at the market, which I only discovered a few weeks ago by chance, and whose beauty is so amazingly captured on this recent post on Cannelle et Vanille, I decided to take advantage of that gorgeous shade of pink to experiment with the color of my crème. It came out less pink than I had hoped, but was still pretty tasty!

And when Pablo has some molars, I can’t wait to share a slice of radish French-style, the way I grew up eating it: with butter, salt and pepper.  Patience… All in good time.

Crème of Crudités

Age: I started this around the 10-12 months mark, because the veggies are raw and harder to digest at a younger age.

Watermelon radish
Green tomatoes
Fresh cilantro
Cucumber
Endive
Drizzle of lemon
Some plain sheep’s milk yogurt, to desired consistency and creaminess

Olive oil (optional) 

Other possible ingredients:

All tomatoes

Raw carrots

Beets

Traditional radishes (red with white tips are milder)

All lettuces: Mâche (lamb’s lettuce), watercress, butter lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, microgreens, etc.

All fresh herbs: Chives, Italian parsley, mint, oregano, basil, sorrel, tarragon

Wash, peel, cut up and throw in the food processor. Taste to adjust lemon, oil and yogurt seasoning.

Variation for baby and the grown-ups: Cauliflower with crème of crudités dressing

The mixture can also be used as a dressing for cold vegetables in general, but I thought it went particularly well with cold steamed cauliflower.

Pi

Scrumptious Baklava

Baklava is a rich, decedent desert made with made with phyllo, almonds/walnuts, honey, and lots of love. This recipe has been in Eva’s family for years. We hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the phyllo

  • 1 box of phyllo (you can find this in the refrigerator section of your local grocery store)
  • Half a pound of unsalted butter (you can substitute the butter for margarine or corn oil if you like)
  • 4 cups of crushed almonds/walnuts
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup of cognac
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • The peel of one orange

For the syrup

  • 1 8-ounce glass of sugar
  • 2 cup of water
  • 1 cup of honey
  • Half an orange or lemon
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • A pinch of cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

More details outlined in the video:

Mix the nuts, cinnamon, and cognac together in a blender. Once blended, put the mixture aside.

Melt your butter in the microwave. Get out a large pan (I like to use a 16 x 14 inches pan) and a brush. Brush the bottom and sides of your pan with the melted butter.

Remove the phyllo from the package, lay it flat on your countertop and cover the phyllo with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from drying out as you work.

Place your first layer of phyllo on your pan and butter it. Repeat this 5 times.

Once you have about 5 layers of phyllo, pour about a cup of your nut mixture over the phyllo.

Place another layer of phyllo over the nuts and butter the sheet. Repeat this once more. If you like, you could crumple the phyllo rather than place it flat on the mixture, doing so will give your baklava a bit more body.

Add another cup of your mixture over the phyllo. Be sure to spread the nut mixture evenly.

Add another two sheets of phyllo (be sure to butter each layer). Now add the rest of your mixture.
Add another sheet of phyllo over the mixture and butter. Repeat until you have used up all your phyllo and, again, be sure to butter each layer.

Using your brush tuck in the edges of the phyllo into the pan. Butter the top layer of phyllo heavily.

Before you put the baklava in the oven you need to cut it, but be gentle! The knife should only pierce the top layers of phyllo, don’t cut all the way to the bottom. Cut the baklava into 3 strips and then cut horizontally across those strips. You should have squares. Now cut diagonal lines across the square to make diamond shaped pieces. Before you place the pan in the over sprinkle a little water over the phyllo.

Bake the phyllo in the oven at 325 degrees for an hour.

Once it is baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool.

Now you need to make the syrup which will be poured over the baklava. To make the syrup you need to mix the sugar, water, and honey together in a medium size saucepan. Add half a lemon (or orange), about 5-6 cloves, and 2 cinnamon sticks and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 15-20 minutes. To see if the syrup is ready you can test it by placing a small drop of the syrup on your stove-top and feel it with your finger. If it has a nice body to it, it’s ready. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to help it stay nice and smooth after it cools down.

Once the syrup has cooled down a little, pour it over the phyllo. Remember, either the phyllo or the syrup has to be cool. If both are still hot, the baklava will be destroyed.

Let it sit for a few hours, or preferably overnight, and serve!!