Baklava to my ears

“everyone got a favorite
sweet     every woman
got a recipe
she is baklava 
backbone strong foundation
layers thousand layers”

“thousand and one flaky layers like// her nights and her center// pistachio walnut crushed// years of rough pounded heart// hear her crunch// in the mouths of men” 

Literature and Baklava? Yes.

From an early age I gravitated toward performance arts. In elementary school I was encouraged to submit my poetry to a publisher and present at a school poetry cafe. In middle school I joined choir and tried out for a few plays. (I never made the cut for any productions.) To me, written poetry is freedom.

During my second year at University – I enrolled in a performance literature class which explored forms of communicating prose, poetry, and literature through voice and body. At the end of the quarter I selected a poem by Suheir Hammad, titled “mama sweet baklava” which, when read, is a visual and emotional expression of the fortitude Arab women value. The process of making baklava is used as a metaphor to illustrate how the challenge of repression only extends itself to fortitude and beauty in the delight that is baklava.



1 pack of Phyllo dough
1 bag of walnuts (or any preferred nut base)
Two sticks of sweet butter
1 bottle of orange blossom water (maa zahr) *(Be careful not to get maa ward – rosewater)
Half a lemon (we’ll only need a squeeze)
Olive oil

Filling Options:
Ashta based | 1 cup of milk:2 spoons of semolina (We’ll be using 3 cups of milk and 6 spoons of semolina)
Walnut based | walnuts + 1 tablespoon sugar + 1 teaspoon olive oil


2 Hours Before:
Allow Phyllo Dough to thaw at room temperature on counter.
Crush walnuts using a blender or crusher – Do not crush into fine grains. Pieces should be broken up and still somewhat chunky.

Walnuts should resemble those on the left.

Mama’s Walnut Baklava Recipe:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Walnut Filling Option: After crushing walnuts and tossing with a spoon of sugar and a teaspoon of olive oil, set aside and unroll phyllo dough. Separate into two equal piles. Depending on your pan size, cut stacks to fit the pan but be sure to cut so that ends of dough climb up the side of the pan.

Ashta Filling Option: After following instructions below, pour ashta over the bottom phyllo layer on the pan.

3. Lay walnuts over the phyllo dough in the pan and cover the top with the second stack of phyllo dough. Pat lightly over the top so the surface is smooth.

4. Using a sharp knife, cut horizontal lines across the pan and then diagonal lines so that you create a diamond shape.

5. Melt two sticks of butter. While hot, pour over the phyllo dough making sure to soak the open cuts and edges.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is crispy and golden.

7. Take the dish out of the oven. After 10 minutes or until the steam disappears, pour the hot atr over the baklava. Do not pour immediately. The baklava will become soggy.

Mama’s Atr Recipe:

My mom has always used a Turkish rakwee or ibrik or coffee decanter. She fills around 3/4 of it with sugar and soaks the rest of it with water. Proportions are up to you.

Atr = sugar + water + 5 minutes on medium heat while stirring + squeeze of lemon when it boils.


Mama’s Ashta Recipe: Stir 3 cups of milk + 6 spoons of semolina in a pot on medium- high heat (level 7/10 is good) until contents begin to solidify and bubble. When bubbling begins add maa zahr to the pot. Mom says the more you add, the better. Taste it out!

I love my baklava hot with a cup of dark coffee. 10/10!
Enjoy the smells.

“The walnut almond home
of her   where she sits

back with strong black
coffee and finally
tastes herself rose
water    sweet
slow      delicious”

Sweet and Earthy Avocado Spread

Have an extra avocado you need to put to use? Here’s a quick recipe I came up with on the go at my dorm this past year. You can be creative on your own and make your own subtractions and additions.

This one is e a s y squeezy lime – uh okay it doesn’t exactly rhyme, but who cares?! Clearly you dont, so let’s get rollin.

There’s nothing more savory than some avocado spread topped on a hot crisp piece of whole grain bread or on any bread for goodness sakes! This is a recipe that I usually go-to if I need something to cheer me up, which can be oh-so-very often.  😉

I cannot express how fast this can be done and how much you’ll be missing out on if you pass up this opportunity. You can have this with toast or any veggie of your preference (I like raw onion). That earthy taste with something so bold is really good to my soul and my body. The sweet taste comes from the specific addition of lime, rather than lemon. But of course, when life gives you lemons – use them before they rot.

Okay, let’s get straight to the point.


1 Avocado
Cumin powder, as desired
Salt, for taste
Pepper or Lemon Pepper
Paprika, as desired
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 drop of olive oil
1 drop of Clover Honey, or your preferred honey
1 or 2 pieces of Whole Grain Bread

1. Get the avocado contents into a small bowl, remove the pit and skin completely.

2. Sprinkle cumin powder, little by little – you can add more later once it’s mashed and you’ve tasted it.

3. Sprinkle salt and pepper (or lemon pepper, if you prefer – really gives it a small zest).

4. Sprinkle paprika, as desired.

5. Squeeze a little less than 1/2 of your lime over the contents.

6. Drop 1 or 2 drops of olive oil over the contents

7. Squeeze one drop of clover honey over the contents.

8. Place bread in toaster or in oven (Keep an eye on it) while mashing avocado contents with a fork or your luxurious utensil that I don’t have.

9. Taste and make adjustments. You’re the artist. Spread over lightly crisped, warm bread or toast and take a bite or 20.

10. Share, if you’re nice.

It’s all mineyours.

Cumin Cauliflower Mash

Note: Pictures and recipe card to-be-posted!

As a child, my mother would routinely make us quick dinners when she was busy or tired. Some of these would consist of fried potatoes wrapped in a pita, fried cauliflower in a pita, and baked red potatoes topped with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Cooking must sometimes be quick, easy, and avoid any potential messiness. But most importantly must be delicious. We can also talk about being healthy, but whatever! So as long as you don’t do this every day (which might be hard considering the level of goodness your tastebuds are going to experience), you should be a-okay.

1 head of Cauliflower, cut into medium and small pieces
Cumin, as desired
Salt for taste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
Rice bran oil (healthy alternative) or preferred frying oil

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan at medium – high heat.

2. Cut the head of the cauliflower into medium and small pieces so that they may be fried.

3. Fry cauliflower in batches until golden-brown and stalks are still white.

4. Prepare paper towel on a plate to place the fried cauliflower on.

5. Once all cauliflower is fried, place in a separate plate and mash with your preferred tool (mine is a fork).

6. Mince garlic and scatter over mashed cauliflower.

7. Lightly top with cumin; add more if desired.

8. Squeeze 1/2 a lemon over the mashed cauliflower.

9. Add salt to taste.

10. Mix using same fork you used to mash and voila your mashed cauliflower is all set.

11. Serve with hot pita bread; make a sandwhich; share a plate; save some for tomorrow.

Its all mineyours.