Saturday, February 26, 2011

Patch Column: Pasta e Fagioli

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This week on my Patch Column, "Cooking with Chelsea", I'm featuring homemade Pasta e Fagioli soup.  A hearty, warm dish made with vegetables, cannelloni beans, and rotini pasta.

I wondered before making it, how different it would be in comparison to my favorite Minestrone Soup.  They seemed quite similar with a tomato based broth and vegetables.  However, to my delight, the flavoring of the bacon separated the two dishes quite impressively.  The addition of bacon created a smoky underlying flavor that I loved- a flavor element not present in minestrone.

This Pasta e Fagioli recipe is unique and stands alone in it's class.  It is definitely one to try bringing comfort food to another level.  This is another recipe I'll be adding to my soup rotation to keep me and my family warm and cozy during the remaining cold winter days and nights!

Click here to get the recipe on Patch!


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eggplant Rollatini


 

I have to say, I have a love/hate relationship with vegetables.  I know they're good for me and I should learn to love them, but often times they're bland and I love flavor. 

While I love eating fresh, healthy ingredients I'm not always creative when it comes to vegetable dishes. I usually resort to getting my vegetable nutrients from a soup or a green tossed in salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Not creative at all.

My Ciocia Ela, on the other hand, has mastered vegetable dishes.  She has a beautiful garden that provides her with a bountiful supply of a vast variety of vegetables.  With those fresh organic vegetables, she has experimented over the years and come up with countless delicious vegetable dishes that the entire family has grown to love .

So how did I end up with Eggplant Rollatini you ask?  Well, when I used to work in an Italian restaurant, I loved the look of their Eggplant Rollatini.   It reminded me of so many other Italian dishes I've always loved.  Loaded with tomato sauce and cheeses- it looked like an explosion of flavor I just couldn't resist.

When I tried it for the first time, I was not disappointed- in fact it was fantastic!  Recently I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to try making it myself and she knew just the person to help find the perfect recipe!

My Ciocia Ela's Eggplant Rollatini she adapted from a friend was indeed perfect.  It was full of wonderful flavors providing an excellent balance between the eggplant and other Italian components.  This is a dish I will be making for years to come! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Recipe Tips
  • Ladle warm tomato sauce on your plate before serving.

Start with washing your eggplant and removing the stem:

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Then thinly slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices:

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Then prepare your three bowls of flour combined with salt and pepper, egg and water, and bread crumbs.  Heat a large skillet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium/high heat.  Then cover your eggplant slice with the flour mixture, making sure to shake off the excess:

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Then dip into the egg mixture:

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Transfer into the breadcrumbs, making sure to completely cover both sides:

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Then transfer to your skillet and saute for about 1 minute on each side:

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Until golden brown, making sure to add more olive oil when your pan dries up:

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Once cooked, transfer your eggplant cutlet to a plate lined with paper towel and continue these steps with the remaining eggplant:

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Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine your ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, rosemary, salt, pepper, and minced garlic:

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Put your frozen spinach in a separate bowl and microwave according to package directions.  Let it cool and drain the water out of the your spinach:

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Add your spinach to the cheese mixture and stir to combine:

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Then lay a single eggplant cutlet on a flat surface and spoon 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture at the end:

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Roll your eggplant, starting with folding over the cheese mixture:

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Roll towards the other end:

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Until you can't roll anymore!

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Place your eggplant rolls on a lightly greased 9x13 glass pan and spoon 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over the top:

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Then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese:

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Continue until all of your rolls are prepared:

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Then bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes uncovered.  Then switch your oven to broil and broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese appears golden brown:

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Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley:

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Eggplant Rollatini
Adapted from Family Recipe provided by Ciocia Ella
Makes 9 rolls
Prep Time: ~40 minutes
Bake Time: 25-35 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
Eggplant Cutlets
2 large eggplants (the longer the eggplant, the better- makes it easier to roll)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 eggs
1 tablespoon water
2 cups bread crumbs

Spinach and Cheese Mixture
1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach
15 ounces of Ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced

Assembly
1 cup homemade tomato sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions
Start with washing your eggplant and removing the stem.  Then thinly slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Prepare your three dipping bowls with flour combined with salt and pepper, egg and water, and bread crumbs.  Heat a large skillet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium/high heat.  Then cover your eggplant slice with the flour mixture, making sure to shake off any excess.  Then dip into the egg mixture.  Transfer into the breadcrumbs, making sure to completely cover both sides.  Transfer to your skillet and saute for about 1 minute on each side until golden brown, making sure to add more olive oil when your pan dries up .  Once browned, transfer your eggplant cutlet to a plate lined with paper towel and continue these steps with the remaining eggplant.  

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine your ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Put your frozen spinach in a separate bowl and microwave according to package directions.  Let it cool and drain the water out of the your spinach.  Add your spinach to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.  

Then lay a single eggplant cutlet on a flat surface and spoon 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture at the end farthest from you.  Roll the eggplant, starting at the end with the cheese mixture working towards you like a jelly roll.  Place your eggplant rolls on a lightly greased 9x13 glass pan seam side down.  Then spoon 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each roll and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Then bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes uncovered.  If your cheese isn't quite browning, switch your oven to broil and broil for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese appears golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Bruschetta

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Although the snow continues to fall, I can feel Spring is right around the corner.  With that lingering season change approaching, my food cravings are for fresh fruits and vegetables- something I look forward to having soon!  Because I have to wait, a Winter Bruschetta is the perfect solution in the mean time.

Conveniently made up of sundried tomatoes, a mixture of cheeses, and cannellini beans- winter bruschetta's main ingredients are non-perishable and easily available when picking fresh fruits and vegetables are not. 

This appetizer, while staying true to the season, maintains a light and fresh element that is quintessential to summer bruschetta with the use of a variety of fresh herbs.  Although, fresh herbs aren't in season you can still find them at your local grocery store.  Unfortunately, because they are not in season, they are a bit pricey.  However, fresh herbs are essential to perfectly flavoring any dish, making them a must have item this time of year no matter what the cost.

The combination of these ingredients creates a wonderfully flavored appetizer that you're sure to enjoy this time of year! 


Recipe Tips
  • Your topping can be prepared up to one day in advance, covered and refrigerated.  Once ready to serve, bring to room temperature, assemble, and bake according to directions below.  
  • I let the bruschetta over cook while taking my pictures so the basil in the final product is darker than it should be.  Remove your dish from the heat when your mixture looks like the picture over the stove top below.  Don't keep your bruschetta in the oven too long, just long enough to warm it.  You get a much prettier presentation when the basil and white of the cheeses are colorful and vibrant!



Start with chopping your sundried tomatoes in a food chopper or dice by hand:

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Until finely chopped:

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In a small dish, combine the extra virgin olive oil and the reserved oil in the sundried tomato jar:

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Then assemble your remaining ingredients by juicing your lemon, finely chopping your basil and thyme, mincing your garlic, and measuring your Parmesan and feta cheese:

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Drain and rinse your cannellini beans:

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Then add two tablespoons of your olive oil mixture to a large skillet and saute your garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes over high/medium heat until the garlic appears just golden:

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Then lower your heat to medium and add the lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, basil, sundried tomatoes, beans, salt, and pepper:

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Mix until combined and saute until the basil begins to wilt, about 1 minute:

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Meanwhile, thinly slice your baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices:

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Spread your bread on a cookie sheet and brush both sides with the remaining olive oil mixture:

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Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes, flipping them over half way through baking time:

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Then top a heaping spoon full of your mixture over each toasted crostini:

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Bake for an additional 15 minutes and serve immediately:
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Winter Bruschetta
Epicurious by Katie Brown November 2008
Makes: 30 Bruschetta

Prep Time: ~10 minutes
Total Cook Time: 40 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (8.5 ounce) jar sundried tomatoes in oil, 2 tablespoons oil reserved
1 large garlic clove or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions
Start with chopping your sundried tomatoes in a food chopper or dice by hand until finely chopped.  In a small dish, combine the extra virgin olive oil and the oil in the sundried tomato jar.  Then assemble your remaining ingredients by juicing your lemon, finely chopping your basil and thyme, mincing your garlic, and measuring your Parmesan and feta cheese.  Drain and rinse your canallini beans.  

Then add two tablespoons of your olive oil mixture to a large skillet and saute your garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes over high/medium heat until the garlic appears just golden.  Then lower your heat to medium/low and add the lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, basil, sundried tomatoes, beans, salt, and pepper.  Mix until combined and saute until the basil begins to wilt, about 1 minute.  

Meanwhile, thinly slice your baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Spread your bread on a cookie sheet and brush both sides with the remaining olive oil mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes, flipping them over half way through baking time.  Then top a heaping spoon full of your mixture over each toasted crostini.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes and serve immediately.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

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This week on my Saturday column, "Cooking with Chelsea", I've made a cozy, heart warming Chicken Pot Pie!  Check it out here on Patch!

Hope you enjoy it!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baklava



I first discovered Baklava on my trip to Greece after college.  My four college roommates and I backpacked through Europe for one month after graduation.  We visited Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, and ended with a week in Corfu, Greece.  We stayed in hostels, traveled through the Eurorail, and treated ourselves to one authentic meal in each city... It's a trip we'll always remember!

As you can imagine, our most memorable meal was in Italy- Venice in particular.  We stumbled upon a restaurant- a real Italian hidden gem.  There was no sign hanging from the door or tourists filling the small modest space.  In fact it was tucked away through a long narrow street we found ourselves lost in.  A woman who was standing outside of the entrance, noticed us- a group of American girls looking lost, hungry, and confused.  She welcomed us in and sat us at a table.  All of the other restaurants that had been recommended to us throughout our trip were filled with English speaking waiters, but she didn't know a word to help translate the menu.  So she took the menus and hand picked the most amazing family style meal we had ever eaten.  The dishes were simple- pasta with red sauce, but the best pasta you can imagine.  Thinking back, it's a scene right out of a movie.

While the pasta was best in Italy, I remember the Baklava in Greece.  We were traveling on an 8 hour boat trip to the Greek Island, Corfu, when I noticed a plate of freshly made Baklava staring at me.  The syrup oozing from the layers of nuts and thin flaky dough.  It looked too good to resist- and it was.  I enjoyed every bite of it and looked for Baklava in every shop we visited after my first encounter with it.

Since our trip, I haven't thought of Baklava until recently.  My mom mentioned she found a recipe and made it with her friend. She brought in a piece for me to try and I literally savored every bite with my eyes closed envisioning myself back on the beaches of Corfu.

This Baklava is just as I remembered it....

Recipe Tips
  •  Make sure to use the damp cloth system.  When doing this, be careful not to put the moistened cloth directly on the phyllo or it will turn the dough into a mushy consistency.  Also, don't leave the cloth off of the phyllo for long because it will dry the phyllo out.  If you use the plastic and moistened cloth system as I described it, you'll have no problems!
  • Be very careful when making the syrup.  Watch it carefully while it cooks because the solution can boil over easily if the temperature is too high.  If the liquid appears to be foaming and doubling in size,  immediately move it away from the heat.  Lower the temperature and place it back on the stove.  I read the original recipe and it said to keep your temperature on high.  I did and it boiled over and spilled everywhere... not fun.  When I made it a second time, I kept it at a controlled low simmer and although the liquid didn't thicken (not sure if it's supposed to) the baklava tasted fantastic.
  • No particular science or technique to laying and brushing the phyllo.  Phyllo is very delicate so handle it carefully.  When laying your phyllo in the pan, it doesn't have to be perfect.  Most importantly, make sure they line up one on top of each other and are buttered evenly over the entire surface.


Start with combining your chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl and mix until combined:

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Evenly distribute your walnut mixture into three bowls:

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Then roll your phyllo dough out on a clean surface:

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Cover your dough with the plastic it was wrapped in:

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Then moisten a clean towel with water and lay it over the plastic.  Make sure your cloth isn't soaking wet, but lightly moistened.  Don't allow the cloth to sit directly on the phyllo or it will turn the dough into a mushy consistency.  Make sure to always leave the cloth over the dough, otherwise it will dry out:

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Meanwhile, melt 1 stick of butter:


 Then take a 9x13 glass pan and brush the bottom and sides with the melted butter:

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Take one sheet of phyllo and place evenly along the bottom of the pan.  Gently press the phyllo down onto the pan and smooth out any creases or air pockets that may form:

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Generously, brush the entire surface of the phyllo dough with butter:

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Then lay another sheet of phyllo down over the first piece.  Repeat these steps 8 more times until you've laid 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Melt additional butter as needed throughout this continued process:

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Once you've buttered your 10th piece of phyllo, empty your first bowl of walnut mixture in the middle of your pan:

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Spread it out evenly over the entire surface:

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Then lay 6 more sheets of phyllo down, buttering in between each:

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Spread your second bowl of walnut mixture:

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Evenly spread the walnuts over the entire surface:

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 Layer another 6 sheets of phyllo, buttering in between each:

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Top with your remaining bowl of walnuts:

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Lay another 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Generously brush the top with butter:

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Then carefully slice your baklava into 2 inch thick diagonal cuts:

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Then slice 2 inch thick vertical cuts to create a diamond shape:

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Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before adding the syrup:

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Begin preparing the syrup 30 minutes before the cooling process is done.  To prepare the syrup, combine your honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange or lemon peel in a 4 quart sauce pan:

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Cook over medium/high heat, stirring constantly until your sugar dissolves.  Then let your mixture reach a simmer.  Monitor your pan carefully because the mixture can boil over quickly if the heat is too high.  Once the liquid has reached a simmer, cook for 10 minutes:

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Then remove your pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and peel:

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Pour your liquid evenly over the top of your baklava:

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Leave your pan to sit uncovered until cooled.  Then slice into the same lines you originally cut because the syrup and baking process will bind the cuts together:

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Then prepare your chocolate mixture by combining your chocolate chips, cream, and instant coffee in a large mixing bowl.  Using the double boiler method, melt your chocolate until smooth:

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Drizzle the chocolate over your pan:

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Then cover and store at room temperature for up to 8 hours or overnight:
 
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Serve and enjoy!


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Baklava
Adapted from Alton Brown
Makes: 16 diamonds or 28 squares
Prep Time: 1 hour, not including cooling periods
Cook Time: 1 hour
(Printable Recipe)


Ingredients
Baklava
2 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
8 ounces butter, melted

Syrup
1 1/4 cups honey
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2 inch piece) orange or lemon peel


Chocolate
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee




Directions
Preparation
To prepare your ingredients, start with combining your chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl and mix until combined.  Evenly distribute your walnut mixture into three bowls.  Then roll your phyllo dough out on a clean surface.  Cover your dough with the plastic it was wrapped in.  Then moisten a clean towel with water and lay it over the plastic.  Make sure your cloth isn't soaking wet, but lightly moistened.  Meanwhile, melt 1 stick of butter in a small bowl.  

Assembly
Take a 9x13 glass pan and brush the bottom and sides with the melted butter.  Take one sheet of phyllo and place evenly along the bottom of the pan.  Gently press the phyllo down onto the pan and smooth out any creases or air pockets that may form.  Generously, brush the entire surface of the phyllo dough with butter.  Then lay another sheet of phyllo down over the first piece.  Repeat these steps 8 more times until you've laid 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Melt additional butter as needed throughout this continued process.  Once you've buttered your 10th piece of phyllo, empty your first bowl of walnut mixture in the middle of your pan.  Spread it out evenly over the entire surface.  

Then lay 6 more sheets of phyllo down, buttering in between each.  Empty your second bowl of walnut mixture into the center of the pan and evenly spread the walnuts over the entire surface.  

Layer another 6 sheets of phyllo, buttering in between each.  Top with your remaining bowl of walnuts, evenly spreading it over the entire surface.  

Lay another 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Generously brush the top with butter.  

Baking 
Then carefully slice your baklava into 2 inch thick diagonal cuts.  Then slice 2 inch thick vertical cuts to create a diamond shape.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before adding the syrup.  

Syrup
Begin preparing the syrup 30 minutes before the cooling process is done.  To prepare the syrup, combine your honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange or lemon peel in a 4 quart sauce pan.  Cook over medium/high heat, stirring constantly until your sugar dissolves.  Then let your mixture reach a simmer.  Monitor your pan carefully because the mixture can boil over quickly if the heat is too high.  Once the liquid has reached a simmer, cook for 10 minutes.  Then remove your pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and peel.  Pour your liquid evenly over the top of your baklava.  Leave your pan to sit uncovered until cooled.  Once cooled, slice into the same lines you originally cut because the syrup and baking process will bind things together.  

Chocolate
Then prepare your chocolate mixture by combining your chocolate chips, cream, and instant coffee in a large mixing bowl.  Using the double boiler method, melt your chocolate until smooth.  Drizzle the chocolate over your pan.  Then cover and store at room temperature for up to 8 hours or overnight.  Serve and enjoy!

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