Food & Drink

Olives take baklava to the savory side

Kalamata Baklava.
Kalamata Baklava. Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press

Delightful. Delicious. Subtle. These are just a few of the words my taste testers used to describe this terrific twist on a baklava.

It’s true, we don’t tend to think of baklava in a savory way. When I think of baklava, I think of ground walnuts or pistachios between crispy layers of phyllo dough doused with a honey syrup.

But while looking for ideas for an afternoon lunch, a recipe for Kalamata Baklava caught my eye. Olives and baklava? The recipe in the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens was from Theo Stephan, a California woman who the article described as having “a farm-to-bottle organic olive oil business.”

Besides being a terrific brunch option, this recipe has a lot going for it in the good-for-you ingredient department.

Like some traditional baklavas, this recipe uses pistachios. Thanks to the convenience of pistachios sold already shelled, this recipe was ready in a snap. Pistachios, along with the kalamata olives and olive oil, are also a healthy ingredient. They are the lowest-calorie nut, containing about 160 calories per 1 ounce. (Almonds are second with about 169 calories per ounce.)

Buying kalamata olives already pitted also will save time. But if you buy them with their pits, there’s any easy way to remove them: Place the olives on a clean work surface and place the back of chef’s knife on a few olives. Give the knife a slight whack with your fist or press down hard on it. This will loosen the flesh from the pit.

Using olive oil instead of butter to brush the phyllo layers adds a richness to each layer, and it also helps crisp the layers.

Kalamata Baklava

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

1/2 of a 16-ounce package frozen phyllo dough (14-by-9-inch rectangles)

2 cups finely chopped pitted kalamata olives

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shelled pistachios, finely chopped

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 orange, zested and juiced (about 2 teaspoons zest and 1/4 cup juice)

1/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine

3 tablespoons honey

Thaw the one roll of phyllo dough according to package directions. Keep the other roll in the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine olives, pistachios, feta, garlic and oregano. Brush bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking pan with some of the olive oil. Unroll phyllo and loosely cover it with a damp, clean kitchen towel.

Layer five sheets in prepared pan, brushing each sheet with some of the olive oil. Crumple one sheet on top and sprinkle with one-third of the kalamata filling (about 1 1/3 cups). Repeat layering with phyllo sheets and kalamata filling two more times, crumpling one sheet of phyllo on each layer before sprinkling on the filling and brushing each sheet with olive oil.

Top with remaining phyllo, brushing each sheet with olive oil. Drizzle with remaining oil. Using a sharp knife, cut stacked layers into 32 pieces on the diagonal. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly in pan on wire rack.

While the baklava bakes, combine orange zest and juice, wine, and honey in a small pan and heat through. Pour over warm baklava; cool 2 hours. Recut into bars before serving.

Yield: 32 pieces.

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