Take baklava from sweet to savory

Susan Selasky
Detroit Free Press (TNS)

Delightful. Delicious. Subtle. These are just a few of the words staffers used to describe this terrific twist on a bak­lava. When I think of baklava, I think of ground walnuts or pistachios between crispy layers of phyllo dough that’s doused with a honey syrup.

But while perusing food magazines looking for ideas for an upcoming afternoon lunch, I came across a recipe for Kalamata Baklava. Olives and baklava? The recipe in the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens was from Theo Stephan, a California woman whom the article described as having “a farm-to-bottle organic olive oil business.”

I’ve used phyllo for making savory appetizers, encasing them in triangle shapes or rolls. But this recipe looks just like a traditional baklava only with a savory filling.

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

Similar to some traditional baklavas, this recipe uses pistachios. Thanks to the convenience of pistachios sold already shelled, the recipe was ready in a snap. Pistachios, along with the kalamata olives and olive oil, are 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.) Pistachios are known for heart-health and cholesterol-lowering benefits, being a good source of protein and having 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Using kalamata olives and feta cheese provides a mild saltiness. So there’s no need to add any additional salt. I love the salty and brininess of the kalamata olives as well as their fruity, subtle flavor. Buying kalamata olives already pitted will save you time. But if you buy them with their pits, there’s an 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.

One last thing that was different about this recipe: using olive oil to brush on the phyllo layers. Usually the layers are doused in butter. The olive oil adds richness and helps crisp the layers.

This recipe has so many serving options. It’s perfect for a brunch and something different. You can serve it on its own as an appetizer or nestled on top of mixed salad greens. But, watch out: It is so good that I dare you to eat just one.

Kalamata Baklava

Makes: 32 pieces

Preparation time : 40 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus cooling time

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

2 cups finely chopped pitted kalamata olives

11/2 cups finely chopped, salted pistachios (6 ounces)

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.

To make the kalamata olive filling: 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, but keep it loosely covered 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 11/3 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. Continue to brush each sheet with the olive oil.

Top with remaining phyllo, brushing each sheet with olive oil. Drizzle with any 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.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine orange zest and juice, wine and honey. Heat through. Pour over warm baklava; cool 2 hours. Recut into bars before serving.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine, August 2016 issue. Tested by SusanSelasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen at the Great Lakes Culinary Center in Southfield, Michigan.