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Phyllo, Phor the Phirst Time

June 20, 2010

While I was back at my parents’ house last weekend, I had an exciting culinary first: my first time cooking with phyllo dough! This was extra exciting for me because over the past year I’ve been falling more and more in love with Greek food, in which phyllo dough is probably most well known (think spanakopita and baklava). Yet for my first phyllo endeavor, I decided to go a little west of Hellas and make Dreena Burton’s Moroccan-Infused Vegetable Phyllo Rolls from her book Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Here’s how it went…

First off, before I got to touch any phyllo (but while our store-bought phyllo pastry sheets were defrosting), I had to make the filling for the rolls. Dreena’s recipe calls for a medley of different vegetables and dried fruit, which then all get roasted for about forty-five minutes. What you see above is our huge sheet of chopped vegetables pre-roasting, and below…

Is how they looked post-roast. The assortment you see consisted of red pepper, yellow pepper, zucchini, onion, fennel bulb, dried apricot, and garlic, mixed with some oil, cumin, ginger, paprika, and cinnamon. To see this all a little better, here’s the filling again, with white beans and fresh chopped basil added:

Now we were ready to get working with the phyllo. For those who don’t know (like myself before last weekend), phyllo dough—or at least the phyllo pastry sheets we purchased—come in pre-frozen rolls of about 20 sheets, which you then defrost, unravel, and then carefully peel off to use. The phyllo sheets really are incredibly thin, and thus also pretty fragile.

Now the way Dreena suggests using these phyllo sheets is fairly innovative, at least in my opinion. What she has you do is stick two sheets together by brushing on some olive oil in between them, place some of the filling in the center, and then roll them up just like they were burritos. It works surprisingly well! (However, I will admit to being entirely nonplussed by the way Dreena describes this process in her book—both my mother and I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the instructions were telling us to do at first.) Here’s our tray of six wrapped phyllo rolls:

After this, all you do is bake them for about twenty minutes and then they’re ready to serve! We topped ours off with some almonds and paired it with a small salad of kale and shredded beets:

The phyllo dough worked really great as a faux wrap, adding a nice crispiness that you don’t get from a tortilla or pita. Here is the wrap cut open:

Overall, I liked these phyllo rolls and definitely had a fun time making them. If there were one thing I’d change about the recipe, though, it’d be the vegetable filling. I think I would prefer to cut out the peppers entirely, perhaps replacing them with butternut squash or something similar, and I would definitely substitute figs for the dried apricots. A green such as spinach would be nice as well, I think. But for a first crack, this recipe was a big hit.

And the phyllo-related excitement did not end there! The next morning, since we still had a few sheets of phyllo leftover, my mom made some homemade baklava! This was the first time I’ve ever had homemade baklava, and I was naturally super excited. Ours was filled with pistachios and generously drizzled with honey:

And a little closer up:

Needless to say, I enjoyed this immensely. And just for reference, I’ll have you know that this small square of baklava (probably no more than 3 inches across) took a whole three sheets of phyllo to make! So just imagine how much phyllo goes into an entire tray’s worth!

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll be back soon with more exciting food adventures to report! See you soon.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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One comment

  1. I love making baklava at home, too, but I prefer walnuts and almonds. It is my favourite dessert!



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