Monday, October 10, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Baklava

This past weekend I celebrated the birthday of a good friend by making dinner.  The menu was vegetarian, by request, so I knew it called for a stellar entrée that was commandeering and substantial enough to hold its own as the star course.  In chatting with my friend about options, I was reminded of the savory baklava dish that I had prepared a few years ago to ring in the New Year.  This version, like its renowned sweet counterpart, scored high marks, and I was excited to bring it back into my cooking fold once again.

So along with a green salad, garnished with spiced nuts and dressed with a classic vinaigrette, and moist, melt-in-your-mouth citrus pound cake and ice cream, the roasted vegetable baklava made for a delectable indulgence, that kept the seconds--and thirds--flowing (to my delight), and marked yet another memorable celebration of the joys of friendship.  It was a good day.

Like the traditional Greek dessert, this dish brings us the irresistibly, flaky phyllo dough.  It serves as the perfect "casing" for hearty roasted vegetables, herbs, seasonings and a walnut mixture, that come together in the form of an elegant and scrumptious dish.  I adapted my recipe from the original Gourmet recipe by adding some additional touches to amp up the flavor quotient.  My final compliment of the night was that it was a "divine dinner". 

Now that it's back on my radar, I'm confident that this recipe will find its way into my repertoire more often and help to serve up more great memories and loads of... Happy Eating!  

Roasted Vegetable Baklava
1/2 cup walnuts (2 ounces), toasted
1/4 cup fine dry plain bread crumbs
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 pound Sweet potatoes
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving fronds, bulbs halved and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
3/4 pound parsnips (3 medium), sliced diagonally 1/3 inch thick
1/2 pound carrots (3 medium), sliced diagonally 1/3 inch thick
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Herbs de Provence
1/4 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped dill
8 (17-by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen

Equipment: a shallow 3-quart oval or rectangular baking dish

Preheat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Pulse walnuts with bread crumbs in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped (not ground).

Peel potatoes and slice 1/4 inch thick. Divide all vegetables between 2 large 4-sided sheet pans and toss each pan of vegetables with 3 tablespoons oil and a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper and herbs de Provence.

Roast vegetables, stirring and switching position of pans--and adding in minced garlic--halfway through, until softened and golden brown in spots, about 1 hour.  Leave oven on with 1 rack in the middle.

Add 1/3 cup water to each pan of vegetables and stir and scrape up brown bits from bottom.  Chop 1/4 cup fennel fronds. Combine all vegetables in 1 pan and toss with fennel fronds, dill and cheese.

Brush baking dish with some of remaining olive oil. Cover stack of phyllo sheets with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Keeping remaining phyllo covered and working quickly, place 1 sheet on a work surface, then gently brush with some oil and sprinkle with 2 rounded tablespoons of walnut mixture. Place another phyllo sheet on top and repeat brushing and sprinkling. Top with a third sheet and brush with oil.

Drape phyllo stack into one half of baking dish, gently pressing it into bottom and up side and leaving an overhang. Make another stack with 3 more phyllo sheets, more oil, and remaining walnut mixture. Drape into other half of dish (phyllo will overlap in center of dish).

Spoon vegetables into phyllo shell. Fold overhang toward center over filling (it will not cover vegetables) and brush edge with oil. Brush remaining 2 sheets of phyllo with remaining oil, tear in half, crumple, and arrange on top of filling.

Bake in middle of oven until phyllo is deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Gourmet 2008

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