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Tomato, Fennel, Date and Nut Baklava

Recipe by Chef Faiza Hasan created for the Number 68 Project supper club
held in London on May 9, 2010. Photo by Montillo Italian Foods, all rights reserved

Ingredients

3-3/4 ounces olive oil
2 sticks melted butter
1 large fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 sprigs of dill, finely chopped
20 small tomatoes on the vine, roughly chopped plus enough stems for the garnish
3 teaspoons of tomato puree
1 packet of fillo pastry sheets
1/4 cup each blanched almonds and pistachios, whizzed to a powder
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
3-1/2 ounces pitted dates
1 cup feta cheese
6 tablespoons Vino Cotto di Montillo
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 350F (180C).

2. Remove the woody stem from the fennel and finely chop it.

3. Heat the oil then add 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter starts foaming, add the fennel. It's important to have the oil and butter quite hot so the fennel will caramalize; otherwise, it will start steaming and get very soft. Keep an eye on it.

4. When the fennel is nice and brown (not burnt), add the garlic, cinnamon, dill and fennel seeds. Fry for a couple of minutes until the seeds release their aroma.

5. Add the Vino Cotto and tomatoes to the fennel mixture. Cook until the Vino Cotto is reduced to a thick syrup.

6. Meanwhile, roast the tomatoes on the vine with some oil and a tablespoon of Vino Cotto in the oven.

7. Unfold the stack of fillo pastry sheets and cover with a damp cloth until ready to use; otherwise, the dough will dry up very quickly.

8. Brush a 9" x 13" x 2" baking dish with melted butter. Line with a fillo pastry sheet (much like making a lasagne) and butter the top. Place another sheet and butter the top, repeating this step until you have an overall fillo thickness of three layers. Again, cover the unused stack of fillo sheets with the damp cloth.

9. Spread half of the fennel mixture, half the dates, nuts and feta on the fillo. Top with three more layers of buttered fillo sheets as done in Step 8. Spread the remaining fennel mixture, dates, nuts and feta then top with three more layers of buttered fillo. The top fillo sheet should be buttered and scored.

10. Bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown.

11. Serve sprinkled with cinnamon (optional) and one stem of the roasted vine tomatoes.

Copyright Montillo Italian Foods 2009 - 2010