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Savory, Spicy Baklava for Your Easter Spread

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Growing up, Easter Sunday meant a long, incense-filled morning mass followed by a long, multicourse afternoon meal. Sometimes we gathered at home, other times at restaurants, but we always ate a glistening, sugar-coated ham. It’s as set in stone as the Thanksgiving turkey.

Tradition is great and all, but my family knows I’m hammed out. Plus, I like to shake things up every once in a while. And what could be a better stand-in than this savory take on baklava from award-winning chef Sabrina Ghayour’s latest cookbook, Feasts?

Tempting enough to break Easter traditions—right, Mom and Dad?
Tempting enough to break Easter traditions—right, Mom and Dad? Photo by Ty Mecham

Made with roasted then pulled pork, the dish combines the anisey punch of fennel seeds with sweet roasted tomatoes and salty feta. And just as our ham bathed in a sugary brine, the crispy phyllo pastry layers of Ghayour’s baklava absorb a citrusy, spicy syrup. The contrast of savory and sweet make each bite bright and exciting.

Now, I know this won’t be easy—the recipe requires quite a bit of prep before hitting the oven. But it’s just the type of entrée to stand out among all the other Easter treats. And who knows? Maybe it will become our new Easter tradition.

Savory Pork & Fennel Baklava

Savory Pork & Fennel Baklava

Sabrina Ghayour Sabrina Ghayour
Makes 9 squares

For the baklava

  • 2 pounds pork shoulder or 2 1/2-lb bone-in pork shoulder (leftover roast pork, lamb, or chicken also work well)
  • 1 pinch Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 splash olive oil, more to taste
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 2/3 cups tomato passata
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 sheets of phyllo pastry
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds, to garnish

For the syrup

  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • Zest from 1 unwaxed orange
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Go to Recipe

Do you celebrate Easter? If so, what will you make?

Tags: Pork, Easter, Entertaining, Books