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Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, August 23, 2000

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
A baked piece of baklava shows its layers.

Layers of flavor

The basics of baklava
are a simple matter for
veteran bakers

Phyllo in many meals

By Stephanie Kendrick

Catherine Bukes takes a break from clarifying 30 pounds of butter to come to the phone. She's been at it for three hours.

"It's very time-consuming work," says the baklava baker extraordinaire, who is busy getting ready for this weekend's Greek Festival.

Organizers expect to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the event with about 10,000 guests over the two-day festival.

The members of Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral will transform Ala Moana Park's McCoy Pavilion into a Greek marketplace complete with Grecian song, dance, products and, of course, food. Gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, spanakopita, baklava and kataifi can be washed down with wines, beers and ouzo shipped in from Greece for the event.

Most of the food is being made by church members. "Without all this help from the ladies of the church, we just wouldn't have a festival," says Bukes.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-bulletin
Catherine Bukes assembles a pan of baklava: 10 sheets
of phyllo come first. This layer is brushed with butter,
then topped with filling and covered with more phyllo.
The process is repeated twice, then 16 sheets of phyllo
top the pastry.

Her training in Greek cooking intensified 30 years ago when she moved back to Hawaii from her husband's home town of Pittsburgh. Her mother and godmother decided it was time to pass the mantle to another generation.

Since then, she has developed something of a reputation for her skill, particularly when it comes to pastries. "She is really the super woman behind the baklava," says Athena Adams, president of the parish council.

Cooking with phyllo dough, the paper-thin pastry used in baklava, is easier than it might seem, according to both women.

The dough (sometimes called fillo or filo) is is available in the frozen-food sections of grocery stores and the trick is to thaw it slowly before taking it out of the box, says Bukes.

"Make sure it is defrosted properly and that's at least two days in the refrigerator," she says.

Then take out only what you will be using and refreeze the rest, says Adams.

Use a towel to cover the sheets you are not working. The towel should be slightly damp, not wet. If the dough gets too wet, the sheets will stick, if they get too dry, they crumble. "It's a knack that you learn," says Bukes.

While both Adams and Bukes regularly cook with phyllo, neither has ever made the dough. "You're talking about the dark ages. My mother used to make her own and it would take her all day to make one pan of baklava," says Bukes.

Even today, cooking Greek cuisine in the quantities needed for the festival is labor intensive.

"It takes 3-1/2 days to do moussaka," says Adams of the Greek noodle-less lasagna. Slicing the 750 to 800 pounds of eggplant alone takes a day, she says. "We don't make enough money off our moussaka. If we had to charge for labor it's a losing proposition. But it's a labor of love for our church."

The festival was conceived 20 years ago as a church fund-raiser, said Butch Bukes, festival coordinator and son of Catherine. Funds are used to pay down the mortgage, maintain buildings and support community service programs such as flying neighbor island children in need of oncology treatment to Oahu's Kapiolani Medical Center.

The event is a lot of work for the church's 125 members.

"It sure has grown over the years. It's amazing that such a small church can put on such a big event. I'm amazed every year that we pull it off," says Butch Bukes.

And pull it off in style, says Adams. "I'm from the East Coast and I've been to festival after festival done by professionals and I've never seen one done better."

The popularity of the event, which reaches far beyond Hawaii's small Greek population, has long surprised organizers, who have theories about its draw.

"I think it's the entertainment and the good food," says Bukes.

But after years of watching non-Greeks kick up their heels in traditional dances, Adams has come to a more philosophical conclusion.

"Everyone is Greek at night," she says.

Hawaii's 20th annual
Greek Festival

Bullet When: Noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Bullet Place: McCoy Pavilion, Ala Moana Park
Bullet Cost: $3; children under 11 free with a paying adult

Phyllo finds its way
into many meals

Star-Bulletin staff

While baklava and spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) may be the most familiar uses of phyllo dough, the pastry is suited to a variety of dishes, says Catherine Bukes, one of the cooks behind this weekend's Greek Festival.

Whether for a dessert or a main dish, the common element in phyllo recipes is butter. "They're made for each other," Bukes says. That means use a cookie sheet with a lip whenever baking phyllo. All that butter can get messy.

Bukes and Athena Adams offered these recipes. As in many home recipes, some quantities are approximations.

"I don't measure," says Adams, who learned to cook from her mother. "She'd show me her fist and say, 'This much,' " she says.

The baklava recipe comes from Athens Foods, phyllo dough manufacturer.

Chicken in Phyllo

Athena Adams

2 boiled chicken breasts, cubed
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped (granulated OK)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 pound butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
Pinch nutmeg, or to taste
1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/2 pound phyllo
1/2 pound melted butter

Sauté first five ingredients in butter until vegetables soften. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make rough of butter and flour. Add milk and stir to thicken. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese. Remove from heat and mix in sautéed ingredients.

Cut phyllo sheets in half to make shorter, fatter sheets. Butter one sheet. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in one corner and fold in triangles, as you would a flag. Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. Makes 20.

Approximate nutritional information, per triangle (not including salt to taste): 120 calories, 7 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, greater than 140 mg sodium.*

Mushroom Snacks

Catherine Bukes

2 large onions, chopped
1/4 pound butter
3 pounds white mushrooms, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1/8-1/4 teaspoon dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream
1 pound phyllo
3/4 pound clarified butter

Sauté onions in butter until soft. Add mushrooms and spices and sauté to blend. Cool for a day.

Add sour cream to cooled filling.

Cut phyllo in 2-inch strips and brush them with butter. Place filling in one corner and fold in triangles, as you would a flag. Pies can be frozen for later use, or baked at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden. Makes 40

Approximate nutritional information, per triangle (not including salt to taste): 150 calories, 12 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, greater than 170 mg sodium.*

Zucchini in Phyllo

Catherine Bukes

12 ounces zucchini, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup crumbed feta (or more)
1/3 cup packed grated parmesan
6 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 egg
1 pound phyllo
3/4 pound clarified butter
1 egg white, beaten
1 cup sesame seeds

Salt zucchini and drain 30 minutes, squeeze dry.

Sauté onion in olive oil until in begins to brown. Add zucchini and sauté until it starts to brown. Add herbs and wine; simmer 5 minutes. Uncover and stir until liquid evaporates. Cool.

Add cheese, pine nuts, egg, salt and pepper.

Cut phyllo into 3-inch strips and brush with butter. Place filling in one corner and fold in triangles, as you would a flag. Brush each pie with egg white and sprinkle with sesame. Bake at 350 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Makes 30.

Approximate nutritional information per triangle 200 calories, 17 g total fat, 8 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium.*


Athens Foods

1-1/2 pounds walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
40 sheets phyllo dough
1 cup butter
Bullet Syrup:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup honey
2 cups water
1 lemon peel

Combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Brush 12-by-17-inch baking sheet with butter. Place 10 buttered phyllo sheets on pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 of walnut mixture. Place 7 buttered phyllo sheets on top, then another 1/3 of the mixture, then another 7 sheets and the final 1/3. Finish with 16 more sheets of phyllo and brush with remaining butter.

With a very sharp knife, score baklava into 1-1/2 inch diamonds or squares. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

To make syrup, bring all ingredients to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool slightly.

When baklava has finished baking, cool slightly, then pour syrup evenly over pastry. Cool completely, cut and serve. Makes 88 pieces.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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