By Wynter Holden
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Unlike the infamous "mouse shit chili" incident I blogged about in the inaugural What the Fork, sometimes I just get plain lucky when ordering an unidentifiable item at a restaurant. One case is Kataifi, an item I discovered on the menu at Razz's Restaurant in North Scottsdale. I'd never heard of it, but based on their description of the appetizer, I thought I couldn't go wrong.
It was listed as Baked Cheese in Kataifi, with a spiced pear, apple and greens salad. How could that be anything but delicious? I may be a girl, but I still subscribe to the theory that cheese makes everything taste better. Macaroni. Potatoes. Broccoli. Ice cream. (Ok, maybe not ice cream, but the Sweet Republic honey blue cheese flavor fanatics might disagree.)
I guessed that it would be a tasty, crisp pastry shell; like a more exotic version of the French brie en croute. And thank the gods, I was dead on. Kataifi is Greek pastry dough that's more brittle than phyllo and kind of stringy. Basically, it looks like a yellowish version of shredded wheat.
It's nearly impossible to make at home without special tools. Manufacturers of the stuff ladle the kataifi dough onto a giant grooved turntable and then gather it between their fingers like haystacks of spun sugar. By itself, the dough doesn't have a strong taste, but combine it with ground meats or honey and almonds (or cheese!) and it gives the dish a crunchy texture that pairs well with savory or sweet.