Kataif is a traditional Middle-Eastern dessert, in the same family as baklava. The dough is a shredded wheat material, though, and is much easier to use than the filo dough for baklava. The whole house is filled with the marvelous aroma of orange blossom water when you pour the syrup over the kataif. I find several types of dough that are particularly fun to work with. Kataif dough is one, pita is another, and Chinese glass noodle nests are another. In each of these foods, there is a certain magic in the way the raw material behaves during the cooking process. Don't hesitate using your hands to work the shortening into the kataif dough--it's part of the whole experience.


Stir sugar, water, lemon juice over moderate heat. Simmer until it thickens and coats a spoon. This can be done in the microwave. Be sure to watch it carefully. Stir in the orange blossom water and cook an additional 2 minutes. Cool and chill while preparing the other items.

Pistachio Filling

Mix the chopped nuts with the sugar.


Oven Temp: 350°F., 45 minutes, then 450°F., 10 minutes.
Yield: a 13"x9" pan

Put the defrosted kataif pastry in a large bowl. Pull out and separate the strands. Pour melted butter or shortening over the pastry, and work in so that all strands are covered. Put half the pastry in a 13"x9" pan. Spread the filling over, and cover with the remaining pastry. Flatten with your hand. Bake at 350°F. for 45 minutes. Raise the heat to 450°F., and continue to bake until light golden. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot kataif. Serve hot or cold. This gets better after sitting at room temperature for about 3 or 4 days.

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