Saha’s Wild Mushroom Knaffe

From Saha Come to Berkeley by Sarah Henry, Photo by Kala Minko

Knaffe is one of many names for a type of Middle Eastern shredded phyllo dough, as well as for traditional desserts that feature it. At Saha, chef/owner Mohamed Aboghanem serves a knaffe dessert that is very traditional, but he wanted to create an equally exciting vegan savory option for his menu. He put the pastry over a bottom layer of a Yemeni farina cake called bisbusa (also spelled basbousa). Note: The frozen pastry can be purchased at most Greek or Middle Eastern stores, and if you can’t find it, try asking for “kataifi.” 

Serves 4

Chermoula Marinade
(for use in the Knaffe Sauce)
½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons paprika
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoons turmeric
1½ teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper

Blend all ingredients in a food
processor until smooth.

Knaffe Sauce
2 tablespoons chermoula marinade
2 tablespoons tomato sauce or diced fresh tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup coconut milk

Mix ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat down to a simmer and reduce for 3 minutes. Serve over the knaffe. 

For Yemeni Bisbusa
6 ounces plain organic tofu
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup orange juice
1 cup farina
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ cup honey (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a square baking pan. Blend bisbusa ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake until golden brown for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn up oven to 425° for baking assembled knaffe.

For Mushroom Knaffe
½ cup vegan butter, melted
4–6 ounces (about ¼ package) knaffe (kataifi), thawed
4 tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
2 cups wild mushrooms (preferred varieties are oyster and chanterelle), gently cleaned and de-stemmed then roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Massage knaffe with melted vegan butter until mixture has softened uniformly. Brush vegan butter on the bottom of 4 small ramekins and sprinkle black sesame seeds on top. Cut round slices of bisbusa to fit in the bottom of each ramekin. Place on top of sesame seeds.
Heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the mushrooms with 1 cup of water, salt, and pepper until they are soft, about 5 minutes.
Place mushrooms on top of bisbusa and then add 1 tablespoon vegan cream cheese. Top with a thick layer of knaffe and press down on ingredients. Bake for 10 minutes. 

To prepare for serving, spoon some of the kanffe sauce onto each of 4 individual plates. Remove the mushroom knaffes from the oven, loosen from the ramekins with a sharp paring knife, then carefully unmold one onto each plate, and serve.