Opa!

Get ready for more baklava: The L.A. Greek Fest is back

When Zorba the Greek opened at the Pantages in 1986, there was a citywide competition to find the best baklava. Helen Zachario won–and hers is what you get at the L.A. Greek Festival at St. Sophia's, which begins this Friday.

Zachario's sister, Georgia Vasila, now leads the baklava crew to make thousands of pieces of the nutty, sweet dessert for the event. It takes an army to prepare all the food–spanakopita, roasted lamb, pastitsio, souvlaki, lemony roasted chicken and gyros–and a brigade's worth of ingredients.

The bakers go through almost 100 pounds of phyllo, 100 pounds of honey, 150 pounds of walnuts and 50 pounds of almonds for the pastries alone.

Vasila's tips for perfect baklava are simple: Use good butter, clarified if possible, which keeps the pastry crispier. "And it's important to get good fresh, not frozen, phyllo," says Vasila. "That's half the battle."

Try the award-winning baklava, along with diples (pastry puffs drenched in honey), galaktoboureko (custard-filled phyllo) or loukoumathes (hot fried donuts), at the festival, or make Vasila's baklava at home–click here to download the recipe (pdf).