Burekas - Little Parcels of Love
My introduction to the wonder of burekas was by a Turkish woman at the Falls Church farmers market ages ago. She would bring her savoy creations to the market and if you weren't there within the first hour, tough luck. Essentially, burekas are the Turkish version of the Greek Spanakopita. Her's were so divinely light and flaky that I wonder if she made her own phyllo dough; a process that not in a million years would I have the patience for.
At any rate, her burekas were more of a cigar shape, but that rolling technique is a bit trickier which is probably why Joan Nathan has given us a simpler version. This recipe is from Joan Nathan's fantastic book, "The Foods of Israel Today." So on to burekas making! Here are a few notes from me and the recipe out of the book is at the bottom of the page.
I had a ginormous bag of baby Red Russian Kale so I decided to try that instead of the spinach that it called for. This is after it had all been sweated and wilted. You could also use chard or a combination of greens. Since these were tender leaves, they also had tender stems but chopping them up made sure thy weren't stringy in the burekas.
Anyhoo, here are the greens all chopped up, ingredients added to make the filling and ready to roll!
I enlisted Zeke's help because when you work with phyllo it dries out fast. Yes, even with that much butter slathered on it. And please, don't skimp on the butter. That's what makes them flaky and delicious! We didn't fold the strip lengthwise again as Joan instructs. It made a bigger bureka, but they were still delicious.
Ta-dah! Our first tray ready to go into the oven! Here's the recipe for burekas with Spinach filling, but remember you can improvise on the greens. Joan includes a cheese filling and and eggplant filling recipe as well. I'll try those and work them into this post somewhere down the line. Enjoy!!
Makes about 60 bureka (or 30 if you do what we did and make them bigger):
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
16oz. pkg. phyllo dough, thawed
Filling of your choice
1 large egg
Black or regular sesame seeds for sprinkling (I forgot that part!)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom of a cookie sheet with some of the melted butter.
Take a sheet of phyllo and cut lengthwise in strips, 4 1/2 inches wide. Butter the strips, fold over lengthwise, butter again, and place a tablespoon of filling on the end. Then fold up right to left as you would a flag, so that the end result is a plump triangle, buttering the outside at the end. Repeat with the remaining filling and dough. Beat the egg, brush the burekas with it, and sprinkle sesame seeds over the tops.
Place on the cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden in color.
*Joan notes that you can also mold and freeze the burekas after forming. Defrost for 2 hours and then bake. And here's a real bonus...fill any leftover phyllo dough with chocolate chips or Nutella and make dessert!
Makes about 2 cups:
2 pounds fresh spinach or chard leaves, washed well, or 2 ten ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach.
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cups chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
8 scallions, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the fresh spinach or chard in a large frying pan with only the water that clings to the leaves, and cook briefly until they wilt (if using frozen spinach, simply defrost). Drain very well, squeezing out as much of the water as possible. Cool and chop.
Mix together the eggs, feta and cheddar cheeses, parsley, dill and scallions. Add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste; mix well.
Use about 1 tablespoon of filling for each bureka.