Bourekas, Knishes and Streudel - בורקס, קנישס ושטרודל
In July of 1967 we on the way home from camp (my parents picked me up - a very rare occurrence) we stopped in Calgary, Alberta for a few days. We stayed at a fabulous hotel called The Summit. It was round and resembled the Capital Records building in LA. Featured that year at the Stampede was a musical duo called Chad and Jeremy (I think they were British). And they were staying at The Summit. I was eleven and I was thrilled. And I was even more thrilled when I saw them in the lobby. I didn't have the nerve to approach them for an autograph, but my father, who was the most stoic man and as uninterested in popular music as you can imagine, went up to them and asked on my behalf. I got the autograph which I treasured for many years.
On that same trip, my brother's girlfriend, Susan z"l (older than me by ten years) and her mother Vivien z"l, (Calgarians), invited us to tea. Why I was invited along with my mother, I do not know. But I remember every moment of it. I remember what they both wore. I remember what cakes we ordered. I remember the conversation. And I especially remember that Vivien a New Yorker. She was an American and she was larger than life.
I eventually got over Chad and Jeremy. But I never got over Susan z"l and Vivien z"l. They entered our life and made it bigger and brighter and more generous in outlook. They introduced us to artichokes - which I detested the first time I tasted them. They made salad dressing without sugar and ate their meat rare. They had real art on the walls and purple dishes and knew FDR.
My mother is the best knish maker and baker that I know, or may ever know. She has goldene hände. No matter what she touches, it comes out beautifully. So can be said of Vivien z"l. But in a different way. The Reeses were both traditional and daring. So alongside roast potatoes and Czech dumplings there could be a standing rib roast with orange and avocado salad and puréed spinach. New ideas in the kitchen were welcome. I learned so many things from the Reese family that I cannot recount.
In the shuk we have bourekas which are basically filo pastry filled with variety of ingredients and distinguished by their different shapes. Long ropey ones are often filled with spinach or chard and bulgarit (soft feta). Triangular ones are sometimes filled with potatoes. Oblong ones can be cheese or sometimes even sweet potato. They look delicious. They smell fantastic, probably because of the oil, but I am invariably disappointed in the taste. And no matter how many roasted eggs or tahini and peppers are added to the dish, to my palette, they all taste the same and they all lack flavor.
I know that I am spoiled. I was raised on knishes and struedels. My mother has a different dough recipe for each type of knish and each type of struedel. Some lighter than others. Some stretchier. Some that can hold nuts, some that can hold apples, some that bake down and some that puff up. The dough is key. But -- so is the filling. What goes in must be good or no matter what dough is used, they will disappoint.
I will leave the knish and struedel recipes to another day or days, since there are generations of practice that must be respected. And just as there is knish and struedel mythos, there are families who can guarantee that delicious homemade bourekas can be found.
Yesterday, I announced that I made vegetable bourekas. But that is not really accurate, so I am changing the name to Vegetable Struedel. I am doing this because the the name comes from Vivien z"l. I remember tasting it for the first time and thinking, "wow, who knew you could put tomatoes in a knish". With great respect.
As with all the recipes it will be also be published later under a Creative Commons License. The attribution is important to me. If you enjoy the soup, let me know and don't forget the shout-out.
BT's Vegetable (Bourekas) Struedel
2 pounds ripe and very sweet tomatoes - any color
1 jalapeño chili sliced in circles including seeds and veins
3 tablespoons olive oil - the fruitier the better
4 cloves crushed garlic
4 large portobello mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup of feta cheese - skip if you want vegan
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of unsalted butter
1 pound filo pastry in leaves
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds or sesame seeds
Place filo pastry in refrigerator 12-24 hours before you plan to use it
Preheat oven to 220 C or 425 F.
Slice in circles or halves depending on their size and place in roasting dish.
Place garlic and chili on top of tomatoes
Douse with olive oil
Sprinkle with kosher salt and plenty of ground pepper
Place in hot oven and roast for approximately 25 minutes or until the tomato skins are shrivelled and the tomatoes are sizzling
Remove from oven and reserve
Turn oven down to 180 C or 375 F
Turn burner on medium high flame.
Place a shallow cast iron or stainless pan on burner.
Add vegetable oil
When oil is hot add mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are dark brown
Remove from heat
Add nutmeg, salt and pepper
Melt olive oil and butter together in a pan. Skip butter if you want a vegan dish
Place baking parchment on baking sheet
Open filo and remove two sheets from roll
Place on baking parchment
Liberally brush oil/butter on pastry
Strain juice off tomatoes
Spread 1/2 mixture at the bottom of the pastry sheet leaving 1/2 inch on either side so that the pastry can be turn under
Place half of the feta over the tomato mixture
Place two more pastry sheets on top of the tomatoes
Liberally brush oil/butter on these sheets
Place mushrooms on pastry sheet
Pick up edges of pastry from the bottom and begin to roll the struedel
After first turn, brush oil/butter on pastry
Continuing rolling and brushing oil after each turn
When struedel is totally rolled into a log, slice the top layer of the pastry in diagonal strokes
Brush on oil/butter
Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds
Place in oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown