Bourekas, savory pastries popular in the Middle East, have a long and interesting history, as described by food writer and photographer Tori Avey. They originated as deep-fried dumplings in Central Asia and made their way to Turkey, transforming into flaky, filled pies called bureks. The pies reminded Turkey’s Sephardic Jewish community, who settled in the region after escaping the Spanish Inquisition, of empanadas, and became known as bourekas. They are now a popular street food and breakfast item in Israel.
Bourekas are wrapped in filo dough or puff pastry (I used the former) and often filled with cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, or spinach. In keeping with the pastry’s history of reinvention, I put my own spin on the filling and incorporated the flavors of hindbeh, a Lebanese dish made with sauteed dandelion greens, pine nuts, and crispy caramelized onions. I first sampled hindbeh at a Lebanese restaurant in New York City a few years ago and decided it would make the perfect filling for a savory pastry.
Dandelion greens are in season throughout the spring, and are often available at farmer’s markets and produce shops. However, you can easily substitute spinach, chard, or other leafy vegetables.
Bourekas with Dandelion Greens, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onions
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch dandelion greens
Juice from 1 lemon
⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted
4 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Adapted from Tori’s Kitchen
1 package filo dough (8 x 14 inch rectangles)
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons water
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (I used black sesame seeds for added color)
Onion flakes, for sprinkling (optional)
- Wash the dandelion greens well, and roughly chop. Blanch to remove bitterness: fill a large saucepan around halfway with water, and bring to a boil. Add greens, and cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Remove greens with slotted spoon or drain into a colander. Squeeze out excess water.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet or medium saucepan. Cook onions over medium heat for around 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Remove with slotted spoon or spatula, leaving oil in the pot.
- Cook garlic slices in remaining oil until golden. Add dandelion greens and saute for around 10 minutes.
- Add lemon juice, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook for another minute or two.
- Transfer to a large bowl, and combine with goat cheese, pine nuts, and caramelized onions.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove filo dough from package and cover with a damp dish towel. Working with one sheet at a time, fold lengthwise to form a 4 x 14 inch rectangle. Arrange the dough on a cutting board or clean surface so that one of the 4-inch sides is on the bottom, closest to you.
- Lightly brush the sheet with olive oil. Place a spoonful of filling at the bottom of the rectangle. To form rectangular bourekas, fold the dough slightly over itself on each side, lengthwise, to make sure it stays tucked in. Then fold the dough over the filling and continue folding the dough over itself, trying your best to retain a square or rectangular shape, until there is no more dough left to fold (see photos below.) To from triangles, follow Tori Avey’s instructions here.
- Transfer bourekas to baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine egg yolk with water. Lightly brush over surface of bourekas, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and onion, if using.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet. Wrap leftovers in tinfoil or place in an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator.
Yields approximately 9 bourekas.