9 April 2010

Fun with Filo, part 1

Posted in food at 9:16 pm by Tricia

One of our favorite places to go to dinner used to be a Greek restaurant near the university. It’s not that it was necessarily great food, and it certainly wasn’t the air quality (no separation from smoking section), but rather that it was one Real Restaurant where the whole family could find something they liked to order. For the boys, it was grilled cheese and fries (the fries really were great!). I always got the Mediterranean chicken salad, while Jonski Papa would get gyros or maybe a salad. And this was where we learned about tyropitakia – little triangle shaped pies, filled with feta and other cheeses. I adored them! I eventually found a recipe that seemed reasonable and tried making my own. That was kind of a pain – but maybe it was mainly my experience with handling fussy phyllo dough, or the fact that it made a TON of them. Nevertheless, I reserve that task for major holidays, when I already feel like I should be preparing food all day.

Our Greek place closed many years ago, but I was reminded of the delightful treat this past weekend while eating at a Turkish restaurant. They served something called cigarette boureks, basically the same thing in a different form factor (thin tube, and fried instead of baked).

Since I had fillo in the freezer (probably planned to make tyropitakia this past Thanksgiving but the swine flu kept me from it!), I went hunting in my copy of The Complete Middle East Cookbook. In the Turkish section, I found sigara böregi (that G should have a diacritic above it, but I can’t figure out how to get it!) but I didn’t want to deal with the deep frying. So I settled for burma börek (baked pastry rolls) with beyaz peynir (white cheese filling).

Beyaz Peynir (white cheese filling)

250 g (8 oz) feta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (I used fresh thyme, nowhere near 1/2 cup though)
freshly ground black pepper

Crumble cheese in a bowl using fingers or a fork. Beat egg lightly and blend into cheese with parsley (or thyme) and a good grinding of black pepper.

(The cookbook also has recipes for spinach and ground meat fillings.)

Burma Börek (baked pastry rolls)

10 sheets yukfa (fillo) pastry
1/2 cup melted butter
1 quantity meat, cheese, or spinach filling (I used the cheese, obviously!)

1. Open out pastry sheets and cut each sheet into 3 strips, roughly 12 cm by 30 cm (5″ x 12″). Stack on a tea towel and cover with cloth.

2. Take a strip of pastry and brush lightly with melted butter. Spread a generous tablespoon of filling towards narrow edge, keeping filling clear of sides. Fold in sides and roll up. Place seam side down on a buttered baking sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

3. Brush rolls lightly with butter [I forgot this step] and bake in a moderately hot oven [I used 350° F] for 20 minutes until golden. Serve hot.

Ahh – just as I was hoping for: crisp yet chewy, warm and cheesy… Actually, not quite perfect – they were kind of salty. I think the tyropitakia recipe I used before mixed feta with some other (less salty!) cheese. Maybe I’ll try that next time. And maybe i should use unsalted butter, although I can’t imagine that would make a huge difference. But they were definitely less work (or I’m more skilled at handling phyllo, or it’s because you only use 10 sheets instead of the whole box!)

We had these with made-up-on-the-spot cinnamon-and-lemon-seasoned sauteed chicken breasts, rice, and a salad. Those elements helped cut the saltiness of the cheese pies. And speaking of cheese pies, maybe I’ll make these next time we have a Pi(e) Day Party (the savory pies have always been under-represented).

P.S. In case you’re wondering, yes, I spelled filo/fillo/phyllo differently each time on purpose. :^)

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