Sunday, May 15, 2016

On Having It All: Spring Onion Medley Burek + Mira's Spinach Burek









This little corner of cyberspace has been awfully quiet for a while.

But there is nothing I can do about it. Work has piled up, chores have piled up, Miss Pain's activities have piled up... I have an office to-do list, and a school to-do list, and a home to-do list, and a life to-do list, but this life is serving me more items than I can possibly accomplish, and every time I cross an item from my many lists, at least three new ones materialize from all directions of my existence!

Simply put, my life is not converging.

It appears that I am yet another casualty of the "women cannot have it all syndrome". Once upon a time I believed that having it all is mighty possible, but we believe in all kinds of things when we are young. As much as I would love to be a scientist, and a mom (a good mom), and a blogger, and yogi(ni), and take a daily walk along the Hudson river (and an occasional photo along the way), and go to the market, and read a book, and be on top of things, and follow the news, and watch Game of Thrones, something had to go. Cooking is on hold. We've eaten more takeouts in the last couple of weeks than in the entire year before. Blog, photographs, news, Game of Thrones, and yoga, yes yoga, are on hold too. (Albeit, I still do the best I can to practice Tadasana when waiting in the supermarket line, I still perform ten mental sun salutations two times a day, and a handstand in the ladies-room at the office, when everyone is busy at lunch and the likelihood of being caught upside-down is minimal.)

Long time ago, I read an article. It hypothesized how the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals must be superhuman, rich, or self-employed. I cannot help but disagree from the bottom of my heart, and my soul, and my entire body. I am a mother, and some perhaps might consider me a top professional, but I am not rich, and I am not self-employed. I am just tired.








I meant to write about this sad state of affairs last week for Mother's Day but fell behind. I meant to write a long and eloquent post on how life is unfair and how Mother Nature, despite being a mother herself, has put us, the working mothers of the world on a short end of the stick. But I abandoned the idea. I had about two hours of free time, and the choice between: A) bitching in writing, or B) going to the market.

Which one do you think I picked?

Naturally.

At the market, I gave myself a HUUUUUUUGE and well deserved Mother's Day bouquet of lilacs, and a boatload of spring veggies, and then back at home I made two pans of burek. Because, that's what I make when I am in a need of a hug; because that's what my Mom made when she needed some tender loving care herself; because, burek is the ultimate soul food of the Balkans; because making a pan of burek does not constitute cooking at all -- it's a meditation; because burek is one big pan of filo magic!

The spring onion medley thing -- that was my creation, because we all know that I cannot help but meddle with recipes all the time and try new stuff. The cheese and spinach burek, that was Mira's classic; our usual Monday dinner, because Monday was her long day in the office, and she hated cooking on Mondays. On the second thought, I could have mixed both fillings and made two pans of Ottoman spring vegetable burek -- an entirely novel concept -- and now that I gave it a thought, I simply must try it ASAP. Perhaps next Monday.

Happy Monday folks!







Spring Onion Medley Burek


* about 12 oz filo dough (about 12 or so 13x18-inch thin filo pastry sheets)
* about 1 1/2 lb spring onions (two large bunches)
* about 6 oz spring garlic (a bunch or two, depending on how generous your farmer is when packing)
* about 5 oz ramps (one bunch)
* 6 - 8 tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan and drizzling burek
* 1/2 tsp ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp ground coriander
* 1/4 tsp ground fennel
* 2 large eggs
* 3 tbsp of whole milk or cream
* salt and freshly ground white pepper


hardware

* 9-inch round baking pan or 9x9-inch square baking pan


About two hours before baking, remove the filo from the freezer, and let it defrost.

Preheat the oven to 360F convection (or 385F regular bake).

Wash the onions, garlic and ramps carefully. Chop off the tops. Trim the ends from the spring onions and garlic, but keep a good portion of green parts. Discard yellow or damaged leaves from the ramps.

Chop all vegetables finely. (I usually slice the onions, garlic and white ramp tops into 1/4-inch tick slices, and julienne ramp leaves.)

In a large skillet, or sauté pan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the chopped vegetables and mix well. Cover. After a couple of minutes, when the vegetables begin to soften, add the spices. Again, mix well, half cover and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or so, until vegetables are very soft. Remove the pan from the stove and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.

Oil the baking pan generously. Take three sheets of filo together, so that they resemble one thick filo sheet, and place them on a work surface, in landscape orientation (long edge of the sheet facing you). Place about a quarter of the filling along the long edge of the sheet. Do not spread the filling over the entire sheet, it should evenly cover only the half of the sheet, leaving the other half empty for rolling (sort of like rolling sushi). Fold the edge of the sheet with filling, tuck it slightly and roll it up into a long sausage-shaped roll. Lay one end of the roll into the middle of the baking pan. Carefully wrap the remainder of the pastry-roll around itself to form a snail-shaped pie in the middle of the baking pan. This will fill about a quarter of the pan. Take another three sheets of filo, make another roll, and continue building your snail. (Depending on the baking pan you are using, and how tightly you roll, you might not use the entire fourth pie-roll. If you have more than what fits into the pan, cut out the piece you need and complete the pie.)


Brush the top of the pastry with olive oil. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk or cream, and mix. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg mixture, and then pour the remaining mixture all over burek, letting the mixture sip into its crevices.

Place the burek in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until cooked through and golden-brown. Cut into wedges and serve.


Serves 4






Mira's Spinach Burek


* about 12 oz filo dough (about 12 or so 13x18-inch thin filo pastry sheets)
* 8 oz baby spinach
* 1 1/4 lb feta cheese, crumbled
* 4 large eggs
* 1/3 cup of milk or cream + 3 tbsp for brushing
* about a 1/4 cup sunflower oil
* salt and freshly ground black pepper


hardware

* 9-inch round baking pan or 9x9-inch square baking pan


About two hours before baking, remove the filo from the freezer, and let it defrost.

Preheat the oven to 360F convection (or 385F regular bake).

Bring a pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil on the stove. Drop the spinach leaves into the boiling water, and boil for about two minutes. Empty the spinach and water into a colander to drain away the water. Rinse immediately with cold water to stop the cooking process. Squeeze the excess water from spinach and chop the spinach finely. In a medium bowl, mix the cheese, spinach and two eggs. Add cream, and season with salt and pepper.

Oil the baking pan generously. Take three sheets of filo together, so that they resemble one thick filo sheet, and place them on a work surface, in landscape orientation (long edge of the sheet facing you). Place about a quarter of the spinach filling along the long edge of the sheet. Do not spread the filling over the entire sheet, it should evenly cover only the half of the sheet, leaving the other half empty for rolling (sort of like rolling sushi). Fold the edge of the sheet with filling, tuck it slightly and roll it up into a long sausage-shaped roll. Lay one end of the roll into the middle of the baking pan. Carefully wrap the remainder of the pastry-roll around itself to form a snail-shaped pie in the middle of the baking pan. This will fill about a quarter of the pan. Take another three sheets of filo, make another roll, and continue building your snail. (Depending on the baking pan you are using, and how tightly you roll, you might not use the entire fourth pie-roll. If you have more than what fits into the pan, cut out the piece you need and complete the pie.)

Brush the top of the pastry with olive oil. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk or cream, and mix. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg mixture, and then pour the remaining mixture all over burek, letting the mixture sip into its crevices.

Place the burek in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until cooked through and golden-brown. Cut into wedges and serve.





Serves 4


(Note: The egg wash is very much a must for the spring onion burek, but it is optional for the spinach one. If you leave it out, make sure to oil the surface of the burek generously, and once you bake it, you will have a crispy, golden flaky crust of dough, like parchment paper. You can also eliminate the eggs from the filling and add a bit more milk. The eggless spinach burek will taste different, but in a good kind of way, the sharp flavor of feta and spinach will be more prominent. So try out both versions and decide which one you like better. I cannot, so I alternate.)


12 comments :

  1. Oh what a nice break to see the new post here as I am working on a presentation for tomorrow, exhausted, while my daughter is crying herself to sleep (because reading only five books to her for bedtime is way too little, you know). Best of luck with everything, I truly don't know how you manage full time job, family, and this awesome blog. Chapeau!

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    1. Jelena, good luck with the presentation, hope it all goes well.

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  2. Being a mother changes you, and only then you understand. The life becomes much more complicated and interesting and that I think lasts forever. When children grow up obligations change. We are often tired, working hard, but we are rich for this love, life experiences and responsibilities. Looking them finding themselves and having privilege to participate is irreplaceable. The pies look delicious!

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    1. Hey, I know -- this is what my mom used to say, and then she would add "you will not understand until you have a child."

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  3. Wow, I would say you and I have something in common with too much to do and not enough time to do it but you created this masterpiece and I cannot even make a sandwich. Your Burek is just beautiful, I envy your farmers market there was literally nothing here at ours on Saturday, pretty sad. You put together a beautiful dish and post. Brava!!

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    1. Hang in there, it ought to slow down at some point (I hope). My market was kind of sad too, this is a weird spring, everything coming so late, although last winter was kind of mild. Spring onions were pretty much all I could find.

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  4. I have to chime in with Suzanne, you created a gorgeous post and dish. I remember those days when I was lucky to get four hours of sleep. Motherhood and working is not easy , it never has and it never will be. Take care of yourself .

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    1. Thank you, it is very kind of you to write :)

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  5. It is so very hard to juggle everything and NOT be tired at the same time. For not blogging or cooking, I think your post and recipe came out gorgeous. Our farmer's markets don't even open until June where I live. Hang in there!

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    1. Kathryn, thank you. My little neighborhood market sleeps during the winter, and is somewhat groggy in the spring, so I try to make a trip to the big one, although that one is still kind of sleepy too. Very unusual for this time of the year.

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  6. Wow, these look and sound amazing!

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