03 May 2008


I am trying to think back on the first time that I had burek. I think it must have been when Zach and I visited Sarajevo. He was studying in Budapest and I was in Vienna and we decided to take a weekend trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I remember the overnight train from Budapest where we were lucky enough to get a compartment with two long benches that we could sleep on, the knocks in the night and shouts of 'Passport Kontrol' from the border guards and our arrival at the Sarajevo train station. It was a cold January morning, very early and the platform was shrouded in fog. An old fashioned locamotive engine was on the track opposite our and the conductor, wearing a slouched blue cap, was sitting perfectly still with his arm resting on the window ledge of the cab. Old women, wearing skirts and practical black skirts had kerchiefs tied around their heads. It seems funny that I should remember our arrival so clearly when the rest of the trip now seems a blur of cafes and very cold walks interspersed with stops to see the Sarajevo Roses in the pavement, scars in a beautiful city of a brutal war.

The point of this is that I know I must have had borek on this trip but I can't picture the time of the place. Sarajevo must have been the place where I tried the pastry pie filled with spinach, feta and fresh herbs. I associate it with our trip to the city even now. Even through burek can be filled spiced meat or just with cheese, my favorite is with cheese and spinach, similar to Greek spanakopita that many American's are familiar with. A few years ago Zach and I decided to try to make burek at the annual Christmas feast at Zach's dad's house. Though you could make it on your own, we always seem to do it together and have developed a little system where I pull a sheet of phyllo, and brush it with butter, Zach drops of the filling while I cut the dough in strips and then we both roll, starting at opposite ends. We made it last week for Zach's birthday and everyone loved it (after all, what's not to like about tiny savory pastries).

Makes about 40-50 bureks that are about 2 inches long

Several sheets of phyllo dough (I use the frozen kind- one package of sheets is more than enough)
1, 10oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. feta cheese
3 T. chopped fresh parseley
2 T. chopped fresh dill
1 egg
a few grates of fresh nutmeg
a few grinds of pepper
2-4 oz. melted butter, for rolling

- Preheat oven to 375F.

- Mix the cream cheese, feta, spinach, herbs, egg and spices.

- Carefully lift off a sheet of the phyllo dough (I always seem to tear the first sheet to bits- don’t worry if you do, just toss it and try again with the next one.) and brush it lightly with the butter using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. You’re looking to very lightly cover about 80% of the phyllo surface with butter.

- Spoon about 1 t. of filling at even intervals down the long side of the phyllo dough. Leave about an inch between each mound of filling. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough across so each mound of filling now has its own strip of phyllo

- Roll up the phyllo, starting at the filling end and transfer to a baking sheet. It doesn't need to be particularly tight or neat, just rolled up into a little tube. Keep repeating these two steps until you’ve used all of the filling.

- Bake the burek for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately. Uncooked rolls freeze very well and area great treat to have in the freezer. Just put then on a plate in the freezer until firm and then transfer them to a freezer bag


Neen said...

Oh, fun! Another D.C. blogging babe! Just discovered you through Kat (A Good Appetite). I love the imagery of you arriving in Sarajevo and what everyone is wearing. My partner and I had a similar trip three summers ago: He was doing research in Stuttgart and I had an internship in Geneva, so I trained up to Germany... we ended up falling in love and discovering wine... definitely a life changing experience! So maybe I should poke you and ask what Else happened in Sarajevo? ;)

Katerina said...

This looks good too! The only general difference I can see between this and spanakopita is the cream cheese.

kat said...

They sound wonderful to me. I think when dealing with phyllo it is always nice to have two people working, just seems to be easier

Jen said...

What else happened in Sarajevo... well we ate a lot of cevapi, but that is another post.

Katerina- I was skeptical about using the cream cheese the first time I made these, but it gives it the burek a really creamy consistency that feta alone doesn't.

Kat-- thanks the comment as always...