My version of Proust’s madeleine is a buttery pocket-pastry filled with Bulgarian feta cheese and spinach, called a bureka by Jews of Turkish and of Balkan origin. Until recently, I hadn’t tasted a really good bureka since the early 1970s, when I was foreign press attaché to then-Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. In those days, every Friday morning, a Moroccan doorman from the municipality named Simantov would enter the office carrying crispy, hot-from-the-oven triangular buns—on a tray with Turkish coffee spiked with cardamom pods. At a very important time in my life, I bit into the crunchy pastry and tasted the salty feta and earthy spinach. The flavor was heavenly, and I looked forward to this treat every Friday morning.
Now, in Washington, D.C., tasting a bureka brings back so many memories of Jerusalem. Although I love the authentic Bulgarian dough, I recently made a quick version with Greek phyllo and a simple filling: half cheese and half spinach. (You could also substitute Swiss chard, kale, sorrel, broccoli, or even broccoli rabe.) Most I put straight into the freezer, but I couldn’t resist baking a few for myself, just to taste.
Traditionally, burekas are Sabbath morning breakfast fare accompanied by hard-boiled eggs that have been cooked overnight. Try this simple recipe and create your own Friday or Saturday morning memories.
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