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.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.