Spinach, Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, Walnut and Feta Filo Borekas
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes
Boreks, burek, borekas, burek, Byorek, bouréki, bourekáki—whatever you call these savory filled pastries, they are ubiquitous throughout the Mediterranean and wildly popular in Israel. A boreka is about the textures—the crispness of filo or yufka or puff pastry dough—and the flavor-packed filling. This one is full of cheese, rich with the heft and surprise of walnuts and popping with a hint of anise. Be a hit at the next party—bring these babies and enjoy.
¼ cup olive oil
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (about 4 cups)
4 pounds frozen chopped spinach
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground anise seed
18 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound smoked fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼-inch dice or shredded
2½ cups roughly chopped, toasted walnuts (see Kitchen Tips)
½ cup minced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
Leaves of 1 small bunch fresh thyme (about 3 tablespoons)
Leaves of 1 small bunch fresh marjoram (about 3 tablespoons)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds filo dough, defrosted in the refrigerator
1 cup salted butter
4 bay leaves
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
- Make the filling: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened completely and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- In a very large mixing bowl, combine the spinach, salt, pepper, anise, feta, mozzarella, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, marjoram, garlic, and Parmesan cheese and mix well (your clean hands are the best tool). Add the eggs and mix well to incorporate. Add the onions, mix to coat again, and set aside.
- Prepare the dough: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside. Soak a large cotton kitchen towel in water and wring it out completely until no water drips from it at all; set aside. (Note: If your kitchen towels smell like detergent, use a wet paper towel instead.)
- Remove the defrosted filo dough from its wrapper, unfurling it completely. Place the stack of filo sheets on a clean, dry baking sheet and cover with a sheet of parchment paper and the wrung-out kitchen towel. This set-up will keep the filo dough hydrated and allow you to work with pliable dough; just be sure that the towel doesn’t touch the dough directly or it will get mushy (see Kitchen Tips).
- Heat the butter and the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter has foamed and melted. Set aside. Make an egg wash by mixing the egg yolks and water in a small bowl.
- Place 2 filo sheets on the work surface. With a pastry brush, brush with the butter from edge to edge. Fold one of the short sides of the rectangle about two-thirds of the way over the surface, as if you were folding a business letter; fold the other side over it, to make 3 layers. Brush the top with butter (it should be quite saturated).
- Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling down one of the long edges, leaving a ½-inch margin. Roll into a tube, brush it liberally with the egg wash and let stand for a moment so that the egg wash softens the dough. Then very gently roll the tube into a tight spiral, about 2½ inches in diameter.
- Place the boreka on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining filo sheets and filling. The borekas will fill the baking sheet; it’s okay if they touch.
- Coat the borekas with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. (The borekas can be frozen before baking and baked from the freezer for 45 to 50 minutes.)
- You can find toasted or roasted nuts in most supermarkets, but if you can’t, or if you prefer to roast your own, try The Weiser Kitchen’s Roasted Nuts recipe. If someone at your table is allergic to nuts, try toasted sunflower seeds instead.
- Filo dries out quickly and this damp-towel set-up will help prevent excess breakage. Of course, there’s no getting around the fact that some sheets always break. It doesn’t matter—it will still taste good.