Butternut Squash & Feta Borekas
Among Sephardim, borekas have long represented hospitality and comfort, and have showcased the culinary ability of those making these delicious pastry turnovers. Borekas originated in Turkey, and when Turks relocated from central Asia to the area that now bears their name, they brought with them a deep-fried dumpling called burga. By the 15th century, this dumpling had evolved into various filled and layered pastries. These fritters were baked and fried, large and small, sweet and savory, and they became collectively known as borek or burek.
During the centuries that followed, Sephardim brought half-moon shaped Iberian empanadas to the Ottoman empire, and by the 18th century, Sephardim in Turkey and Greece merged the empanada with the borek, adding the Spanish feminine ending “a” to create the Ottoman Jewish pastry: the boreka. Traditional fillings include cheese, eggplant, potato, or spinach but mushroom and pizza have become popular new fillings in recent years.
During Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, it is traditional to fill borekas with squash (or pumpkin!) fillings. The symbolic foods to eat on Rosh Hashanah include, kraa (gourds), rubiya (fenugreek), karti (leeks), silka (beet greens or chard), and tamar (dates). These particular foods were chosen because of the similarity of their names to other words that signify a specific hope for the new year. In this case, the Hebrew word for gourd, kraa, is similar to yikara, meaning to be called out, which suggests that goods deeds should be emphasized at this time of judgment.
We hope these become a staple on your High Holiday and fall tables!
800g puff pastry sheets
2-3 Tbs sesame seeds
1 ½ lb (750g) butternut squash (weighed free of skin, seeds, and fibers)
5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Salt & Pepper
2 tsp cool water
Cut the butternut squash into 2-inch chunks and add to a pan (with a tight-fitting lid) along with ½ cup of water. Cook with the lid on for 20-30 minutes until soft. Drain squash and mash with a fork. Place mashed squash in a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and let liquid drain, this will take about 15-20 minutes. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the drained butternut squash with the feta, season with salt and pepper, and mix in the eggs.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle and cut into 4×4 squares. You should be able to cut 12-15 squares. Fill the center of the square with 1 ½ Tbs of filling. Wet your finger with water and run it around the edge of the square. Fold the dough over the filling, to the opposite corner, to make a triangle. Press the edges firmly to seal, then crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat this process with the remaining squares of puff pastry.
Evenly space borekas on the prepared baking sheets, giving them some room to expand during baking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tsp of cool water. Using a pastry brush, coat the borekas with a light layer of egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 27-30 minutes, switching the baking sheets between the upper and lower racks halfway through cooking. Bake until the borekas are golden brown.