Roasted Butternut Squash, Harissa & Feta Bourekas
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!
1.5 lbs (one large or two medium) butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
½ tsp harissa
2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6-8 cracks of freshly ground black pepper or ¼ tsp pre-ground black pepper
14oz or 400 grams puff pastry (2 sheets)
1 tablespoon flour, for dusting work surface
Water, to seal bourekas
2 – 3 tablespoons, sesame seeds
1 tsp cool water
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Cut a diamond pattern into the flesh of each half of the butternut squash and place them cut side up on your prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix the ground cumin and olive oil, then rub the mixture evenly onto the butternut squash halves, making sure to get the mixture into all the cuts. Roast for 45-50 minutes, or until the butternut squash is fork tender. Let cool.
Scoop the inside of the butternut squash into a medium-sized bowl, and discard the skin. Combine the feta, harissa, parsley, dill, lemon zest, egg, salt, and pepper with the squash. Set mixture aside until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle and cut into 4×4 inch squares. If your puff pastry is already shaped like a rectangle, roll it to about ¼ inch thick.
Fill the center of the square with 1 ½ tablespoons 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 bourekas on the prepared baking sheets, giving them some room to expand during baking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 tsp of cool water. Using a pastry brush, coat the bourekas 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 bourekas are golden brown.
To freeze the bourekas: After filling and shaping the bourekas, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until they’re frozen through, about 5-6 hours, then transfer to a tupperware or ziploc bag.
To bake from frozen: Place the frozen bourekas on a parchment lined sheet pan (no need to defrost them), and bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes.