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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spinach-Feta Bourekas with Zchug

Bourekas, I am informed by Wikipedia, are a savory pastry popular across the Middle East. They vary greatly by region, from fried items in Turkey to baked items resembling turnovers in Israel. The article is worth a read just to gain an appreciation of the sheer variety of food items we as a species have come up with. For the Steampunk Hanukkah dinner, we're using Israeli-style Bourekas as an appetizer, filled with a spinach-cheese mixture.

They will be served with Zchug (there's a lot of spellings, considering that it's a non-English name,) which is a spicy pepper-based sauce popular in North Africa. The recipe I use for Zchug is from a cookbook called Jewish Cooking by Marlena Spieler. It's one of the bargain books that you can find at Border's or Barnes and Noble here in the US, but it's a great resource for a wide variety of styles. She says:
This is the Yemenite chilli sauce that has become Israel's national seasoning. It is hot with chillies, pungent with garlic, and fragrant with exotic cardamom. Eat it with rice, couscous, soup, chicken, or other meats.
Sounds good to me.

How are these dishes Steampunk, you ask? In a purely pedantic sense, puff pastry is leavened by steam, so I find that appropriate, but I think that these fall under the "multicultural co-mingling" area of Steampunk—these are being served in a dinner that contains items from around the world and from different traditions, harmoniously combined into something very Victorian in style—a multi-course dinner to serve a multitude. Bourekas come from a Turkish/Greek/Balkan background, Zchug from a Yemenite tradition, and they harmonize into something very unique and delicious.

4 sheets Puff Pastry (12"/30 cm square)
5 lbs/2.27 kg Spinach
6 cloves garlic, paste 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Clarified butter

1. Sauté spinach with a small amount of clarified butter. When spinach begins to wilt, add garlic. Sauté until all spinach has wilted. Season with salt and pepper, mix with crumbled feta, and set aside.

2. Dock two of the sheets of puff pastry with forks and lay out on a sheet pan.

3. Place the feta/spinach mixture in an even later over the puff pastry. Place two more sheets over the top, brush with clarified butter, and bake until golden brown. Cut into triangles, small rectangles, or other shape of your choice.

Adapted from Jewish Cooking by Marlena Spieler
8 cloves Garlic, chopped
3 Jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
5 Tomatoes, fresh or canned, diced
1 small bunch fresh Cilantro (sometimes called Coriander,) chopped
1 small bunch fresh Parsley, chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp (10 ml) Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) Ground Turmeric
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) Curry Powder
3-5 Cardamom Pods' worth of seeds
1 fl. oz (30 ml) Lemon Juice
Pinch of Sugar, if necessary

1. Put all ingredients except sugar and salt in a food processor. Process until well combined.

2. Season with sugar and salt, and test for heat and flavor. Adjust seasonings, and store, refrigerated, until service.

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