Now that we’ve started using filo dough (see: Baklava – we’ve made it twice since posting it!), we’ve gained a little bit of confidence in working with the thin, finicky dough. So I knew Selim would want to tackle börek next. He loves börek – although it’s kind of hard to say it’s his favorite food, because there are about a million different types of börek. In Turkey, börek is essentially any dish prepared with yufka, which is (depending on when and where you read about it) the same as filo dough, the precursor of filo dough, or a slightly different texture from filo dough. I’m not educated enough to know which one it is. I do know that börek is delicious in every form I’ve ever had it and that this spinach-stuffed version is a quite traditional one.
I was eating some of this börek for lunch the other day in a breakroom at the hospital, when someone said, “Oh wow that smells delicious… What is it, spanakopita?” I could feel my husband cringing from a floor away. We’ll pause to let him go on his rant about Turkish food – how he would’ve answered had the friendly, innocent question been posed to him.
Selim: Many Americans love Mediterranean food and seem to always associate this with Greek food. So somehow, this has turned into Greek food being the most beloved cuisine, representing an entire region. Even more so, I feel like Americans think that the Greeks were the originators and only true architects of so many of the best dishes of the Middle East and Mediterranean. In fact, many of your favorites, originated elsewhere: baklava came out of the Ottoman palace kitchens in modern day Istanbul, while hummus was first documented in 13th century Cairo. The vast reach of the Ottoman empire and centuries of trading routes surely contributes to the regional spread of cuisine – you can find dishes with very similar ingredients and preparations, but different names from the Balkans to the Levant, the Caucasus to Northern African. (This is not to say that there aren’t amazing Greek chefs or delicious dishes of Greek origin – the Greeks truly aren’t the subject of my rant.) I just hate that other cultures don’t get their due. Obviously, I’m biased as I’m ethnically half Turkish, but I wish Turkish cuisine was more recognized, available, and beloved in the US. So in short, while similar, this is börek, not spanakopita.
Spinach & Feta Börek
(Adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan)
- 2 lbs fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup clarified butter, divided
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 3 eggs, divided
- 16oz feta cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup milk
- ~20 sheets filo dough
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Prepare the filling: cook the spinach briefly in boiling water over medium heat until wilted. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach to remove any additional water.
- Chop up the spinach.
- In a large pan oven medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup clarified butter.
- Add the onions and spinach and cook for just 3-4 minutes until onions have softened.
- Allow the mixture to cool.
- Once cool, stir in the cheese, parsley, and 2 whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 egg, and milk.
- Brush this mixture on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Begin layering the filo dough, brushing each new layer with the butter mixture.
- Once halfway through the filo dough (~10 sheets), spread all of the spinach and cheese mixture out evenly.
- Resume layering the rest of the filo dough, brushing with the butter mixture as before, including a thorough coating over the last layer.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the börek into squares or triangles.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes.
- Allow the börek to stand for 10 minutes before eating.