(The Nosher via JTA) — On my fourth day back at work as a high school counselor following three months of maternity leave, I am keenly aware of just how little time exists in each day. Time and sleep (and coffee) are the hottest commodities in my world right now.
By the time I arrive home each afternoon, my husband and I have just a few precious hours left to spend with our two children, cook dinner, clean up from dinner and get these kids ready for bed. Our time is more precious than ever.
One of the best parts of maternity leave was having time in the day to cook dinner and enjoy it with our family. But now? Dinner takes on a much more harried tenor, and so I have developed a few tricks for the dinnertime rush. One of our favorite quick meals is what we call “Mediterranean Night,” which includes some Israeli salad, hummus, tahini, sliced hard-boiled eggs and the main event: vegetable burekas.
The best part of burekas, aside from being doughy little pockets of heaven, is that I use them as a way to clean out my fridge of the veggies and/or herbs that are nearing the end of their freshness. I’ve included my favorite veggie-cheese combination for this recipe, but the combinations are endless. Simply chop up your favorite veggies lying around in your fridge, saute with some olive oil and garlic, and then pair them with your favorite cheese. Put the mix into some store-bought puffed pastry and you’ve got an awesome weeknight dinner in just 30 minutes.
Veggie and Cheese Burekas
2 sheets store-bought puff pastry, defrosted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons filling of your choice (suggested filling: 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup feta cheese, handful of finely chopped cilantro, 1 eggplant, fried, and 1 sautéed leek)
1 egg yolk plus 2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
1/4 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
Nonstick cooking oil spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare your preferred filling — for the filling featured: Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch rounds. Place rounds on a paper towel and dust them with kosher salt and let sit for at least 30 minutes. (The kosher salt is drawing out moisture from the eggplant, so that it will be more crispy was baked or fried.) After 30 minutes, pat dry and cut into cubes. Fill a frying pan with 1-inch sunflower or canola oil and set on stove top burner at medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add the eggplant and fry until each side is golden brown. Let fried eggplant cool on a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.
While the eggplant is cooling, wipe the frying pan of excess oil and add another 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan.
Once hot, add chopped leeks and garlic saute on medium high heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add mixture to plate of cooling eggplant.
Place eggplant, leeks, cilantro, feta, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. Reserve mixture.
On a lightly floured surface, unfold one of your puff pastry sheets. Use a rolling pin to roll out the sheet to a 12-by-12-inch square. Cut the sheet of puff pastry dough into 9 equal squares, each about 4 by 4 inches. (DO NOT WORRY if your squares are not exact).
Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each dough square.
Fold the dough squares by grasping one corner and folding it over to the opposite corner to make triangles. Pinch firmly along the outer open edge of the triangles to seal. Go over each edge with a finger dip of water to help seal the dough.
Spray your baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Place your burekas on each sheet, evenly spaced, giving them some room to expand during baking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of cool water. Use a pastry brush to brush a light layer of the egg wash onto the surface of each bureka. Sprinkle each bureka with sesame seeds, if desired.
Bake the burekas for about 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
(Whitney Fisch received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan and is working as a middle-school counselor.)
The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.