It’s hard to write about something as trivial as food at a time when our beloved Israel is at war and when we are anxiously watching every heartbreaking bit of news.
It’s hard to write about something as trivial as food at a time when our beloved Israel is at war and when we are anxiously watching every heartbreaking bit of news. But eat we must. There is even a small victory in gathering together with our friends and family to celebrate Shabbat.
Recently, Rachel and I spent a day cooking and we made these most delicious meat burekas. My mother has been making them for as long as I can remember. She still loves making meat burekas for her grandchildren, along with more creative ones that are filled with any combination of sautéed tofu, kale, spinach, potatoes and mushrooms.
There is something soothing and meditative about chopping the onion and parsley, about taking the time to caramelize the onion, stirring in the meat and pine nuts and sprinkling in the warm spices. Rolling the puff pastry into long logs is much quicker and easier than forming individual burekas. But take the time to decorate the top with your own creative design. We promise, there is just something wonderful about crispy, flaky, golden brown puff pastry wrapped around a meaty filling. So perfectly festive!
When I removed these bundles of joy from the oven, even my husband Alan was moved to say “Wow!” And judging from the happy expressions of my Shabbat guests, they tasted really good too.
Spicy meat cigars and sweet chicken bastilla are much loved dishes of the Moroccan table. Both involve wrapping meat and chicken with a crispy pastry — meat cigars utilize a crunchy brik pastry and chicken bastilla, a paper-thin phyllo pastry. Rolling the cigars is painstaking (and involves deep frying); rolling the phyllo pastry is delicate and fiddly.
The first time I ever ate a meat bureka was 16 years ago in Israel. Neil and I were on vacation there with our young children. When we visited my extended family in Haifa, Rani, the husband of my youngest cousin Anat, made the most incredible meat burekas.
My family and I loved this food so much, that I began making them for Shabbat every week. While this recipe combined the ground beef of the cigars with the cinnamon and pine nuts of the chicken bastilla, the puff pastry gave it a much easier twist. All of it was absolutely mouthwatering. Ever since, making these long log shaped burekas has been a nod to Israel for me.
These meat burekas always brings me back to my loving Israeli family. Despite the difficulties in communicating with each other — I don’t speak Hebrew and some of them don’t speak English so well and only some are able to communicate with me in Spanish — we have an unshakable bond. The relationships were built by our parents and now our children have bonded.
When missiles rained down on Tel Aviv during the summer of 2022, my daughter Rebekah was on an internship working in a school with young children. Scared, she headed to Haifa to be with Anat and Rani and their kids, where she ended up having the best time. They fed her very well and when she returned to Tel Aviv, they even made sure to give her a delicious homemade cake to take back.
It’s crazy how so many of our memories are linked to food, or is food linked to memories?
My family in Israel is in my thoughts constantly. Anat and Rani’s younger daughter Mika is serving on an IDF base in the North.
We pray that Hashem bless all the soldiers of Israel and may He bring them, and the hostages, home safely.
Meat Burekas Recipe
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 package puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
Sesame seeds for garnish
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a skillet, warm oil over medium heat.
Add onion and sauté until translucent.
Continue to sauté until onion is golden brown.
Add the beef, salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon and sauté. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces. Add the water, cover and simmer until all the water evaporates.
Add parsley and pine nuts and stir to combine. Set aside.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, lay out one sheet of puff pastry. Using a rolling pin, lightly thin the pastry into a long rectangle.
Place the pastry dough onto baking sheet
Spoon the meat mixture in a long layer down the middle of the pastry. Pull both sides up to cover the meat. Turn pastry log seam side down. Trim the ends of the pastry and reserve.
Using a fork press down on ends of bureka to seal. Poke a few holes on top to release steam while in oven.
Repeat assembly with second sheet of pastry and remaining meat filling.
Take the reserved pastry and create a decorative braid. Place on top of the logs.
Brush the pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden brown.
Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gomperts have been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food.