The Shavuot holiday is upon us. We celebrate our becoming a people committed to living the gift of receiving and living Torah. Shavuot also marks the spring harvest season. Growing up, I recall marking the holiday with ‘first fruits’ of the season. We now share the tradition of serving dairy foods as part of the holiday festivities.
In our Sephardic community, our roots being Ottoman Rhodes, we make a few special dairy foods for the occasion; sutlach, a creamy rice pudding is one, and burekas, a community and family favorite, is another.
A bureka is flavorful, savory, tasty filled pastry that can simply melt in your mouth! Each Sephardic community has their unique varieties; each family, their favorites! Our ‘Rhodesli’ family, (from the Island of Rhodes, currently Greece, but in the times of our family, a Turkish or Ottoman possession) loves this moon-shaped pastry, filled with a ‘conduchu’ (filling) of rice and cheeses, as well as those filled with a mouth-watering mixture of sautéed eggplant, onions and tomatoes!
My grandmother was always baking burekas in the kitchen, along with lots of other homemade goodies! I remember my mom and her aunt spending hours preparing and baking these treats, and the amazing aroma that filled the house when I got home! As our sons have grown, Grandma’s burekas have been a favorite for snacks, special meals, breakfast….even in their lunch boxes! I think they are my husband’s favorite Sephardic treat. They are flavorful, delicious and definitely filled with love!!!
Now that I am learning the art alongside my mom, I can absolutely appreciate the work, skill and patience that goes into making them.
Kaye (Hasson) Israel’s Burekas Recipe
This recipe will make approximately 84 burekas.
Rice/Cheese Burekas Filling
5 C Water
1 tsp Salt
8 oz Cottage Cheese
2 C Rice (rinsed and drained)
1 C Feta Cheese
1-1/2 C Romano Cheese