Borekitas: Hazan Family Favorites

May 21, 2012

When I received my copy of the Hazan Family Favoritescookbook I will admit I had to do some research. There is no doubt that this speaks to my lack of knowledge of Italian cuisine.  It made me think about how it is possible to feel affection for a cuisine without really knowing it at all.


There is no question that I love homemade pasta and marinara sauces, or that I believe they are 100% worth the time and effort it takes to make them. I enjoy bean soups and simple meat cutlets, and the other elegant offerings that come from an Italian kitchen.

What I think I have often overlooked is the simplicity. 

In case you have some more to learn about Italian cooking like I did, the book was written by Guiliano Hazan. He is the son of Marcella Hazan whose cookbooks are credited with introducing the United States to traditions and techniques of Italian cooking. 

The book is a collection of recipes rescued from a fifty-six year-old notebook. As you flip through it and see the pictures you can feel the history and importance of its pages.

What you also see when you read the recipes is simplicity. Most of the recipes use only a handful of fresh ingredients to create a stunning end product. It’s impressive, educating, hunger-inducing, and it makes you think – okay, I’m ready to begin mastering the art of Italian cooking. 

Or if you are like me, it may also make you think – okay, let’s book the trip to Italy!


Amid the Fettuccine with Orange, Fried Parmesan Cheese-Battered Lamb Chops, and the Peach-and-Strawberry Semifreddo, the Borekitas caught my attention. What’s not to love about spinach, feta and ricotta stuffed into a bite-size pastry? Absolutely nothing. These are delicious. 


Borekitas
From Hazan Family Recipes, reprinted with permission from Abram Books 
 
Time from start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Makes about 20 borekitas 

From the cookbook:
My parents and I went to my grandparents’ almost every Friday for Shabbat dinner. I can still
taste and smell the wonderful little pies my Nonna Giulia made, which she called borekitas.
She made them either with a dough shell or a phyllo shell. The fillings were spinach or cheese.
In attempting to replicate them, I used Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food as a guide.
Both the cheese and spinach fillings below are just like what I remember, and the dough shell,
my favorite of the two, is just as good as the one Nonna Giulia used to make.


FOR the dough
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

FOR the spinach filling (I made the spinach)
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces fresh spinach, washed
1 ounce feta cheese
2 tablespoons whole-milk ricotta cheese


Cut the butter into small pieces and allow to come to room temperature.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor with 1/4 cup water and run it until a smooth, homogeneous dough forms. If it crumbles when pinched, mix in a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft and smooth when pinched.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for about 20 minutes before using.

Spinach filling
In a pot large enough to cook the spinach, put about 2 inches of water, and place over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the salt and spinach. Cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze the excess water out and coarsely
chop. Place the spinach in a bowl. Crumble the feta and add it along with the ricotta. Mix thoroughly.


Assembling the borekitas
Preheat the oven to 350°F on the bake setting.

Take about a walnut-size ball of dough, place it on a counter, and press it with your fingers into a disk 2 inches in diameter. Put about 1 tablespoon of either cheese or spinach filling on the disk. Fold the disk over the filling to form a half-moon shape, making sure to pinch the open sides together to seal them, and place on a baking sheet, either oiled or lined with a nonstick baking mat.

When all the borekitas are assembled, bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.


Disclosure: A copy of this cookbook was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. 

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  • Heather V May 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    These look DELICIOUS! I hope you really did book the trip to Italy – it is an amazing country, and of course the cuisine is wonderful. I’ll be making my 3rd trip there next month and am looking forward to it!

  • Lori May 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Heather – Thanks for your comment! We will make it there soon for sure. We had a tentative trip a couple years ago, and decided to change our focus and travel around Southeast Asia instead. But now both Italy and France have moved higher up on the list! Enjoy your trip and the wonderful food!

  • Joanne May 24, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Even though I’m a serious through and through Italian, I haven’t heard of many of these recipes! These borekitas sound SO tasty!

  • kat May 24, 2012 at 7:51 am

    oh yeah there is nothing to not like there for sure!

  • Michelle @ Find Your Balance May 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Is it Italian Jewish fusion? If so, I’m in 🙂

  • Lori May 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Joanne – There are several cultures that influence the book. Makes for some tasty recipes! 🙂

    kat – I agree 100%!

    Michelle – Yes! The book has Jewish, Italian and Middle Eastern inspired recipes passed down from the family. Great combination!

  • @yumivore May 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Lori, I can’t believe you made borekitas! This is a dish I grew up with, and something my grandmother, and her grandmother would make. Many Sephardic Jewish families would make this (easily found today in Israel. The fillings are endless though my aunts usually prepare this with a white salty cheese (like a feta) mixed with potato, and sometimes I add Kashkeval cheese. Awesome you got to try these!