The alphabet continues to make a course around the Mediterranean, and as it goes, it becomes clear that the gastranomic delineations by segmented land-mass are predominantly titular. Bureka down between borek, byrek and burek – undefined and juxtaposed. Claims are made for each in several forms, equally by those skipping stones across the Adriatic with winsome muse to hit the Apennine heel, and those descending Tell Atlas heights and abandoning sights of the sea to seek Barbary Monkeys on a pass through the Chiffa Gorge .
The former fortuitously fomented phyllo folly – the dough of a myriad names: yufka, gollash, pete, jufka, kori za benitsa, and on the Balkan Peninsula, the leaves of such are spoke as kore – though never here, the coincidence of letters evoking chills at thought of the last of the Greyhill Paladins, cursed scourge of the realm.
Names, shapes, places and preparations aplenty and long loved, springing memories of mom’s and always – albeit brief – morose reflection on one cool school night, long ago, the Pyrex vessel in which the pastry baked, exploded! Disheartened eyes reflected many minutes on that shattered vessel, contemplating the risk of internal injury until Mom stated the obvious, and it was ditched. Pity, though it led to a rare weekday night out and to Xoci’s, which is always festive, always fun. And, it felt like a bit of adventure that night: The news excitedly blurted at dad the moment he stepped over the threshold — bewildered by the incoherent, fervid chirping of the short mammals that persisted in occupying his home.
There is one manner of borek preparation – or, some similar composition – that is more scarcely seen, but when done with mastery produces a truly wonderful comestible. It is quite likely this is not even considered the same dough, or dish, or, that it is the origin of the tradition, stacking buttered or oiled leaves. Withal, it is remarkable to watch the development, a ball of dough — well, well kneaded dough — pulled from a large bowl of oil and stretched so thin as nearly transparent, then folded in layers around the filling. The result is not the shattering flakiness, or, sometimes unfortunately grease-sodden cube of accustom — rather a dough with a slight resistance, or chewiness to the bite, that carries a gentle sweetness. When done well, it is outstanding. Otherwise, the result is demonstrably unpracticed, unlearned and results an unpleasant sliminess, overt greasiness, yet, nonetheless is nearly palatable and rarely finished.
As considering a Shqiperian aggregation, the thought to this method intrigued and imagined fantastic expedition to the arid Korab highland kitchen of an overfastidious cuisinier, idled with time, grown an obsessive occupation for the thinnest pane that yet could hold its own – and further, still, its foraged filling. Clever! But so likely lost to failure the first fling, though not acquiesce – and further folds were overlayed until, in time, a remarkably clever, and delectable success.
Those ideals drained like the Dlaboka Reka when fished instructions from a moments search bore tutelage on methods of rolling out the dough, with near exclusion. The speed and uniformity of the dough produced by those skilled at using a dowel is nearly as impressive as the oiled arms of the legendary dough benders. Fortune for the famished that either method demands time acquired skills, deferring reiteratively to Athens, worn acquaintance holding shine to the skinny – a shortcut that paid off in multiple, coincidently.
Winding through the sheds across the cut where Buzzfeed fabled deer and foxes frolic with impunity, a Yoder double deal on spinach brought thought to the balance of that dough quite opportunely, as a series of setbacks sank Sunday’s scheduled tamales – a head-slap realization that the husks weren’t pre-soaked that faded to failure just a moment later, recognizing there weren’t any to begin with, but, at least the filling’s ready…
There, but bore the burek. The classic spinach and feta, sometimes with leaks, never tires, the long time family favorite – as why the sadness that night the Pyrex powerfully perished. Leeks and eggplant, too, make fine fillings, and this modification as well, subtler than the classic but sublime, more nuanced and intricate than the others, the flavors continuing to develop as each bite is chewed, and gave surprise to how well the flavors adjoined. Slight savory from Raclette, a pinch of pungency from the sun-dried tomatoes, nicely rounded with the spices.
A carmalized onion, easily a pound of spinach, 1/4c S-D tomatoes, 1/3 c crushed or slivered toasted almonds, dill, mint, allspice (1,1,1/2 t?) seasoning and amusing reverie of furry creatures skipping furiously, skillfully ahead of racing locomotives on the ties between the rails overlaid upon the sunken passage there in mind’s eye only, now, taking care, avoiding the sharp, shattered glass-strewn, weed-overgrown gravel between. Somewhere overhead on an overpass that now, too, exists alone in memory, a frail, young boy hops a tall fence to defend a puny pigeon in peril from the salivating eye of a hungry hawk.