Betsy Fries

Jewish High Holiday Cooking: Recipes

Food from Jewish homes around the world

Turkish Spinach Bourekas 

Makes about 40 turnovers 

Bourekas, a Sephardic Pastry originating in Turkey, are a favorite appetizers or holiday brunch dish in Israel. They are usually made with phyllo dough and have cheese or vegetable fillings.


1 pound phyllo sheets (about 20 sheets)

1½ pound spinach, stems discarded and leaves rinsed well

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced 

2 to 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

2 large eggs, or 1 large egg and 1 large egg white, beaten 

¼ to ⅓ cup olive oil

4 tablespoons of sesame seeds 



  1. If phyllo sheets are frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight. Remove sheets from the refrigerator 2 hours before using and leave them in their package. 
  2. Place spinach leaves in a large skillet with water clinging to them. Over and cook over medium-high heat., stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes or until wilted. Drain, rinse, and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Chop spinach finely.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add onion, and cook over low heat, stirring, about 10 minutes or until tender. Add spinach and sauté for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and let cool slightly. Add parmesan and mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg: filling should be highly seasoned. Stir in eggs. 
  4. Lightly grease a baking sheet, Remove phyllo sheets from the package and unroll them on a dry towel. With a sharp knife, cut the stack in half lengthwise, to form 2 stacks of sheets of about 16×7 inches. Cover phyllo immediately with a piece of wax paper, then with a damp towel. Work with only one sheet a time and always keep remaining sheets covered so they don’t try out. 
  5. Remove a pastry sheet from the stack. Using a brush, dab it lightly with vegetable oil and fold it in half lengthwise, so it’s dimensions are about 16×3½ inches. Place about 1½ teaspoons filling at one end of the strip. Fold end of the strip diagonally over filling to form a triangle, and dab it lightly with oil. Continue folding it over and over, keeping it in a triangular shape after each fold, until you reach the end of the strip. Set filled pastry on greased baking sheet. Dab it lightly with oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Shape more pastries with remaining phyllo sheets and filling.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake pastries 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature. 


Polish Chocolate-Pecan Rugelach

Makes around 35 small pastries 

Rugelach is a croissant-like pastry originating from Poland that is now extremely popular in Israel and in Ashkenazi Jewish communities across the world. With rugelach’s new popularity, many filling variations have been developed, such as chocolate, apricot, cheese, and raspberry. 



Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Dish

1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup finely chopped pecans 



  1. Prepare dough. Lightly butter 2 or 3 baking sheets. Chop a mixture of chocolate chips and pecans in a bowl.
  2. Roll out dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough in half lengthwise and then cut widthwise into isosceles triangles (like cutting out a croissant). Roll out the triangle dough and add a thin layer of the chocolate-pecan mixture on top. Roll the triangle tightly, starting with the wide side, all the way to the point.  
  3. Flash freeze for 15-20 minutes. Put pastries on the baking sheet and brush with a small amount of melted butter. Bake however many are desired and place the rest (unbaked) in a plastic bag in a freezer.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake rugelach for about 22 minutes or until light golden. Let cool on racks. 


Sephardi Pastelicos

In the Spanish-Jewish dialect of Sephardic Jews, Ladino, pastel means “stuffed dough” or “little cake.” Pastelicos are small savory cakes stuffed with different meats and spices. There are many variations of names and recipes: Pastelicos of Spain and Portugal, Bourekas of Turkey and the Balkans, to Pastels of Greece. Pastelicos are customarily served with hard boiled eggs and a spicy chopped salad.  



For the dough:

7 teaspoons salted butter

½ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon salt 

2¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder 


For the filling: 

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb ground chicken

Salt and freshly ground pepper 

Generous amount of paprika 

3 to 4 tablespoons pine nuts 


To coat: 

1 egg yolk, beaten

Handful sesame seeds 



  1. To make the dough, boil 1 cup (250 ml) water in a saucepan together with the margarine or butter, vegetable oil, and salt until the margarine or butter is melted into the water. Remove from the heat. Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and combine with the liquid. Mix well, cover, and allow to cool. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, knead it until it forms a soft, pliable, and smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in a cool corner of the kitchen for at least 30 minutes, but do not refrigerate. 
  2. To make the filling, sauté the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the ground beef, a pinch of salt, and a good grinding of black pepper. Stir, crumbling the meat with a fork. When the meat loses its pink color, add 4 tablespoons of water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Mix in the pine nuts. 
  3. To assemble, heat the oven to 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4). Flatten the dough with a rolling pin until it is ⅛-in (½- cm) thick. Cut out circles using the rim of a large glass. Roll the circles into balls and shape into pinch pots. Use small balls of the leftover dough to fashion lids for each pot. Fill the pots with the chicken filling and top each with a lid. Pinch the edges together to seal them and use the back of a fork to score the edge. Place the pastries on an oiled baking sheet, brush with the egg yolk diluted with 1 teaspoon of water, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden. 


Baubie’s Potato Knishes 

Yields 90-120 knishes 

Potato Knishes are a dumpling-like puff pastry from Russia that are now extremely popular in Ashkenazi Jewish communities across the world. 



7 cups water

¾ stick butter

2½ teaspoons salt


Puff Pastry

3 cups of cold milk

8 cups of Instant Potato Buds 

2 onions

2 packages of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Dish


  1. Chop onions finely and sauté in a half a stick of butter. Keep them in the pan until golden brown.
  2. Boil 7 cups of water. Put in butter, salt, and pepper. Once the pot is boiled, add in cold milk, potato buds, and the sauteed onions. Mix. Keep adding salt and pepper until it tastes fine/good. Put what was in the pot into a glass bowl to cool down faster. 
  3. Let the puff pastry thaw. Flour the board really well. Put on the puff pastry and roll it with a rolling pin until all three are connected and flat. Make a log with the puff pastry (about an inch and half tall).
  4. Tuck in the corners and roll the dough around the puff pastry. Use a butter knife and cut the extra dough that is not wrapped around the log. With your hands cut a little section of potato and shape into the Knish. Do steps 3 and 4 until puff pastry and potato are gone.
  5. Put Knishes on a pan and flash freeze them for about 20 minutes. Store uncooked Knishes in plastic bags in a freezer and pop in the oven when desired. Generously brush melted butter Knishes before baking. Preheat the oven to 375-400°F, and cook for 30-40 minutes or until browned. 

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