Recipe Corner: Armenian Vegan’s Spinach Borag with Fillo (Spanakhov borag)

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“Borag (also spelled beorek, boreg or börek) is a popular staple in many Armenian and Middle Eastern households. Every Armenian family, bakery, and ladies church guild has its own recipe for these savory pastries that is often passed down for generations. “This egg-free, dairy-free Vegan Spinach Borag with Fillo is as pleasing as the traditional cheese version we all grew up with, but with a healthy twist,” says Dikranouhi “Dee” Kirazian, author of the essential Armenian Vegan cookbook that she published in 2013. “The number of people around the world cutting down on meat and dairy, or reducing these foods from their diets entirely, has been rising over the last decade, and this recipe offers a delicious option,” she adds.

Borag is thought to have originated in Central Asia, and is found in the cuisines of many countries, from Greece to parts of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is considered the Armenian version of the Greek tiropita and spanakopita, and is also part of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish traditions. Borag is made from thin, flaky dough known as fillo (phyllo) or yufka. It is often made in a large pan and cut into portions after baking (like this version), but many people and cultures make individual pastries, too. In Armenia, borag usually consists of dough folded into triangles and stuffed with cheese, spinach or ground beef, and the filling is typically spiced. A popular combination is spinach, feta, parsley, cottage cheese (or pot cheese), and a splash of anise-flavored liquor (such as raki).

Ingredients:

1 1lb. package fillo dough pastry (28 sheets in total)

1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil for brushing the fillo and the baking dish

1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil for sautéing the vegetables

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1 cup tofu, crumbled

2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms

1 large onion, chopped (about a cup)

1 lb. fresh spinach, washed, roughly chopped

2-3 tablespoons pine nuts

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons soy sauce

Black and red pepper or paprika

Sesame seeds or poppy seeds for topping, if desired

Preparation:

Note: If frozen, 2-3 hours before you begin, take your fillo dough out of the freezer and let it defrost. You can also let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator, if you prefer.

Preparing the filling: Chop onions and mushrooms, put in a large frying pan, and sauté for several minutes until onions are softened. Add 1/4 cup vegetable (or olive) oil, stir, and toss for a few minutes until onions and mushrooms are fully cooked.

Next, add the chopped spinach and sauté for several minutes until spinach is limp. Add crumbled tofu, pine nuts, parsley, soy sauce, and all spices, and stir frequently.

In another bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of cold water. Add this to the pot mixture and stir for several minutes until the mixture becomes creamy and sticky. Shut off heat and allow to cool.

Preparing the borag: Take a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, brush it with vegetable (or olive) oil, and set it aside. Open the fillo dough on a flat surface. Take half the package of fillo first, and cover the other half because fillo dough dries very quickly. Placing 1 layer at a time in the tray, brush it all over with vegetable (or olive) oil, and continue layering and brushing until the half package is finished, layered, and brushed. Take the cooled filling and spread it all around the top of the fillo dough, covering the entire surface.

Next, take the other half of fillo dough, open it up, and start placing each sheet on top of the filling, brushing each sheet as it is placed on the filling. Continue until fillo dough is finished. Cut borag into 2 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch squares.

When finished, bake in a 350° pre-heated oven until golden brown for about an hour. Remove from oven and cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Makes 15 squares. Serve hot and use as an appetizer or as a main dish.

For this and other recipes, go to:
https://armenianvegan.com/recipes

Armenian Vegan is available at Abril Books at:
http://www.abrilbooks.com/armenian-vegan.html

 

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