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Sigara böreği

The last day I was in Istanbul, my host let me help her make Sigara böreği. Here’s my attempt to document what we did so I can remember for the future.


3 bunches of fresh spinach (with large leaves) from the farmers market were washed thoroughly in several changes of water. She had 2 salad spinners going at once.

In a skillet, 1 minced medium/large white onion was softened in a generous glug of olive oil. Once it was soft, she peeled and shredded in 2 smaller potatoes (all that she had on hand, perhaps more would have been used if she had it) (large holes on a box grater). Stir stir stir. Cook Cook Cook.

And then the cleaned and roughly chopped spinach went in. And we cooked it until is was a soft and homogeneous mixture.

Season with black pepper and salt.

Then the heat was turned off, and it was set aside to prepare the wrappers.


Was not made with phyllo dough! She hod bought freshly made circles of thin dough from the local market. Yufka! Which I just found at a market in this city, which is why I am now thinking about making them on my own.

So she spread out this 2″ round of dough in a single layer on the counter (and kept the rest covered lest it dry out).

And she mixed together yogurt, eggs, and olive oil until it had a soupy texture (and she added ingredients as needed to get the right consistency).

Spread a thin-ish layer of the egg mixture over the yukfa. Fold the yukfa in half, so you now have a semi-circle. Slice the semicircle into 6-8 (I forget which) long triangle wedges.


Spoon 1-2 Tablespoons of the spinach filling on the wide part of the triangle. Tuck in the corners and roll the dough around the filling. If it seems dry, feel free to add more of the egg mixture to seal, but it shouldn’t be wet either.

Lay your finished cigars on a lined baking sheet. They can now sit overnight in the refrigerator (I don’t remember if this is just okay or preferred).

When ready, bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

Things that are missing from this recipe
She also had white cheese (like feta) that went into this dish. Was it mixed into the spinach once it had cooled? Or was it in the egg mixture? I don’t remember.

Were there any herbs in the spinach mixture? A bit of parsley wouldn’t hurt.

Other similar recipes online

Sigara Boregi – Crispy Cheese and Herb filled Filo Pastry Rolls


slow bounce

Turkish Cigarette Börek (Sigara Böreği) with Roasted Tomato Sauce

vegan -> http://www.messyvegetariancook.com/2010/05/19/vegan-spinach-borek/

ETA: Okay – so I’ve made it now and can answer all the questions I had before!

First – this is not a crispy version. This dough looks terrifyingly designed to be crispy. I was sure that everything was ruined because I only had storebought Yufka instead of getting a fresh batch from a local market. Everything turned out fine.

Second – Yes, add the cheese to the filling once it has cooled. I ended up using a mixture of peccorino romano and sheep milk beyaz peynir. Whatever brined white cheese should be tasty. Also, I was worried about the saltiness of my cheese, so I was moderate about the salt in the filling. But, really, it could have used more salt.

Third – resting time is important! The first batch I cooked was the last batch I made, and it ended up releasing a puddle of oil that made the rolls soggy. I was resigned to finding them tasty anyway. But the second batch, which had been sitting long enough for the dough to fully hydrate and the tops (brushed with more of the egg/yogurt/oil mixture) to get a little tacky, didn’t lose any liquid and came out fairly similar to the ones I’d had in Istanbul. And the tops turned lovely golden and brown.

Cooking time – 425F for 20 minutes.

Cleaning Mushrooms

There must be half a dozen ways to clean mushrooms – brushing off the dirt with a dry brush, wiping them with a damp towel, rinsing them in water, peeling them, and probably a few more.

Oh, yes – peeling them. I love this trick. It’s terribly time consuming, but incredibly satisfying. You get a clean surface and no additional dampness (though apparently dampness doesn’t matter for your result, just your processing aesthetic). It appeals to my cooking rhythm. You pop off the stem, and then just pinch under the cap and peel back delightful curls of the outer layer.

Another benefit of such ridiculously time consuming a method is that it really helps get your priorities in order. There are few cooking things as divisive as how to clean mushrooms, and it can be painful to watch someone try to help with a different method from the one you prefer.

Having someone help you clean mushrooms requires taking a breath and realizing that the mushrooms will get clean at the end, and you have to let the person helping you do so in her own way. And that’s one of the skills that has made a huge difference in my life.

note: I didn’t learn this skill on my own. It was taught to me by a lovely biologist in Baltimore who used to host dinner parties.

Eggs – you’re doing it right

It has been a few months since I read about double-boiler scrambled eggs, and I’m still a bit flabbergasted by the whole discussion.

So it’s possible to get eggs wrong – they can be burnt or impossible to scrape out of a pan or unevenly cooked in a way you find icky. But once you get past that – you’re doing it right.

There is no single perfect platonic ideal of an omelette for all occasions. There’s the thick, sometimes browned, 2 egg omelette of the buffet line; there’s the thin, custardy French rolled omelette; there’s the even thinner folded short order grill omelette; and there’re even the scrambled eggs you were hoping to serve as an omelette, but which are still tasty just the way they are.

Seriously, I don’t care whether you pre-mix your scrambled eggs or just break the yolk in the pan. I don’t care whether you turn with a spatula, fork, or just swirl the pan delicately. The eggs are still going to be delicious.

But here’s the true secret to delicious eggs. It’s the one thing that makes someone’s fancy egg demonstration taste so much better than yours. The secret – the really important secret – is that you have to convince whoever is eating the eggs that the rest of the food is unimportant, and that they should be standing around – fork in hand – waiting to eat the freshly cooked egg the moment it leaves the pan. That, more than anything else, improves the eggy experience.

Cream cheese addiction (three ways) + Squash Blossom Quesadillas (no cream cheese)

I love cream cheese. If I were poetically inclined, I would write odes to cream cheese.

It makes almost everything, sweet or savory, taste better.

But most especially – bagels!

And if you’ve been buying your fancy cream cheese spreads from the store, you’ve been missing out.

Cream cheese and scallions – I think stores must try to put them through a food processor or something to universally come up with bland, stringy (but I’ll still eat it!) scallion cheese. Let me tell you how to make this one better.

Take 1 bunch of scallions. Cut off the root bits and then peel them down until you have firm, clean skin left. (If you keep a bag of onion skins in your freezer for stock, wash off these scraps and put them into the bag, too) Then line up three or four of them, and slice the thinnest rounds you can (if anything is thicker than a millimeter, slow down and try it again). And keep slicing all the way into the green parts (pulling out any that are too wilty, and then slicing up the rest until you have just the tips left… and then those can go into the stock bits bag, too).

Dump the sliced scallions into a bowl. Dump an 8oz block of cream cheese into the bowl.

Ask yourself whether you want to be creative. If yes, also add some garlic (either minced from a jar or roasted cloves, but not fresh because that ends up just a little too potent) and maybe some chipotle. See what odds and ends are hanging around your fridge looking exciting. A dollop of heavy cream makes it a very sexy dip for company. A blob of mayonnaise makes it more spreadable. A drop of worcestershire sauce may sound like a good idea to me, but it just ends up making it taste a bit off, so don’t do that.

Mix it all up. It will be the best scallion cream cheese you have ever had, and people will ask for your secret. You will end up looking at those people like they are crazy, since it’s just scallions and cream cheese – why is it so hard?

roasted red pepper and cream cheese – okay, so it took me a while to make a better one than my bagel place, but I blame that on being a relative newcomer to the wonders of roasted red peppers. One warning though, since cream cheese mold often shows up first as orange dots and this is a fairly strong flavor so it’s basic nature will mask early signs of spoilage, you do want to be careful how long this sits in your fridge – this has never been a problem for me, though.

Roast red peppers. Remove skins. Have them hanging around your fridge looking lonesome.

Lay out a kitchen towel. On top of that, put a paper towel. (or you can have lots of paper towels… or 2 kitchen towels, if you are doing laundry tomorrow, otherwise the little scraps of red pepper will get ingrained in the fabric for a while.)

Cover half of the paper towel with roasted red pepper strips (you can strip some of the moisture with your fingers while you’re still dangling them over the container… and possibly with the container resting in the sink). Fold the other half of the paper towel and kitchen towel over top of the peppers, and then just plop your cutting board on top and maybe a pitcher of water. Read some food blogs. Come back. Set aside the pitcher of water, move the cutting board, and flip over the pepper/towel sandwich. Replace cutting board and pitcher. Oh, wait, have you checked your email? Better do that again.

Okay, so you’re bored and eager to eat breakfast now. Fine. Go open up your towels. Peel the red pepper off of the paper towel, tear it into smaller strips (and inch wide or so is plenty fine) and pile them onto your cutting board. So when you were tearing them, you noticed that peppers have a grain direction, right? It runs from stem to seat. Slice the peppers into thin strips opposite the grain direction.

Dump the strips into a bowl. Add one 8 oz. package of cream cheese. And then there’s just no question on this one, go ahead and add several cloves of roasted garlic. Mush it all up.

And try not to eat it all in the first day.

Chives, fennel, garlic, and cream cheese – or you can just be creative.

I lopped off a hunk of chives from the herbs on my patio, and then used scissors to cut them into wee tiny slices.

Pulled off some fennel fronds from the bulb [redacted] gave me (note: I have done this before with bronze fennel, and it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing as with green), sliced them up into tiny pieces as best I could.

And then tossed in the rest of the cloves from head of roasted garlic.

And a stick of cream cheese.

It was delicious! And all gone.


So I was hungry this morning, but I kind of didn’t want to make a new batch of sexy cream cheese because they haven’t been lasting well in my fridge (and the box of triscuits is getting low, too…). And I thought about making oatmeal, but I have a craving for cranberries to put in them, and I haven’t made it to Trader Joe’s, which I think will be my best bet. I considered making it with dates and apples, and while that sounds good, but it wasn’t what I really wanted and I only have sexy oatmeal that requires standing for half an hour. And Kundalini yoga kicked my ass on Sunday.

So I went for squash blossom quesadillas.

My neighbor has a butternut squash plant that is planning to take over the world, so we had already talked about how it wouldn’t be any problem for me to relieve her of a few blossoms.

Only my default for quesadillas is using them to get rid of any small leftovers I have, so it ended up including: half an onion, half a bell pepper, a jalepeno pepper, the last 2 of the tiny yellow summer squash, some mushrooms – and 8 squash blossoms. Seasoned with Penzey’s fajita mix. With plain old store brand sharp cheddar cheese from the grocery (which I usually wait to buy at $2/lb, but they haven’t had that price in a while and this is my last stick. Should I keep waiting, or buy a couple at 2 for $5 to tide me over).

It ended up being full of deliciousness, but I couldn’t have told you where the flavor of squash blossoms added a damn thing. But delicious. In my mouth.

Scotchy Scotch

So I am trying to encourage a friend to host a scotch tasting party, so I have put together a list of scotch I (well, my mother) could contribute:

Shareable? Name Variety Age Region How much left
Y Balvenie Doublewood 12 speyside 3/4
Y Bruichladdich 10 northern islay almost full
Y Bunnahabhain 12 northern islay 3/4
IFF Caol Ila 12 islay 1
IFF Dalmore 21 northern highland 1
N Dalwhinnie 15 Speyside/Highland 1/2
Y Glen Keith 10 speyside 1
IFF Glendronach 15 eastern highlands 1
Y Glenmorangie mediera wood 12 northern highlands 1 + 2/3
IFF Glenfarclas 17 speyside 1
IFF Glenfarclas cask strength 105 ? speyside 1
just opened 1 Highland Park 18 northern highlands 1/2 (+ 1)
Y Laphroaig 10 southern islay 1
Y Laphroaig 15 southern islay 1/2
Y Lismore BLEND! n/a highland almost full
N Longmorn 15 Speyside 2 + 7/8
N Macallan 18 Speyside 1
N Macallan 25 Speyside almost empty
just opened 1 Macallan Cask Strength 10? Speyside 1/2 (+ 3)
N Macallan Elegancia 1990 12 Speyside >3/4
Y Strathisla 12 speyside almost empty
Y Talisker 10 Skye – western highlands 1

IFF = iff and only if my mother ends up willing to go to the tasting, which I think is totally fair of her
Most of the regional info from here