Today is Yom Kippur, a day of fasting when Jews don’t eat or drink for 25 hours, from sundown to nightfall the next day.
Even Jewish people who aren’t observant for the rest of the year often fast on Yom Kippur as it’s seen as one of the most important days in the Jewish calendar. It’s mostly about asking forgiveness for the many ways in which we’ve wronged our fellow man, but it’s also a time of renewal, and return to God.
And it’s an especially challenging time to be a strict vegetarian, or so my best friend Natasha finds each year when she and her family generously host meals during the High Holidays.
“It is a challenge,” Tash concedes, “People expect brisket and chicken so you’ve got to come up with some pretty good vegetarian dishes to lure them to your house.” This year, that’s where Bonnie Stern came in handy.
Before sundown we all found ourselves fueling up for prayer and fasting on quinoa-stuffed vegetables, rapini, green salad, an asparagus, shitake and goat cheese frittata, and our ace in the hole, Bonnie Stern’s easy cheese bourekas.
Have an easy fast. And a delicious New Year.
CHEESE BOUREKAS WITH SESAME
12 oz (375 g) quark, ricotta or solid curd cottage cheese
4 oz (125 g) cream cheese, softened
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
pinch of nutmeg
¾ lb (375 g) phyllo pastry (12 sheets)
½ cup (125 mL) dry breadcrumbs (panko)
1⁄3 cup (75 mL) melted butter (or more)
2 tbsp (25 mL) sesame seeds
1. Prepare filling by combining quark with softened cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt and nutmeg.
2. Place phyllo on work surface in a stack. Cover with plastic wrap and then a damp tea towel. Have breadcrumbs, butter, sesame seeds and a pastry brush ready to use.
3. Arrange one sheet of phyllo on work surface. Brush with butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Repeat with 2 more layers. Arrange ½ cup (125 mL) cheese down the length of one edge of the pastry leaving about ½-inch (1 cm) at each end. Loosely roll up lengthwise, tucking in ends. Press down to flatten top (it should be more of a strip than a tight roll). Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with butter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Score the top of the pastry into about 10 pieces. Repeat to make 4 rolls.
4. Bake at 400F (200C) for 20 to 25 minutes until well browned. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 40 pieces