With the ease of years of practice, Mirsada Duratovic wields a 4-foot-long closet dowel as a rolling pin. She rolls and turns, rolls and turns — shaping a smooth lump of dough into a paper-thin, homemade phyllo sheet big enough to drape over the sides of a dining room table. Right before your eyes.
To clarify: It’s not as easy as she makes it look.
However — it is possible to learn.
Duratovic, along with her daughter Maya and friend Danijela Love, taught a recent Community Education class, where 20 people learned and practiced making phyllo dough as well as the savory dishes made with the dough. Traditional Bosnian stuffed phyllo dough is called pita; stuffed with meat, it’s burek.
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“In Serbia, they call everything ‘burek,’ but in Bosnia we call everything ‘pita,’” says Maya.
By way of a short-cut, students also learned how to make spinach pita (zeljanica) with store-bought phyllo dough.
“Everybody knows (Bosnian) dancing; we've been dancing for 16 years now,” says Maya. Dancing worked well when Bosnean refugees first arrived in the 1990s and didn’t speak much English.
“Everyone likes to eat. We thought cooking classes would be interesting to get to know our culture in different ways, and our hospitality will come through our cooking classes.”
Cooking classes also serve another purpose.
“It is so easy to assimilate into the American society that I am afraid our cooking traditions will disappear within one generation,” she says. “I am hoping that by empowering our mothers and giving them the spotlight at the classes, the younger generation will want to follow in their footsteps and continue cooking these recipes for generations to come.”
Where to buy Bosnian phyllo dough (jufka) to make pita
Europe Delicious, 9958 W. Fairview, 367-9109
Bosnian Express BOEX, 4846 W. Emerald, 433-9955
Bosnian and Herzegovinian Heritage Day
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at Julius M. Kleiner Park in Meridian. Featuring art and fashion displays, Bosnian cuisine, live music, traditional folk dancing, soccer and volleyball tournament. Free. For more information, go to BHCCID on Facebook.
Bosnian phyllo dough (jufka)
Yield: One batch
1 lb. flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup oil (olive or canola), plus more for drizzling.
Mix flour, salt, oil and gradually add water. Combine until it forms a smooth dough; knead until it becomes a smooth round ball. Brush dough with oil, cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place for 5 or 10 minutes.
On a large clean table cloth, roll out the dough with a rolling pin, turning the dough until it’s round and about 30 inches in diameter. Be generous with the flour so dough doesn’t stick. Drizzle canola oil (“just the right amount”) over the rolled dough, smooth it in with your hands and let it sit 5 or 10 minutes.
Use your hands to stretch dough more until it becomes see-through. It can drape over the edges of the table. Be patient; this is an art.
Spoon a little filling of your choice (see below) along the length of one edge of the dough. Roll the dough over the filling two or three times (like a very long cinnamon roll) and cut off the dough; curl the long, skinny roll into a spiral and place in a baking pan or cookie sheet. (Photo bottom left.) Repeat as much as there is dough left.
Alternatively and more simply, cut pieces of dough to fit your pan. Layer with dough and filling until it’s done; end with dough.
Bake 450 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Brush generously with butter diluted 1:1 with water; return to oven briefly to steam.
Filling for pita with meat
8 oz. ground beef or ground turkey
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with your hands; make a roll with dough.
Pita with spinach (zeljanica)
9 or 10 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
8 ounces cottage cheese
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 box phyllo dough (16 ounces or about 18 sheets)
oil to brush dough
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Heat over to 425 degrees.
Mince spinach finely. Combine spinach, ricotta, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs and salt; mix thoroughly.
Oil the baking pan (usually 9 x 13). If you’re using jufka, you only need one sheet of dough in the layering. But if you’re using phyllo dough from any store, layer three phyllo sheets on top of each other in the pan, brushing each with oil before adding the next sheet. (If phyllo is larger than the pan, fold it over a little bit on the sides until it fits.)
Spread a generous amount of filling (mathematically, it’s about one-seventh of the filling) and spread evenly over the top sheet. Layer two phyllo sheets on top of the filling, brushing each with oil. Repeat until you run out of the filling and the phyllo dough. Save three sheets for the top layer. (If you have 18 sheets, that’s three for the bottom and three for the top, with six layers of two sheets.)
Brush top with oil; bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Meanwhile, melt butter and milk. Pour over spinach pita when it comes out of the oven; let it rest 30 minutes before cutting into squares. (Refrigerate and reheat if there are, perchance, leftovers.)