Full to Bursting

Italian-Jewish buricche, made from phyllo dough and stuffed with tuna, chicken or cooked fish, will warm your heart and lift your spirits.

Italian buricche dough

The Jews of Italy used to prepare the buricche from special handmade phyllo dough ‏(pasta sfoglia‏), and in other versions from a fatty dough that turned crisp and airy during baking. Due to kashrut requirements, Italian Jews used olive oil or goose or chicken fat instead of butter.

We used a dough rich in olive oil to prepare our buricche. Those interested in an especially rich taste also suitable for a meat filling can replace all or part of the olive oil with an identical quantity of melted schmaltz, for a dough that’s a real meal.

Those interested in dough for use with various sweet fillings should replace half the flour with ground almonds, a relatively neutral vegetable oil and add two tablespoons of sugar when preparing the dough.

Recipe makes 36 buricches.

1 cup olive oil
1 cup water
2 tsp. ‏(10 gm.‏) salt, or a bit less
4 1/2 cups ‏(630 gm.‏) white flour

Heat the water almost to boiling and pour it into a wide bowl together with the oil and salt. Gradually add about four cups flour to the liquids while stirring. First stir with a fork and afterward start kneading by hand. Add more flour if necessary to obtain a soft, flexible dough that separates from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for a few more minutes on the work surface, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and divide into three parts. Roll out each part with a rolling pin into a sheet 3 millimeters thick. Usually the dough will be flexible and fatty enough so that more flour won’t be necessary. If it sticks to the work surface, flour the surface and the rolling pin a little and roll it out again.

Cut out 8-centimeter circles with a metal form or a wide glass. Place a heaping tablespoonful of the filling in the center of each circle, fold in half over the filling and press the sides down well with your fingers. Transfer the half crescent into a baking pan lined with baking paper and repeat the process with the rest of the dough and the filling.

Bake in an oven preheated to 210 degrees Celsius until the buricches brown a little. They can be brushed with egg, although the high oil content in the dough lends it an attractive golden color in any case. Serve warm on a wide tray, usually with several different fillings, along with tomato sections and fresh cucumber slices.

Buricche with tuna and capers

Italian Jews generally used leftover chicken or cooked fish to fill the buricche. The tuna in the recipe can be replaced with fish or even boned chicken, but high-quality tuna, which lends the sharp flavors of pickling to the filling, makes the buricche particularly suitable for eating while drinking red wine from deep goblets, and that’s wonderful at any hour.

3 eggs
3 cans ‏(300 gm.‏) tuna in high-quality oil
5-6 fillets of anchovy preserved in salt
4 tbsp. small preserved capers without the liquid
20 large kalamata olives
1/4 cup olive oil
Atlantic sea salt
ground black pepper

Begin by preparing partially hard-boiled eggs. Remove the eggs from the refrigerator about half an hour before use, place them in a small pot and cover with tap water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower heat and continue
Drain the oil from the tuna and crumble the fish into a bowl. Peel eggs, place in the bowl with the anchovies, and mash with a long-pronged fork. Pit the olives and add to the bowl with the capers, a little olive oil, Atlantic salt and a generous amount of ground black pepper. Stir the ingredients vigorously to make a coarse but uniform mixture, suitable for a filling.

Buricche caponata

The famous eggplant and tomato salad gained its fame thanks to the Jews of Sicily who were exiled to northern Italy from the island during the Inquisition. The Sicilian Jewish community was known for its rich culture and varied foods, which were gathered from all over the Mediterranean, and were the first to use exotic vegetables and cooking methods that came from the New World.

After the community was exiled, their foods were preserved in Italian cuisine, accompanied by the words “alla Judaica” or “al-Ebraica” – in other words, “in Jewish or Hebrew style.” Italian Jews used to eat caponata cold on Shabbat morning, and it is especially tasty when pouring out of a warm buricche.

1 medium-sized onion
1/3 cup ‏(80 ml.‏) olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 celery stalks
2 smooth, light and shiny eggplants
5-6 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp. wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Atlantic sea salt
ground black pepper

Chop the onion and transfer to a skillet over a high flame with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the onion begins to brown, slice the garlic and celery, and add. Stir with a wooden spoon and let the celery soften a little and the fragrances of the garlic develop.

Meanwhile, cut the eggplants into 2-centimeter cubes, scatter some fine sea salt over them, place in a strainer for about half an hour and allow the liquids to drain. Shake off the excess salt and transfer to the hot skillet with the onion and celery. If necessary, add more oil, stir with a wooden spoon and let the eggplants soften and get slightly scorched.

When the eggplants are soft, peel and chop the tomatoes and add to the skillet with the juice. If you don’t find ripe tomatoes, use peeled tomatoes, preserved in tomato juice, from Italy. Season with vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes until the mixture dries a little and the liquids are condensed. Taste, adjust seasoning and remove from the flame.