Cheese and Scallions Pie

Salads are just salads, no matter how unusual and how creative they are. But here we get into the meat of our family tradition for Shavuos, if you can say that about a dairy pie. I don’t even know whether it is correct to translate it as a pie, but you can blame Google Translate for that: Pirog translates as Pie. It’s not round, it doesn’t have a crust, the filling is wrapped in flaky dough, and it looks like a deli roll up, but nevertheless, it’s a pie. Go figure.

The first time in my life I looked a cheesecake in the eye was when I came to the US. Why it is called a cake, not a pie, is another mystery, but it is thought of as a Shavuos staple, almost a symbol. I had never heard of it, and, as a curious cat, started researching. Far from being Jewish, it’s a Greek thing! Created on the island of Samos, about 4,000 ago, it was considered a good source of energy. Athletes consumed huge quantities of it during Olympic Games, and brides and grooms requested it as a wedding cake. Archaeologists actually found Greek cheesecake molds dating about 2,000 B.C.E. but the first known Greek cheesecake recipe, and a pretty basic one, was recorded only in Third century C.E.

Romans got the cheesecake from Greeks together with empirical science and Pythagorean geometry. They added eggs and put the filling into a pastry. It was still not the round crust that we  know today, but we are coming close. Marcus Cato, a politician famous for opposing Julius Caesar, is the author of the oldest known Roman recipe, about first century B.C.E. It was reserved only for special occasions by Roman elite. As the Roman legions covered Europe, they brought cheesecake with them. Several hundreds years having been lost in the dark medieval times, we see the cheesecake again  on the table of Henry VIII. Perhaps he also believed in the special energy conveyed by this dessert as he married and discarded one wife after another.

We are coming still closer. In the 18th century cheesecake finally assumes the shape and look that we know today, and that is how it is brought to America. The man credited with the famous New York style cheesecake is none other than Arnold Reuben, of the Reuben sandwich fame. But guess what – he called it a pie! So we are back a full circle, and we still don’t know what makes it so Jewish and so specifically designated for Shavuos. I am allowed to make a wild guess, and I am making it: the circle is the key, analogous to blintzes which originated from Russian blini, round as a cheesecake, round as the summer sun, round as the cycle of seasons around the year.

Now that we know what we don’t know, but we do know that in Morocco and Tunisia they serve burekas, flaky pastries filled with cheese, and in Yemen, Shavuos is not celebrated by eating dairy foods at all, let’s get back to my spicy cheese and scallions pie.

Scallions 1.jpg

Just like the ancient Greek recipe, mine is very basic. I use Fillo dough, but any flaky dough will do, I am sure. And yes, my grandmother did teach me how to make flaky dough – we didn’t have ready-made one in stores, you know! – but hey, this is America, what a country! You need farmer cheese for filling, mixed with diced scallions, eggs, lots of fresh dill, a pinch of salt and lots of pepper.

I’ve already mentioned in another post that the crucial element of my Shavuos menu is the combination of colors, white and green, and a touch of gold. There are several explanations of the tradition to serve dairy foods on the first day of Shavuos. The one children are taught, and I remember from childhood, is the explanation given by the Chofetz Chaim in Mishnah Berurah: since the Jews were given the Torah on that day, and the  laws of kosher slaughtering and preparing meat had been unknown up to that point, they had no choice but to prepare a dairy meal, until they got ready to deal with meat the right way.

The green stuff celebrates another aspect of this holiday, otherwise called the Holiday of Bikurim, the First Fruits. On Shavuos, we read the story of Ruth, a young widow, a paragon of loyalty and devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi.

ruth-declares-her-loyalty-to-naomi-pieter-lastman-1614

No matter how hard Naomi tries to convince Ruth, a Moabite princess, to return to her parents, remarry, and assume status appropriate to her royal lineage, the young woman declares, “Wherever you go, I go. Wherever you live, I will live.” In hardship and dire poverty, she cares for her mother-in-law and tries to procure some food. As a common beggar, she gleans the field of a wealthy judge Boaz who, according to the law, has left the corners of his fields unharvested.  He happens upon this beautiful woman, but is impressed not as much by her beauty as by her modesty. While gleaning, she bends down in such a graceful manner that her forms are not overly emphasized by her garments.

summer-boz-and-ruth-nicholas-poussin-1660-64

“And who are you, girl?” – probably says Boaz in Poussin’s painting, “Haven’t seen you here before, have I?”

“Just a poor widow, kind sir, picking up some leftovers, to feed my mother-in-law and myself.”

“And who is your mother-in-law, then?” Oops! thinks Boaz to himself, but she is family! Now what?

Now the plot thickens as Ruth tells Naomi about this nice distinguished older gentleman she had met while gleaning the field.

“Allright, my daughter, – exclaimes Naomi – we are all set! Go get dressed up, make yourself pretty, find a place where he sleeps, and lie down at the foot of his bed.”

Modesty or not, Ruth does as she is told, and Boaz is understandably shocked when he wakes up and finds her there in the middle of the night: “What in the world are you doing here?”

And she says, in full seriousness, as she had been instructed, ” I came to teach you the Law. You are my closest relative, my husband left me no children, you must marry me to continue his house.”

I won’t go into some more details of this transaction, but the result is well known: they got married, had a son Oved, who had a son Jesse, who had a son… King David, who was born and died on Shavuos. There – we are back to the white and green cheese and scallions pie.

Scallions 2.jpg

I would usually separate the flaky dough layers and overlap several of them on a generously greased baking sheet, spraying every layer with oil. The layers should be overhanging the baking sheet on both sides and on the wide side closer to you by about an inch (2.5 cm). The dough is extremely fragile, but don’t worry. If you break or tear it, just spray some more oil and spread another layer.

Scallions 3.jpg

The filling is spread evenly from one side to the other. Then I usually fold the wide back flap first, then the side flaps, then just roll it the way I roll sushi, but making sure not to tear the dough. You have to end with the seam on the bottom.

Scallions 5.jpg

To make it real pretty and golden, like the sun, I glaze it with a whipped egg. A little trick to make it easier is to add a few drops of water before you whip the egg. Be very gentle with the brush lest you tear the dough.

Cheese pies.jpg

Now it goes into the oven for 40 minutes at 350, and comes out golden and beautiful, the way my father liked it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 to 6 layers  of Fillo or any other flaky dough
  • 1 lb farmer cheese
  • 1 egg, and one more for glazing
  • 1 bunch of scallions (about 6 to 8), diced
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE

  • Prepare filling by mixing farmer cheese, egg, scallions, dill, salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Grease baking sheet well.  Gently layer dough: first two sides, overlapping and overhanging the baking sheet by about 1 inch (2.5 cm), then one in the middle overlapping both side pieces and overhanging the back, then one covering all overlaps.Spray each layer with oil before spreading the next one. If the dough tears or breaks, spray the spot and spread another layer to cover it.
  • Spread filling evenly from side to side, about 3  inches (7.5 cm) wide.
  • Fold back flap first to cover part of the filling, then fold side flaps. Roll as you would roll sushi. End with seam down, smooth side up.
  • Whip the remaining egg with a few drops of water. Using a brush, glaze the surface and sides of the pie.
  • Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Remove when it looks golden. If it pops open on top, it’s fine. Slice and serve. Keep leftovers refrigerated, but I doubt that you’ll have any.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds yummie – and, as always, I loved the back story. I will have to use the filling for thin GF crepes I treat in a similar manner, but I’ll bet it will be good anyway. Thanks, Dolly.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Like

    1. Thank you! I am sure it will be just as good with thin crepes, but do you make those yourself or buy them?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to make them – and most of my GF substitutes. But crepes only add a few moments to the task, and I they are useful for any number of recipes. They don’t seem to freeze well, however, unless they are “filled” and rolled, so I have to make them fresh each time.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There is a way to freeze them, from what I’ve heard, but I have not made completely GF crepes, i.e. not spelt, so I don’t really know.

        Like

  2. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    To continue with the Shavuos menu, here is another one of our family traditional dishes – savory green, white, and golden flaky pie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joliesattic says:

    What exactly farmer cheese? Cottage Cheese or Ricotta?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Farmer cheese is pressed, or dry, cottage cheese. If they don’t sell it where you are, you can just put cottage cheese into a cheese cloth, put it into a colander, and put something heavy on it, to press the liquid out of it.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. joliesattic says:

        Thank you! I kind of thought it was like that or ricotta which is dryer. That looked real good so I want to try it

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My pleasure, dear! Ricotta is dryer, but the curds in it are almost non-existent, so it will make it much harder to press the liquid out of it, and the texture will be different. Let me know how it turns out, please!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for you work. Have a nice day. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wake38 says:

    This will be the second recipe that I will try from you. The first one – falafels recipe, I plan to make it for dinner tonight. I will go back on your post and tell you about it too. This one looks delicious, I’m looking forward to making this one. I have to print them out from the post, which is fine, but thought I should ask if you had a cook book?
    All the best,
    W38

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear, and I am so glad you like my recipes and want to try! I have completed the first draft of a cook book and now I am struggling with formatting it – it is a challenge for me, I must admit.
      Please do get back to me and tell me how my recipes worked out for you!
      Have a great day,
      Dolly

      Liked by 3 people

  5. No wonder I love cheesecake so much!! I need it to fulfill my athletic duties!! lol lol lol
    Seriously, these look so yummy! Anything with cheese is guaranteed good, in my book!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am like totally with you, but I can’t have it any more, so I make these for guests, and a non-dairy “American” cheesecake for myself.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. A_Boleyn says:

    Delicious looking. Reminds me of my mom’s cheese strudel made with home made dough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s what it is! Thank you so much your kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s