Moroccan Meat Bourekas
I think I was watching too much Oprah at the time but I clearly remember my 16-year-old self panicking that I had yet to do anything “great” with my life. I believed that at such a young age I should have done some extraordinary, altruistic thing, otherwise I was wasting away my potential. I was just like the billions of others who mindlessly, numbingly follow along the trajectory of life. There was a bar mitzvah boy on the show who donated all of his gift money to a charity I can’t recall. And the woman who dedicated her life to feed hungry children in Africa. More locally, I knew an acquaintance who was off to Bali to help bring water to villagers in need of basic life necessities. I was inspired. The closest I had been to third world poverty was when I was cocooned in a resort on the coast of Mexico. A little different. They were doing greatness. I was just an over-privileged, self-absorbed teenager who liked to read and hang out at the mall.
I grew up a little. I developed a little more idealism and thought with some activism I might finally change the world. I was walking at rallies, speaking about the genocide in Darfur, signing up to Model UN, and just generally being an outspoken, opinionated (likely foolish) young woman who thought she had all the answers.
I grew up a little. The starkness of black and white faded into different shades of grey and I became clouded with confusion. I had a broader perspective and it was humbling but reaching change felt overwhelming and effusive. I become disenchanted with politics and hopeless that real change will happen to bring about some ethereal utopia for all humans. The news of the day, the political climate of the time, it all sounded like a playback of the same rhetoric that has been going on for centuries. I wasn’t changing the world. The world is. The world is broken and it’s meant to be that way. But I still believe in change. It’s just not packaged the way my 16 year old self saw it.
“When I was young, I wanted to change the world. Then I realized that I could not change the world. And so I thought, maybe I will change my nation. Then I realized that I could not change my nation. And so I thought, maybe I will change my village. Then I realized that I could not change my village. And so I thought, maybe I will change my family. Then I realized that I could not change my family. And so I thought, maybe I will change myself. Then I realized, if I would change myself, this would change my family. And if I would change my family, this would change my village. And if I would change my village, this would change my nation. And if I would change my nation, I would change the world.” Rav Yisrael Salanter
I now believe greatness is a choice that can be reached from the most mundane things. In choosing the right, harder choice every day, little by little. The choice to smile when you’d rather yell. The choice to be kind when you’re hurt. The choice to see the blessings when you’re struggling. It’s that self-sacrifice that helps you reach higher, further than who you were the moment before. Since I became a mother, I am able to truly see how each human is a world unto itself. In each of my children’s eyes there’s potential and greatness that I have the power to nurture or extinguish. It’s just a choice. And my greatest hope is that with this new year I can make choices that are just a little bit better than last year.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people sacrificing themselves to help others in our community, in our country, in the world. I’m inspired by their kindness. But I no longer think that it’s the only way to make an impact. We can all choose greatness, in little things, in little ways, and bring down a spark of light. That changes the world.
The natural thing to say right now is how much you need to make this bourekas. It has all of my favorite spices flavoring moist meat that’s enveloped in a flaky dough. But wait, it freezes beautifully so you can have a reserve in the freezer and free up some more time to think about how to change the world.
Moroccan Meat Bourekas
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, diced
1.5 lb ground turkey thigh (chicken or beef also work)
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1.5 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
500g puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the fridge
1 egg, beaten
Toasted black sesame seeds, for garnish
Caraway seeds, for garnish
Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and fry the onions and bell peppers until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the meat in an even layer, season with salt, and let it crisp up before breaking it into bits with a wooden spoon. As you break up the meat, stir it around until it’s mostly cooked but still pink. Season with cumin, paprika, coriander, garlic, turmeric, black pepper and the bay leaves. Stir to coat the meat in seasoning and cook until most of the liquid has absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Continue stirring while it’s cooking so the meat doesn’t dry. Once the meat is fully cooked, remove from the fire and let it cool until comfortable to handle.
On a clean surface, gently roll out the puff pastry dough and cut into half. Place each rectangular dough sheet on parchment paper and store one in the fridge while you work on the other. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until thin, about 1/8th of an inch. With a sharp non-serrated knife, make a slight indentation along the dough to divide it into three equal sections. Along each side cut the dough into 1-inch strips. If the dough is difficult to work with, put it back in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up. Fill the middle section with half the meat mixture. Cut the top and bottom strips on each side of the dough. Flip the middle section of the dough on the top and bottom over the meat and start the lattice by flipping each strip over the meat in an alternating pattern. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Transfer carefully to a baking sheet and brush the beaten egg over the lattice. Sprinkle with sesame and caraway seeds.
To bake, heat the oven to 400F/200C. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack and bake for 20-25 minutes until deeply golden.
To freeze, cool the bourekas completely and flash freeze for 40 minutes until hard. Wrap in many layers of plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 1 month. To defrost, bring to room temperature and reheat uncovered.