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How Armenians Do Easter

by Nancy Mehagian
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borekI have to admit I'm a little miffed that the Greeks seem to get all the attention for their Easter traditions. Armenians roast lamb and even dye their eggs red. My mother never baked those eggs into a loaf of bread but we did play a game with them called egg tapping, another one of those Pagan rites taken over by the early Christians. The point of the game is to break your opponent's egg without cracking your own.

One of my favorite dishes always served at Easter is Cheese Beorag, the Armenian version of Spanakopita. Our family even came up with their own version of this cheese and filo ecstasy that makes a perfect addition to an Easter Brunch. It's easy, can be made ahead of time and baked just before you are ready to serve it and I've yet to come across anyone who didn't love it and come back for more.

CHEESE BEORAG

1 pound filo dough (if dough is frozen, thaw over night in the refrigerator)

1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling:

1/2 lb. feta cheese (I prefer French or Bulgarian as they are less salty)

1/2 lb. jack cheese, grated

1 bunch parsley, chopped very finely

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 eggs, beaten

Custard:

1 cup milk

1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, crumble feta cheese. Add grated jack cheese. Next add the eggs, parsley and black pepper. Blend well and set aside.

Set up a workspace. Filo dough is paper-thin and dries out when exposed to air so it will be necessary to work quickly. Have enough room on counter top for dough, melted butter and baking dish. I use a clay baking dish approximately 10” x 14” x 2”. Glass and stainless steel are also good. Open filo dough and lay sheets of filo on a piece of wax paper or foil. Place two sheets of filo at a time in the baking dish. Using a pastry brush, brush dough with the melted butter. Continue layering the dough in this manner, two sheets at a time, brushing every two sheets with melted butter until half of the dough is used.

Next spread the cheese mixture evenly over the buttered dough. Then continue layering dough and brushing with butter until all the dough is used.

Place baking dish in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to harden the butter. Using a sharp knife cut the unbaked beorag into serving-sized pieces (about 2 in. squares.) Blend milk and egg together and pour over the top so that the liquid goes down inside the cuts.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry rises and turns golden brown. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Serves 12 or more

FROM SIREN’S FEAST, AN EDIBLE ODYSSEY, the award-winning culinary memoir by Nancy Mehagian - www.sirensfeast.com

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