Borek with Tomato Sauce (Domatesli Borek)

I am in need of sunshine, easy meals, quiet nights, and long walks. Yes, I said “sunshine”…not warm weather… It has not been warm at all for the past week, finally going below 50 in this part of the South Carolina and I am loving it.

The natives around here do not like it a bit because the chill hits your face, wakes you up, and fills your lungs. Though I have to admit,sometimes that ten minute walk to the train station feels like infinity in a strong wind. But…nonetheless…I love my turtlenecks, scarves and any excuse that brings them together. It has been sunny and 40s. Perfect winter.

And I checked off the easy meal from the the list by making this borek. This was something we always put together as a last minute menu item  when I was growing up, or a way to finish up all the leftover phyllo dough layers. Pizza was not in the food groups we ate when I was growing up , not even available as delivery. It just was not in the food culture. When I was in high school, first Pizza Hut opened in Istanbul. It was pricy and had a fancy setting (nothing like the fast food style ones here in the South). At least for a student with my allowance. I remember indulging in two big slices one time with friends and immediately regretting it because it just did not feel right to sink in that much money.

My mom added a clever twist to this borek by topping with grated tomatoes and Turkish pepperroni called sucuk. It resembled pizza and it was enough for me and my brother. The pictures don’t look like pizza at all because I did not make it in a round pan, did not have sucuk at hand and also I put the grated tomatoes at the beginning. Then I remembered that grated tomatoes goes on top half way through baking so that you don’t get a dark looking pizza imposter such as mine but rather see the sauce in its redness.

It won’t get any warmer for us this week or next week…Because I am going to Istanbul this week to visit my family and to play in the snow! I hope it does not melt until I step out of the airport and take a deep breath in the smoky air of Istanbul.

There might not be a recipe next week. Instead there will be long walks for us, lots of meals but definitely not quiet nights in Istanbul! If the crazy schedule and sporadic internet access allow, there might be lots of pictures. Life has a different  pace in Istanbul… I hope I can snap out of hibernation and  dive right into it. I knew I would miss my family greatly when I moved here but definitely I had no idea I would miss Istanbul as much I miss them.

Borek with Tomato Sauce

  • 3 yufka (Turkish phyllo dough. You can make it with store bought phyllo dough sheets as well. I would use 30 sheets probably, 15 on the bottom layer and 15 on top)
  • 2.5 cups of crumbles feta cheese (or 200 -250 gr. I buy in blocks, then break it up)
  • 1 cup of chopped Italian parsley
  • 1.5 cup of yogurt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (melted and cooled slightly)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 big tomatoes, peeled and grated (I drain the excess juice , just leave enough to keep it saucy)
  • 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8-10 pepperoni slices (optional)

1. Mix crumbled feta cheese and parsley in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Lightly beat the eggs. Mix yogurt  and cooled butter in a bowl. Add the lightly beaten eggs and stir to combine.

3. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch Pyrex baking pan. Divide the phyllo dough in half. Put one layer on the bottom, brush some of the yogurt mixture generously.Layer pieces of phyllo dough on top of that and brush more yogurt mixture. Keep repeating until you are done with half of the phyllo dough layers.

4. Spread the feta cheese with parsley to cover the entire pan.

5. Put pieces or a layer of phyllo dough to cover the baking pan and brush the yogurt mixture.  Repeat until you use all the phyllo dough layers. If you have yogurt mixture left, spread it on top. Cut the borek in 12 square  pieces in the pan, all the way to the bottom of the pan, so that the yogut mixture can spread well.

6. Place the pan in the oven, turn the oven to 375-degrees. After 20 min, take it out, spread the grated tomatoes. Bake for another 20 min or until the you see the phyllo dough turns golden brown color (Pyrex helps since you can see all the way around the bottom). Add grated cheese and bake for another 2 minutes.

7.After it is baked, let it rest and cool down.





  1. by Elaine
    1:29 pm
    Feb 14, 2012

    Ilke: I really enjoy reading your blog. When I was 5 to 8 years old, we lived in Ankara because my dad was in the Air Force. I loved it there. Not only was it beautiful but the people were wonderful. I loved listening to the chanting at certain times of the day. And needless to say I loved the food…the warm bread. the bread rings the vendors sold from those apparatus’ on their heads, the Turkish delight…yummy! We used to get these Boreks that were shaped like cigars with some kind of cheese & I think minced lamb, then rolled up & fried. My dad used to make them for us when we came back to the states. Unfortunately, my dad has passed away and didn’t leave us any instructions on alot of the recipes that he picked up in his many travels. Would you know about these?
    I hope you have a wonderful time visiting home. Be safe.

  2. by Lana
    4:23 pm
    Feb 14, 2012

    Isn’t it funny how most fast food joints in Europe are situated in beautiful settings in best parts of town? It’s a completely different experience for the locals (not that I ever even desire to go to Mickey Ds when I am on vacation).
    I love sujuk! That’s what my relatives always bring us when they visit (they are from the town I was born in, which is predominantly Muslim:)
    I can live on phyllo dough pastries, preferably savory (I am lucky, too, as our local Persian store has “jufka”, which I prefer for meat and cheese “pies”).
    I am so happy for you that you get to go to Istanbul! I don’t think there is any danger of snow melting before you arrive – it is still very cold, with no prospects of warming up:) Throw a few snowballs for me, too:) And do buy scarves, we can still wear them in our balmy adoptive homes:)
    Have a great trip, my friend!

  3. by rebecca
    5:03 pm
    Feb 14, 2012

    looks lovely and so sweet how your mum made it look like pizza have fun

  4. by Snippets of Thyme (Sarah)
    9:15 am
    Feb 15, 2012

    Isantbul! I am dreaming of going to visit Istanbul. I am so happy for you that you will be there. I cannot wait to see your journey and insights into family life. Is it easy for an American family to travel in Istanbul without knowing the language? Will we stick out terribly looking like westerners? I would travel anywhere but my husband will be nervous if things are too “foreign” for him. Your Borek looks delicious and it’s another dish that I’ve never heard of before.

  5. by Ilke
    9:59 am
    Feb 15, 2012

    Elaine – Hope you find the links useful and try the borek recipe. Let me know how it goes or if you have any other questions
    Lana – I am always astonished to learn how expensive Chinese restaurants are in other places:)
    Sarah – My in-laws had the same fear. But Istanbul is always full of foreigners either living there or visiting. Everybody is very willing to help travelers. Language might be a problem but if you are staying in Old Historic District, many people around you will speak some English. With public transportation, cabs and helpful people , I find Istanbul easy to manage actually but still you gotta be careful just like in any other big city. Hope you visit one day. Tell your husband talk to my husband and his family :)

  6. by Shelley
    11:33 am
    Feb 15, 2012

    Another beautiful looking borek! Have a fabulous trip to Istanbul- I keep hearing such wonderful things about the city. Did you see the article in this week’s New York Time’s Magazine on the up and coming art scene in Istanbul? Looks like such a lovely, cosmopolitan city!

  7. by Ilke
    11:34 am
    Feb 15, 2012

    Thanks Shelley, I have not heard it…I have to check that. Hope they have it online!

  8. by Lell Trogdon
    7:37 pm
    Feb 15, 2012

    Safe travels!! Bring us a postcard to put on the travel board at the cafe……

  9. by Peggy
    5:27 pm
    Feb 16, 2012

    I hope you’re having a great time in Istanbul Ilke! Can’t wait to see pictures =)

  10. by Tom
    9:16 pm
    Feb 16, 2012

    Safe travels!

  11. by Amy Rogers
    10:11 pm
    Feb 16, 2012

    Lovely story, Ilke. Have a great trip, let’s shop and eat when you return!

  12. by Parsley Sage
    3:59 pm
    Feb 18, 2012

    So fun! I’m incredibly envious of your Istanbul trip! Post loads and loads of pictures for us when you get back :)

    In the meantime, I’m totally making this borek.

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