Shavuot: A Sephardic Potato and Cheese Pie

By Joyce Goldstein

Savory pastries form a large and important category in Sephardic Mediterranean cooking. More than just food, they are symbols of hospitality and celebration. In the past, the women of an extended family worked together as a team. Gathered around a table, they would drink tea, chat, and make dozens of elegant little pastries for special holidays, weddings, or bar mitzvahs.

With more and more women working outside the home, these handmade pastries are an endangered species. It would be a shame to lose them forever.

This pie is known as tapada de patata kon kenzo. tapada is a double-crusted pie, here filled with a mixture of potatoes and cheese. For added texture, mix in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts with the eggs and cheese. According to Martine Chiche-Yana in La Table Juive, this pie is served on Shavuot in Turkey.

Serves 10.

For the filling:

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons of olive oil
6 green onions, including green tops, chopped, or 1 yellow onion, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces fete or other soft white cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 cup grated Kashkaval or Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the pastry:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

To make the filling, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover in a saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, 20-30 minutes. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl, and then mash until lump-free. You should have 2 to 2 1/2 cups.

Warm the oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the green onions (or chopped onion) and saute until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions to the potatoes and mix well. Fold in the eggs, cheeses, and dill, distributing them evenly. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mix well. You should have 4 to 4 1/2 cups of filling.

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.

To make the pastry, in a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Gradually add the oil, margarine or butter, and water, stirring and tossing with a fork until the mixture comes together in a rough mass. Alternatively, combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to mix. Add the oil, margarine or butter, and water and process until the mixture comes together in a rough mass.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until cohesive and smooth. Divide the dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Clean the work surface, lightly dust again with flour, and roll out the larger portion into a 13-inch round about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to a deep, 10-inch or 11-inch pie pan, pressing it gently onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang, then turn the edge under and press to seal.

Line the dough-lined pan with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the crust is set and dry, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, remove the weights and foil, and let cool for 20 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Spoon the filling into the cooled crust. Roll out the second portion of dough into a 12-inch round about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully place the second round over the filling, trim the overhang to about 3/4-inch, turn the pastry edges to create an attractive rim, and press to seal. Cut a few steam vents in the top crust and brush the crust with the egg yolk wash.

Bake the pie until the crust is golden, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Reprinted with permission from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home, by Joyce Goldstein. published by University of California Press. Copyright 2016 by The Regents of the University of California.