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Saturday, November 13, 2010 - 5:55am

Tasty Treat Keeps Tradition Alive

The Or Ve Shalom Synagogue in North Atlanta holds an annual Hanukkah Bazaar and its biggest seller each year is a small delicacy that tells the story of its Jewish roots in the Mediterranean region.

The Bureka is a fist size pastry and comes in several varieties.

“We have spinach filling, eggplant filling, potatoes and rice.”

Every Tuesday 89 year-old Emily Amato helps crank out hundreds and hundreds of Burekas at the Or Ve Shalom Synagogue. Emily Is a Sephardic Jew and the Bureka is their signature food. Emily’s ancestors fled Spain during the inquisition of 1492. They moved to Turkey and Rhodes.

"My mother and father were born on the isle or Rhodes in the Mediterranean."

When they came to the new world they brought their recipes.

“Sephardic cooking is mostly vegetarian; they had very little meat in the countries that they came from," says Amato.

The Bureka may have roots in those countries. Its name is similar to the Turkish Buerek pastries. But it’s dough is more like the Spanish Empanada. Janet Galanti is one of 50 cooks here today who sit around large tables.

“Somebody makes the dough in the mix master and they bring it out here and we roll it into perfect circles and we give them to the ladies to fill. It’s an Art,"says Galanti.

The one who knows this art best is Emily Amato.

“TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW… I’m patting this so it is not too thick.. and I put the potato filling in here. WHAT'S IN THE FILLING? Lots of cheese, feta cheese and parmesan cheese.… I close it up, make a simple edge and it makes a Bureka, and they’re really delicious. “

The synagogue sells the Burekas at its Hanukah Bazaar and year-round. Clare Habif is the president of the sisterhood here.

“This is the only place where you can buy something like this, these are not like the filo dough spinakopita. This is a unique taste. It’s different dough and the filling is different and I think it’s great that we’re still doing this after so many years.”

But some worry about the future. The youngest cooks today are mostly in their 50's. Their daughters are busy working. But the recipe is part of the synagogue's cookbook says Habif. She gave one to her daughter.

“She was making it at the University of Georgia with her roommate who is also Sephardic. And they would make it and she would take a picture on her phone and send it to me. I was so excited"

Habif is excited that her daughter followed a tradition of a tasty pastry that connects centuries, cultures and continents.

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