Appetizers shaped like rolled-up Torah scrolls are an excellent way to celebrate Simchat Torah — and these phyllo-dough treats stuffed with zucchini and feta cheese certainly fit the bill. They’re savory, tasty and a darned cute likeness.
Eating scroll-like or rolled-up foods has become part of the celebration of the holiday, which commemorates the end of the yearly Torah reading cycle and the beginning of the next. Simchat Torah this year will begin on the evening of Monday, Oct. 21 and end after sunset the next day; Reform Jews and Jews within Israel celebrate it a day earlier.
The baked pastries in this recipe are a variation of the Sephardic and Mizrachi phyllo dough appetizers known as “cigars” … but for Simchat Torah, the flaky cylinders are standing in for Torah scrolls.
Phyllo dough is available in many markets, often in the freezer section. Phyllo freezes well so save extra sheets for another recipe.
These rolls are best eaten within hours of baking, but can be reheated in a 250-degree oven on an ungreased baking sheet for 10 minutes, or until flaky and warmed. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before heating.
Makes 16 to 18
- 8 oz. feta cheese (not crumbled)
- 2 cups, packed, shredded zucchini
- ⅛ tsp. salt plus as needed
- 2 Tbs. finely chopped green onion
- 1 Tbs. finely chopped dill
- 1 Tbs. finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint
- ¼ tsp. crumbled, dried mint
- ¼ tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1-lb. box phyllo dough sheets (about 9-by-14 inches), defrosted according to package directions
- ½ cup oil
- Dip (see below), optional
Taste the feta. If it is overwhelming salty, rinse in cold water then soak in cold water for several hours, changing water periodically and rinsing again before using. Pat feta dry. Cut into ¼-inch pieces. Set aside.
Put shredded zucchini in strainer over bowl. Stir in ⅛ tsp. salt. Let sit 20 minutes. Squeeze zucchini to press out as much liquid as possible. Discard liquid. Combine feta cheese and zucchini. Mash well. Mix in green onion, dill, parsley, fresh mint, dried mint, paprika, pepper and zest. Taste. Most likely it will be salty enough from the feta, but add salt to taste, if needed. Mix in egg.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Open phyllo box. Remove 10 sheets and keep covered with a damp kitchen towel. Rewrap remainder and freeze for future use.
Lay out 1 phyllo sheet flat on work surface, leaving rest covered. Brush with oil (sheet should be covered but not saturated). Top with second sheet. If there are any tears, mend by brushing oil on tear and pressing edges together. For larger rips, brush with oil and top with a scrap of phyllo. Cut into 4 equal rectangles.
Put 1 Tbs. of feta-zucchini filling about ¾ of an inch from the short edge of one of the rectangles, leaving a ½-inch margin from each side of the rectangle. Roll bottom of dough up over filling. Roll once more until filling is covered by the phyllo. At that point, stop rolling and fold in the sides of the phyllo rectangle. Then continue rolling until a cylinder is formed. Place phyllo roll seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Brush top and sides of phyllo rolls well with oil. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with dip.
Dip: Combine 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, ¼ tsp. paprika or cayenne, 2 Tbs. finely chopped dill, 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint and 1 tsp. crumbled dried mint.