From Nonna's Kitchen: Bea’s Serbian Pita
Up to this point, every immigrant woman I have cooked with has been introduced to me by her son or daughter or even an in-law. I hadn’t met someone on my own that was willing to invite me in and cook for the day. However, recently, that has changed. While attending a holiday party I was lucky enough to sit next to a wonderful woman and begin a pleasant conversation about international food.
Immediately, I was taken by her warmth and friendliness. In a short time, I came to find out she was born in Hungary and came to the U.S. at a young age to study chemistry. Even better, she speaks fluent Italian so our conversation waned back and forth between English and Italian. Never in my life did I think I would meet a Hungarian born woman, raised in Belgrade that now lives a few blocks from my home in Connecticut.
Hence, this is how my lovely friendship with Bea began. Of course, after we chatted I told her about my project and how I hoped she would like to participate. Without even knowing me 10 minutes she agreed to teach me a few Hungarian and Serbian dishes.
While cooking, I was amazed listening to her tell me about her incredible life. After studying chemistry at university in Belgrade, Bea was accepted at Caltech in Pasadena, Ca. Upon arrival, she realized there were only 35 woman students on campus. Regardless of being in the minority, she succeeded in her studies and went on to become the director of an undergraduate lab at Caltech. She told me her last course she taught before retiring was Genetic Engineering. She juggled her career and raised two children on the west coast. Presently, she lives close to her daughter and grandchildren here in Connecticut.
Cooking with Bea was great because aside from the fact that I love spending time with her, she is versed in both Hungarian dishes learned from her mother and also Serbian dishes they began to eat after moving to Belgrade at the age of two. Her first language was Hungarian. Later on she learned Serbian, German, French, Italian and of course English. I was excited to learn Hungarian Paprikash as it is so well known but also really loved learning how to make pita, similar to burek, a very well known Serbian dish made with filo dough and a few different fillings. Bea makes one with cheese and another with meat. Equally delicious, now, when I make it, it’s hard to choose!
Bea’s Serbian Pita
1 package filo dough (about 15 sheets)
1 cup light olive oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
1 lb ground chuck (85/15 blend)
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup sour cream
½ cup milk
In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion. Saute for 3 to four minutes, just enough to soften onion. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, add all three meats, salt, pepper, egg and cooled onion. Mix to combine.
In a small mixing bowl, mix eggs and sour cream. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a 9x13 pan, lightly brush the bottom with olive oil. Place a sheet of filo and sparingly brush with a bit of oil. Continue with 9 more sheets of filo.
Spread meat mixture to the ends of the pan so that all of the filo is covered.
Lay the rest of the filo sheets over the filling to create the top. Cut through the pita all the way to the bottom. Make squares as large or as small as you wish for serving.
Pour the topping all over the top and spread to ensure full coverage.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.