Food Recipe: Banitsa

Due Venti’s head chef recreates a flaky family favorite

Nicole Seals, chef and proprietor of Due Venti in Clawson along with her husband David, says Banitsa is a “long-loved traditional food from the Bulgarian side of the family.” Her great-great grandparents settled in Detroit in the ’20s and had a restaurant on Russell Street. They made filo dough on a dining room table (shown  at right). “This recipe is near and dear to all of us. I assume that my great-great grandmother adapted it to what was available in the U.S. for a reasonable price. Traditionally, it calls for feta cheese,” Nicole says. Today, family members take turns making Banitsa.  “If we are lucky, there’s enough for everyone to take home for breakfast.”

Banitsa (Serves 6-8)

24 ounces of cottage cheese (preferably, it should be partially drained)
3 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 package filo dough
2 sticks unsalted butter

Mix together cottage cheese, eggs, and salt and set aside. Melt butter. Lay out one sheet of filo and brush on butter with a pastry brush. Be sure to keep remaining filo sheets covered with a moist towel as to not dry out while working with consecutive sheets. Layer three sheets of filo with butter in between, then add about 1/4 cup of filling mixture. Spread filling lengthwise along the edge of the filo layer closest to you, but leave about 3 inches from edge. Spread filling up about 4 inches high, and across length of dough, but leave 1 inch on the outer edges for folding. Fold the outer edges in to seal the filling in, then fold bottom 3 inches over the filling and keep rolling until you have sealed completely. Place on a greased sheet pan, then repeat with remaining ingredients. You will get at least 6-8 long pastries. (3 sheets of filo per pastry). Leave 1/2 inch between each row for expansion during baking. (You will have two cookie sheets filled with Banitsa.) Do a final brush of butter on the tops before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until golden brown on bottoms.