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Butter me up with Broccoli Cheese Strudel

Once you've assembled your strudels, butter the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds before popping them in the oven.
Once you've assembled your strudels, butter the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds before popping them in the oven.

When you need something special to bring to a potluck or serve with a salad to your favorite group of ladies who lunch, look no further than Broccoli Cheese Strudel.

I’ve been making this recipe, from “Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen,” for what feels like as long as I’ve been cooking. Published in 1977, the book is named after a collectively owned, worker-managed, nearly vegetarian restaurant started in 1973 by Katzen and a group of friends in an old brick schoolhouse in Ithaca, N.Y. I had the pleasure of dining there with friends from Cornell sometime in the early '80s. It was a way-before-its-time, funky joint that served decadent, delicious food. I must have purchased my copy of the book not long after that visit.

The original paperback is hand-lettered and filled with drawings by the author. Although the restaurant serves fish, the original book offers vegetarian recipes that include dairy and eggs, “an eclectic cuisine, with vegetarian and ethnic emphases, using the freshest ingredients available.”

These recipes aren’t low calorie, however. Many call for mounds of cheese, scoops of sour cream and, like this one, buckets of butter. But sometimes, that’s exactly what’s called for when celebrating. Although this strudel is rich with cheddar and butter, the tang of all that lemon juice really adds a wonderful freshness to the end result.

A word about filo dough: You can find it in the freezer section of the grocery store near the frozen pie shells and puff pastry dough. When you’re ready to use it, always defrost it in its original packaging. Filo dough dries out so quickly, and in the process becomes a pile of brittle, useless shreds. When that happens, all you can do is curse and throw it away. When using the dough, keep the extra sheets under a damp towel to keep them moist.

The recipe says one package makes four strudels, but in my experience, there’s always more filo than you know what to do with.

This time when I made this recipe, the sheets of filo in the package were plentiful as always but seemed smaller than the ones I used to buy. So eyeball your filling before committing. You may be able to get three strudels out of one batch.

Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheese Strudel

For the filling:

6 cups raw, chopped broccoli

3 tablespoons butter

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups good, fresh breadcrumbs (The more delicious the breadcrumbs -pumpernickel, rye, etc. - the better)

2 cups grated cheddar

Juice from one lemon

Salt and pepper

For the strudel:

1 1-pound package frozen filo dough (a.k.a. fillo or phyllo dough)

1 stick of butter (I've used half this amount and gotten a great result. Or, if you can't abide the butter, you can use cooking spray.)

¼ cup sesame seeds or wheat germ for garnish (optional)

For the filling: Sauté onion in butter with ½ teaspoon of salt in a large sauté pan. When onion is soft, add broccoli. Salt lightly again, and cook until broccoli is tender but still bright green, about 8 minutes over medium heat. Combine onions and broccoli mixture in a large bowl with all other filling ingredients and season to suit yourself.

For the strudel: Melt one stick of butter. Have on hand a well-greased tray for baking, a pastry brush, defrosted filo dough, unwrapped and covered with a slightly damp towel, the filling, and your garnish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a large, clean, flat working surface, place one rectangle of filo so that its length stretches forward in front of you. Dip your brush into the melted butter and let it dribble all over the piece of dough. Then brush out the drips. Dip your brush again and repeat. There's no need for full coverage here, but you don't want to be too stingy either. I'll leave it you and your conscience.

Place another leaf of filo dough on top of the first and brush it with more butter. Continue layering and buttering until you have a stack of four. Butter the top leaf as well.

Apply half of the filling to your stack of filo, molding it into a loaf shape on the end of the stack nearest you, leaving at least a 1½-inch edge of empty filo at the bottom and along the sides. Fold the sides in and the bottom up and gently roll the strudel forward. Roll slowly until you’ve reached the end of the stack. Very gently, using spatulas if you need to, lift the roll and place it on a baking tray.

Repeat this procedure to create a roll with the second half of your filling, then brush the remaining butter on top of your strudels and sprinkle them with sesame seeds or wheat germ.

Slash the tops of the rolls with a serrated knife right through the filling, about ¾- to 1-inch apart. This will make slicing much easier later and will ensure that the roll won’t burst in the oven.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Original recipe from “Moosewood Cookbook” by Mollie Katzen. Jill Blanchette is the multiplatform production manager at The Day. Share comments and recipes with her at j.blanchette@theday.com.

The slits cut in the top of the strudel before baking make slicing the strudel so much easier than it would be without them.
The slits cut in the top of the strudel before baking make slicing the strudel so much easier than it would be without them.

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