This dish just bowled me over! I love the crispy flakiness of phyllo dough, and the smooth and slightly sweet pumpkin filling is delicious. I first made these strudel while developing a sephardic-style Rosh Hashanah menu. I started with Joan Nathan's recipe for pumpkin strudel (also called Greek Rodanchos) in her fabulous cookbook The Jewish Holiday Kitchen and adapted it based on my experience with other phyllo recipes. These strudel are perfect as a first course or side dish (even a dessert, says my middle son!) at a Rosh Hashanah meal. Pumpkin is traditionally served in Mediterranean homes in this holiday season – they grow rapidly in the early fall and are considered symbols of fertility and abundance, along with leeks, onions, beets, turnips, quinces, zucchini, and gourds in general. The pumpkin is sweetened and flavored with sugar and cinnamon, representing our desire for a sweet new year. The strudel would be ideal for a Thanksgiving holiday meal as well, or indeed any time of the year. They are not difficult to make, although one must work quickly and have a light touch when working with phyllo.
One 15-ounce can pumpkin (100% pumpkin, not a pumpkin pie filling)
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon oil
1 stick margarine, clarified (or approx. 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
20 small sheets phyllo dough (or 10 large sheets)
In a sauce pan combine the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Stir constantly over a low flame until all the liquid evaporates. Set aside to cool. (This can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Follow directions for thawing phyllo dough. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
Lay two small sheets of phyllo dough on top of each other on a cloth or paper towel. If you are using the large sheets, use one sheet at a time and fold it in half. Brush the top with the clarified margarine or the oil. Then place 2 tablespoons of the filling along the short side of the dough, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the edge. Pat down the filling, using a spatula or your fingers, until it is a rectangle approximately 1 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches (same border on all sides). Fold the short edge over the filling, gently fold in the sides, and brush the flaps with the margarine. Continue folding the strudel until the end, brushing the seamed underside with margarine. Place on the cookie sheet and brush the top and sides with margarine.
I make five strudel and bake them for 12-15 minutes while I am preparing the remaining five. The strudel should be golden brown. If you are making them in advance, undercook slightly as they will brown more when reheated. Gently place on a metal rack to cool.
Makes 10 strudel.