Sephardic matzah spinach pie
A vegetarian dish with a twist
(The Nosher) Matzah pies called “minas” are a classic Sephardic Passover dish, traditionally served for brunch or lunch with the slow-cooked, hard-boiled eggs called huevos haminados. The truth is that a mina makes a great side or main dish for any meal, even when it’s not Passover. With a top and bottom “crust” made from sheets of matzah, the filling can be made of meat — like seasoned lamb, beef, chicken — or vegetables, most commonly spinach and cheese, though sometimes with leeks or mashed potato added. Another option is to shred, salt and squeeze about 2 pounds of zucchini to use in place of the spinach in the recipe below. The flavors in this vegetarian mina mimic spinach and feta borekas or spanikopita, but I’ve added a twist. Given the fondness for artichokes in Sephardic food (and for me personally), I’ve added some to the filling for extra texture and flavor.
20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed
5 or 6 sheets plain matzah
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and diced
1/2 cup fresh dill with thinner stems, finely chopped
1 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled feta
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, divided
1 1/2 cup milk (can be low-fat)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
3 large eggs, divided
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Preheat oven to 350 F.
Put the spinach into a fine mesh strainer and set in the sink or over a bowl to drain.
Fill a large baking pan with tepid water. Break two sheets of matzah in half as equally as possible.
Add the matzah to the pan of water for 2 minutes, making sure they are submerged. (You can gently lay a couple heavy pieces of silverware across the top of the matzah to hold down.) The matzah should be pliable, but still hold its shape. Take each sheet out by lifting it holding onto two corners. Let some of the water drip off for a moment, then lay the softened matzah in a single layer on a thick dish towel or two. You can do the matzah in batches depending on the size of your pan with water.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a couple pinches of salt, stir and sauté about 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Mix in the chopped artichoke and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the artichokes and onions begin to take on a little color.
As the mixture cooks, use a large spoon or your hands to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the spinach. Set the squeezed spinach into a large mixing bowl, breaking up the clumps. When the onion and artichokes are ready, add to the bowl with the spinach and stir to blend the vegetables.
Add the dill, feta, 1/3 cup grated cheese, milk, pepper and nutmeg, if using. Mix until well blended, then taste for saltiness. Depending on the saltiness of the feta, add salt as needed. Beat two eggs and stir into the mixture until well blended.
Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 8-by-11.5-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish. Swirl the oil to cover the bottom and a bit of the sides, then put the dish in the preheated oven for 4 to 5 minutes.
Heating the baking dish will help create a good bottom crust and keep it from sticking. As soon as the dish comes out hot, cover the bottom completely with about 1 1/2 sheets of matzah, slightly overlapping. The matzah should sizzle as it hits the oil. Spoon half the spinach mixture onto the matzah and gently spread evenly. Cover with another layer of 1 1/2 sheets of matzah, then the remaining spinach mixture making sure it’s even. Add the top layer of matzah, covering the filling edge to edge. Use the extra half piece of wet matzah to fill in any of the layers as needed.
Beat the remaining egg and tablespoon of oil together. Pour the mixture all over the top of the matzah. Some will drip down the sides and that’s fine. Use a pastry brush to spread any pools of egg so the coating on the matzah is even. Bake for 40 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup grated cheese evenly over the top. Continue baking another 10 to 12 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. PJC