I had the pleasure several years ago of attending a Passover Seder. The friend who invited me is from a Sephardic family originally from Syria. Because Sephardic Jews are from countries surrounding the Mediterranean, their food traditions differ from Jews in Eastern Europe.
Still following the dietary laws for Passover, the Sephardic Passover meals tend to be highly aromatic, with liberal use of spices, herbs and vegetables such as eggplant, artichokes and even asparagus. Interestingly, the Syrian Jews include rice in their Passover meals.
In order to have dishes that meet their guests’ various dietary restrictions, this Passover Seder included several Minas. A Mina is a layered casserole of matzo and fillings, which can be vegetarian or with ground meat.
The softened matzo is layered between the filling and then baked. This particular recipe calls for spinach and feta, but you can certainly use any filling you wish, or make it non-dairy by omitting the feta and substituting mashed potato for the cottage cheese.
1 tsp olive oil
6 – 7 whole sheets matzo
2/3 cup leek, finely chopped (about half an 8 oz. leek)
1/3 cup fresh dill (about a ¼ bunch)
5 ounces fresh baby spinach, chard, or combination
2 cloves garlic
2 cups cottage cheese (low fat is fine)
8 oz crumbled feta
3 large eggs, divided
½ tsp black pepper
Prepare the leek by cutting off the root and the dry tip ends of the green leaves. Then cut the leek in halves lengthwise, and then in halves again, so you have 4 long pieces. Slice into very thin rounds. Place in a colander or salad spinner, rinse thoroughly. Set aside 2/3 cup.
Snip off small pieces of dill from the leafy end of the bunch until you have 1/3 cup; set aside. Roughly chop the spinach, set aside.
Fill a 9x9 or 8x8 baking pan with water. Submerge the matzo sheets for 1 minute. Remove each sheet and drain a few minutes on paper towels.
In a very large bowl, mix together the cottage cheese (or potato), feta, dill, leek, and pepper. Press the garlic through a press and into the cottage cheese mixture. Taste to correct seasonings; add salt if necessary. (You will most likely need salt if you are making a dairy-free version.)
Add 2 eggs, mix thoroughly. Toss in the spinach until thoroughly combined.
Pour out the water in the baking pan, wipe it dry, and rub the olive oil all around the inside of the pan. Cover the bottom of the baking pan with a softened matzo sheet, adding broken matzo pieces to cover the entire bottom.
Spread half the filling over the matzo. Place another layer of softened matzo over the filling, using broken pieces to cover. Add the remainder of the filling, cover with the remaining softened matzo.
Beat the remaining egg and brush it over the top layer of matzo. Bake until the matzo is golden brown and your filling is set, about 45 minutes. Let sit 10-15 minutes prior to serving.