Let’s answer the obvious question, shall we? No, I am not Jewish. Growing up where I did in southern Missouri, Jewish cuisine was not something I was exposed to. Dare I say that I wasn’t exposed to Judaism at all. It’s not that I was sheltered or anything like that, it’s just that that particular religion isn’t a big part of the culture where I’m from. Now that I’m in New York, it’s a whole different ball game and I’m catching up on all the foods I didn’t know existed in my youth. Matzo is one of them….and boy, do I love matzo.
Matzo pie, or Mina, is something I just learned about last week (you learn something new every day). It’s essentially a Jewish lasagna, if you will, using matzo in place of the noodles. Based on what I read on the web, you can do anything you want with the filling, ranging from lamb to potato to asparagus/leek. It just seemed like such a cool blank canvas, and easy to boot. Since it’s currently matzo season, I decided to have at it. For my filling, I decided to go with something springy. I’m mentally there folks, even if the weather refuses to concur. The asparagus, leek and mint option seemed like a perfect one. Instead of the suggested cottage cheese, I went with part-skim ricotta and it’s possible that I added some salty grated parmesan as well (as you do). Since I wasn’t wrastling with soggy noodles, the assembly was a snap and the size, an 8×8 pan, is far more manageable for a one-girl household than that of a normal lasagna. If I was being really good, I would have used whole wheat matzo. But I wasn’t.
The result was great. Cheesy and mild, but sturdier than most lasagnas because the matzo soaks up any excess liquid. The top was crunchy and the innards were soft. I have admit that I liked this better on day 2 and 3 than I did straight out of the oven. Like any good casserole, a night in the fridge allowed the flavors to mellow and blend. I’m convinced that the lamb would be delicious, so I know what I’ll be using my extra matzo for. Happy Passover.
Asparagus and Leek Matzo Pie
Adapted from NPR. Serves 4.
Be sure to season your filling aggressively as it will mellow quite a bit during baking.
5-6 sheets matzo
2 T olive oil
2 to 3 large leeks, thinly sliced and washed
1/2 t salt
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c chopped mint
zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 c part-skim ricotta
1/3 c grated parmesan
2 lg eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
- Heat oven to 350°F and grease an 8″ or 9″ square baking dish
- Dip the matzo in water until just starting to soften. Lay them on a dish towel for 5 minutes and then check that they’re slightly pliable (if not, soak a bit more)
- In a large pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil
- Add the leeks and saute until soft
- Add the asparagus and garlic and cook just until the asparagus is bright green (1-2 minutes). Turn off the heat.
- Add the mint and lemon zest
- Cool for a couple on minutes and add the ricotta, parmesan and 2 eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste
- Cover the bottom of the baking dish with matzo, breaking them to fit in (they can and should overlap)
- Top with half the filling, then add another layer of matzo, then the rest of the filling, finished by the final layer of matzo
- Brush the top with the egg beaten with salt and bake for 45 minutes
- Allow to cool 15 minutes before eating