Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Very Veggie Pesach: Matzah Spanakopita

Yes, this is the secret final recipe I promised last Friday.  I was trying to think of recipes like matzah lasagna, where I could substitute sheets of matzah for a grain product that provides structure.  I thought of spanakopita, the traditional Greek dish made with layers of pastry-like phyllo dough holding together layers of spinach and feta cheese.  I love spanakopita, but I've never had much luck working with fragile phyllo dough.  Substituting matzah looses the light pastry texture of traditional spanakopita, but is much easier to work with and is still quite tasty.  Rachel declared it to be "crazy good."  A second taste-tester, Hutch, called it "delicious," and he doesn't even observe Passover!

I ran into only one problem: too much filling!  I was working from several different recipes, all of which were designed to make a 13 x 9 pan of spanakopita, while I was working with 8 x 8 matzah.  I thought about reducing the quantities for this post, but that would complicate the measurements.  I would recommend one of two options: either expand it to 13 x 9 (breaking some extra pieces of matzah in half to fill out the pan), or set aside the extra filling and use it on another occasion as a spinach-cheese dip!

This recipe is not vegan (contains cheese) and is gebrochts and not gluten free (contains matzah).


Ingredients:
  1. 1 tbsp olive oil
  2. 1 cup onion, chopped
  3. 4 scallions (green onions, both white and green parts), chopped
  4. 12 oz. finely chopped spinach (I used two bags of fresh baby spinach)
  5. handful of fresh parsley, chopped 
  6. handful of fresh dill, chopped
  7. 4 or 5 leaves of fresh mint, chopped
  8. 4 cloves garlic
  9. 3 tbsp. potato starch
  10. 1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  11. 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  12. 4 tbsp butter, melted
  13. 3 pieces of matzah (5 if you're using a 13 x 9 pan)
 Kashrut notes:
  1. OU's website currently states that all extra virgin olive oils are kosher for Passover without any certification.  I used Oliovita brand Delicate & Mild olive oil, which is Star-K certified kosher for Passover all year round.
  2. Star K's website says that fresh supermarket produce is not a Passover problem, which covers the onion, scallion, spinach, fresh herbs and garlic. They also indicate that bagged fresh produce is not a problem if it has year-round certification, and the year-round certification really just checks for bugs, so you should be fine even if it's not certified if you check for bugs. 
  3. Manischewitz makes a kosher-for-Passover potato starch that is available in better Passover aisles.  It is also available on Amazon.com, but only in packs of four.
  4. Miller's Cheese sells feta in 8 oz (half pound) blocks, which are kosher for Passover. Again, this will require a store with a good kosher selection.
  5. Breakstones cottage cheese is now available in stores with kosher for Passover certification.  Look for the words "Kosher for Passover" on the cellophane around the lid.
  6. Breakstones whipped or stick butter is also available marked kosher for Passover.  Use the salted (blue container); then you don't need salt in the recipe, which is complicated.
  7. Make sure your matzah is kosher for Passover. Believe it or not, sometimes matzah products are made for year round use and are not kosher for Passover!
Preparation:
Note: Make sure you chop all the vegetables before you start!
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Saute the onion and scallion in the olive oil until the onion becomes transparent
  3. Add the spinach and herbs (not the garlic) and continue to saute until the spinach becomes soft (about 5 minutes)
  4. Add the garlic and potato starch and stir over heat until well-mixed, a minute or two
  5. Add the cheeses and stir until well-mixed, another minute or two
  6. Pour half of the melted butter into the bottom of an 8 x 8 x 2 (or 13 x 9 x 2) baking pan
  7. Put one sheet of matzah (or one and a half sheets for 13 x 9) into the bottom of the pan, soaking in the butter
  8. Spread a thick layer of the spinach-cheese filling evenly over the matzah
  9. Put another sheet of matzah (or sheet and a half) over the filling layer
  10. Spread another thick layer of filling evenly over the second layer of matzah
  11. Put a final sheet of matzah (or sheet and a half) over the second filling layer
  12. Brush the top layer of matzah with a generous coating of the remaining melted butter
  13. Bake in oven uncovered for about 45 minutes.
This can be served hot, warm, or cold.  I like it best warm.

If there is extra filling left over, heat it in a saucepan, stirring constantly, adding a bit of milk or water, until the cheeses are mostly melted and it has a smooth consistency.  This will make a very nice spinach-cheese dip for another occasion.

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