So about now you’re probably entertaining thoughts of gooey crust pizza and Wonder Bread sandwiches, am I right? Eight days is a loooong-ass time to not eat bread or any other poofy pastry, but I figure it’s not nearly as hardcore as running away from Egypt and wandering around a desert wasteland for 40 years. A little suffering for the palette is the least we can do to honor our ancestors’ intestinal fortitude.
Though he writes his own kosher reality when it comes to shrimp, El Yenta Man has been quite disciplined about not sneaking off for a bagel this year. I think it’s because he went a’Googlin’ for the meaning of chametz and found out that the spiritual consequences of violating Pesach law are pretty serious. Leave it to Wikipedia to make a believer out of my husband. I think he’s in the garage right now, trying to figure out how to make Passover-friendly beer.
Even though we come from Ashkenazic origins, we don’t get too crazy about avoiding kitniyot, which includes rice and pretty much every bean under the sun. These foods were forbidden during Passover in the Middle Ages because they could be confused with chametz, which seems like the same logic that ruled chicken has enough texture to be considered fleishig even though mixing a chicken’s meat with its milk is obviously impossible because chickens do not lactate (and I should know, ’cause there’s one scratching around my yard right now. And I mean no disrespect to my observant friends at all here; it’s just that as a do-it-yourself Jew, I must find ways to justify my halachic laziness.)
In any case, it’s gonna be a challah-less Shabbos, which is cool, ’cause Moses and Miriam and the idolaters had a whole lot less. I’ll be cooking up one of my favorite ways to keep up the matzah enthusiasm in Yentaland until Tuesday night, when we’ll celebrate the end of Passover with a fat pizza and a six-pack of beer.
And by the by, the end of Passover marks the sixth anniversary of Yo, Yenta! Thanks for hanging with me these last six years in blogland, friends.
Yo, Yenta!’s Matzah Lasagna
You will need:
8 squares of matzah
2 1/2 cups (or if you’re my kind of cook, a jar of store-bought) tomato sauce
A small can of tomato paste
A pinch of brown sugar
Half a chopped white onion
Handful each of chopped mushrooms, olives and capers (if you don’t like any of ‘em, leave it out)
A bag of baby spinach
A bag of shredded mozzarella or Italian blended cheese
Salt to taste
Heat up a saucepan on medium with a couple of generous pours of olive oil. Throw in the onions, mushrooms, olives and capers and brown ‘em up. Add your basic sauce and let bubble a little; add tomato paste until smooth. Sprinkle in a little brown sugar; it really ties in the flavors. Turn to low. It’s gonna be a little thicker than you’re used to, but that’s what we want. Trust me.
Dump about 3/4 of the container of cottage cheese and half the container of feta into a bowl with the egg and spices. Mix until creamy – I use a whisk, but a handheld mixer would work even better.
Now, unlike regular lasagna, in which noodles absorb water and should be a juicy, bubbly mess when done right, matzah lasagna should be as dry as possible before it goes in the oven so that the matzah doesn’t turn to soup. Every other recipe called for rinsing the matzah to soften it; I thought this sounded like squish waiting to happen, and I recommend skipping it.
Spread a little sauce on the bottom of the pan and place two dry matzah squares side by side. Spread on a few tablespoons of cheese filling, not too much, but cover your corners. Add a layer of spinach, which will give up plenty of liquid to soften everything up. Shprinkle generously with shredded cheese. Dollop on a little more sauce to cover it all.
Repeat previous steps two more times. It will be tall. Push gently into the confines of the baking dish with one last layer of matzah. Then it’s more sauce and another cheese shower. Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Let cool before serving!
Add some soy crumbles sizzled in olive oil to the sauce to “beef” it up a little. Also, sliced zucchini or eggplant seared in olive oil can be substituted for any of the layers … mmmm…..
I prepared this at 1 o’clock in the morning (damn insomnia) and let it sit in the fridge overnight to bake the next day, which may have contributed to the superdeliciousness of it all. I hope yours turns out just as well.