With Passover beginning at sundown this evening, many families will be gathering around the table for their First Seder. This central ritual of Passover refers to the carefully ordered Passover dinner party where friends and family come together to remember and celebrate the exodus of the ancient Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. This dinner celebration, symbolizing freedom, typically involves many traditional foods and dishes such as matza, bitter herbs, gefilte fish, charoses, roasted or hard-bolied eggs, brisket, and of course wine.
With matza taking a central role this week, is typically consumed as custom and we thought it might be nice to share a recipe featuring this cracker-like bread. This recipe will keep your vegan, vegetarian, as well as jewish-italian guests happy at the table. To amp up the nutrition in this dish use whole wheat matza and finish your meal with a side of dried fruit as matza has low levels of fiber.
Vegetable Matzo Pie
- Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
- 2 boxes (about 10 oz. each) matzo (more or less)
- 2 lbs. cleaned Swiss chard or baby spinach
- 2 lbs. artichoke hearts (frozen is ok)
- 2 lbs. asparagus or mushroom, cleaned and sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 quarts cold vegetable broth (for soaking the matzo)
- 3 eggs (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sugo d’arrosto Broth Ingredients
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Garlic Cloves
- Vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Clean the vegetables, discarding the tougher parts of the artichokes and asparagus. Cut the asparagus into small pieces, slice the artichokes very thinly (if using frozen, partially defrost first), and chop the spinach.
- Blanch the spinach for about 5 minutes in a covered pot with a few tablespoons of water (you can also do this in a covered platter in your microwave). Allow to cool down, then drain and squeeze the liquid out by pressing it into a colander in your sink.
- Prepare three separate skillets on your stovetop, with at least 2 tablespoons of oil in each. Heat the oil and add 2 whole cloves of garlic to each skillet. Place the artichokes in one skillet, the asparagus or mushrooms in another, and the spinach in another.
- Add 1/2 cup of white wine each to the artichokes and the asparagus/mushroom skillets and salt to taste. Turn heat on those two skillets to medium. Allow the vegetables to simmer in the wine till it evaporates.
- Add 1/3 cup of water to the artichokes, and cover both the artichokes and the asparagus. Turn heat to low.
- Salt the spinach skillet to taste (do not add any wine). Turn heat to low.
- Cook all 3 vegetables separately on low heat until very moist and tender, adding some water if they start sticking to the skillet, or if they dry out. Cooking times may vary between 15 and 20 minutes.
- Discard the garlic cloves and set the three vegetables aside. If they feel too dry, add a few tablespoons of broth.
- Make sure you have some “sugo d’arrosto”* (roast juice) ready, or make some following my instructions at the bottom of this recipe.
- Soak the matzahs in cold chicken broth. For a prettier result, soak them briefly (about 10 minutes), a few at a time, not allowing them to crumble (if you soak them for a short time, they might still split in 2, but they will be easy to “re-compose” in the pan). For a softer, kugel-like texture, soak the matzahs for at least 40 minutes until very soft, break them down with your hands into a “mush” and then squeeze the liquid out (some people prefer this texture and they don’t mind the fact that it looks less “pretty”).
- Line the bottom of a baking pan with about ¼ of the soaked matzah. splitting some in ½ or 1/3 as needed to completely fill the perimeter.
- Brush or drizzle with a little “sugo di arrosto” and with about 1/3 cup broth (if you mush the matzah you will need to use less broth; whole matzahs, more broth), and then layer most of the spinach (reserve about ¼ for the top); follow with a layer of matzah, a little more “sugo d’arrosto” and broth, and the artichokes (set aside ¼ of all the vegetables) ; again matzah, roast juice, broth, and the asparagus. You can just top with the asparagus or make a final layer of matzah and top with roast juice.
- Break the eggs and whisk them with 1 cup leftover broth. Pour the mix over the pie slowly, trying to cover it evenly and allowing it to penetrate down the sides (if you are serving this dish as a side and prefer a lighter version, or if you are making a vegan modification, you can skip the eggs).
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Half-way through the baking, check the pie, and if it feels too dry, add some more broth, concentrating it on the perimeter of the matzahs. You can also cover it with foil for the second half of the baking.
Be sure to check out The Shiksa In The Kitchen for more Passover and kosher recipes.