Sephardic Jews are a group of Jews who have their origins in the Iberian Peninsula. They are also sometimes called Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Sephardic Jews have a long and rich history, and they have made significant contributions to Jewish culture and tradition.
Sephardic Jews have a unique way of celebrating holidays and lifecycle events. Their customs are a blend of Jewish, Spanish, and Portuguese traditions. One of the most well-known Sephardic Jewish traditions is the Passover Seder. The Sephardic Passover Seder is often quite different from the Ashkenazi Passover Seder.
Sephardic Jews are known for their delicious food.
Susan Barocas is an award-winning writer, chef, cooking instructor, and entertainment coach with a passion for healthy, waste-free cooking and Jewish cuisine, especially Sephardic food, history, and culture. Susan’s recipes are traditional Sephardic dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation. She uses fresh seasonal ingredients to prepare her meals. Founding director of the innovative Jewish Food Experience, she served as guest chef for three of President Obama’s White House seders.
Try one of her recipes today and taste the difference!
Matzah pies called minas are a classic Sephardic Passover dish, traditionally served for brunch or lunch with the slow-cooked, hard-boiled eggs called Huevos Haminados. The truth is that a mina makes a great side or main dish for any meal, even when it’s not Passover. With a top and bottom “crust” made from sheets of matzah and the filling can be made meat, seasoned lamb, beef, chicken or vegetables, most commonly spinach and cheese, though sometimes with leeks or mashed potato added. Another option is to shred, salt and squeeze about 2 pounds of zucchini to use in place of the spinach in the recipe below. The flavours in this vegetarian mina mimic spinach and feta Borekas or Spanikopita, but I’ve added a twist. Given my fondness for artichokes in Sephardic food (and for me personally), I’ve added some to the filling for extra texture and flavour.
600 grams of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
5 or 6 leaves of common matzah
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
32-gram can of artichoke hearts, drained and diced
1/2 cup thin-stemmed fresh dill, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups milk (can be low fat)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
3 large eggs, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the spinach into a fine mesh strainer and set it in the sink or over a bowl to drain. Fill a large baking pan with tepid water. Break two sheets in half as equally as possible. Add the matzah to the pan of water for 2 minutes, making sure they are submerged. (You can gently lay a couple of heavy pieces of silverware across the top of the matzah to hold down.) The matzah should be pliable but still, hold its shape. Take each sheet out by lifting it and holding it onto two corners. Let some of the water drip off for a moment, then lay the softened matzah in a single layer on a thick dish towel or two. You can do the matzah in batches depending on the size of your pan with water.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a couple of pinches of salt, stir and sauté about 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Mix in the chopped artichoke and cook another 10 minutes, occasionally stirring, as the artichokes and onions begin to take on a little colour.
As the mixture cooks, use a large spoon or your hands to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the spinach. Set the squeezed spinach into a large mixing bowl, breaking up the clumps. When the onion and artichokes are ready, add to the bowl with the spinach and stir to blend the vegetables. Add the dill, feta, 1/3 cup grated cheese, milk, pepper and nutmeg, if using. Mix until well blended, then taste for saltiness. Depending on the saltiness of the feta, add salt as needed. Beat two eggs and stir into the mixture until well blended.
Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 8 x 11.5-inch (21.59 x 29.21 cm) glass baking dish. Swirl the oil to cover the bottom and a bit of the side, then put the dish in the preheated oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Heating the baking dish will help create a good bottom crust and keep it from sticking. As soon as the dish comes out hot, cover the bottom completely with about 1 1/2 sheets of matzah, slightly overlapping. The matzah should sizzle as it hits the oil. Spoon half the spinach mixture onto the matzah and gently spread evenly. Cover with another layer of 1 1/2 sheets of matzah, then the remaining spinach mixture making sure it’s even.
Add the top layer of matzah, covering the filling edge to edge. Use the extra half piece of wet matzah to fill in any of the layers as needed.
Beat the remaining egg and tablespoon of oil together. Pour the mixture all over the top of the matzah. Some will drip down the sides and that’s fine. Use a pastry brush to spread any pools of the egg so the coating on the matzah is even. Bake for 40 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of grated cheese evenly over the top. Continue baking for another 10 to 12 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm.
Spinach can be found here
This post contains affiliate links from which I’ll receive small commissions but the price is the same for you. All thoughts and opinions are my own.