Thursday, April 21, 2011
Vegetable Cheese Mina
My traditional first-night-of-Passover dinner is usually based around lamb patties: I simply mix ground lamb with sauteed leeks and a little salt and pepper, then cook them up (broil, grill, fry) depending upon the weather and my own personal whims. Jeremy adores them, but he wasn't joining me this year as it was his dad's birthday and they were celebrating together. And in the vegetarian kitchen I currently have access to, I couldn't have lamb anyway.
So, what to serve???
How 'bout a mina?
A mina [MEE-nah] is a lasagna-ish dish of Sephardic (Jews descended from those who were banished during the Spanish Inquisition) tradition, made of layered matzot with any variety of fillings in between them; minas can be meat or vegetarian. I make a fabulous one that's completely and utterly treyf ([TRAYF] = non-kosher) that is essentially a Reuben casserole: rye matzah, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese, corned beef, 3 times over and then topped with more cheese.
One of my proudest moments, in a weird sort of way, came when I made that particular dinner one night for Jeremy and his buddy Doug. I gave them each a serving, and they ooh-ed and ahh-ed over it, devouring it. When I told them that they could have seconds they leapt up, pushed through a narrow entryway between a wall and a counter that led into the kitchen, and shoved each other (playfully, of course!) to compete for more. They were goofy, but they showed me how much they loved the dish!
But in lieu of lamb or corned beef, I took some beautiful Portobello mushrooms, a bright red pepper, and some fresh baby spinach and worked some wonders with them to make a colorful and delicious meal. I sauteed the vegetables, and I put together a lovely cheese sauce using more of the flipflop Pinot Grigio I'd recently been given for tasting and marketing purposes. I layered everything between matzot, baked it up, and had created a creamy, luscious masterpiece!
I have to note that flipflop wines supports a fabulous charity called Soles4Souls, which purchases shoes for poor children around the world enabling them to avoid injury and, especially, to walk to school. For each bottle of flipflop wine purchased, Soles4Souls will distribute a pair of shoes to someone in need -- up to 100,000 pairs in the first year of the partnership. You know what a bleeding heart I am -- how could I not love this???
And I also love my new Passover mina. While I admit that it's a bit labor- and dish-intensive, it really is worth the time!
Vegetable Cheese Mina
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons potato starch or flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper
1 cup skim milk
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan + 1/4 cup cheese needed to finish the dish
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the potato starch and cook for 1 minute. Add the salt and pepper, then slowly add the milk and the wine until incorporated. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken, whisking frequently, then stir in the cheese. Keep warm.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
3 ounces Portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup cottage cheese
Heat the oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red pepper, and mushrooms, cooking until the vegetables are softened. Add the spinach, salt and pepper; cook just until the spinach is wilted.
Combine the vegetables with the cottage cheese in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
1/4 cup white wine
4 plain matzot
Grease an 8"x8" baking dish. Place the eggs and the wine into another 8"x8" baking dish and combine them well. Soak one matzah in the egg mixture for 1 minute, flipping it over midway. Place the matzah into the greased baking dish.
Spread one-third of the vegetable filling over the matzah.
Drizzle 1/3 cup of the sauce over the vegetable filling.
Soak another matzah in the same manner, and place it over the vegetable filling. Spread another 1/3 of the filling over the matzah, and drizzle another 1/3 cup of the sauce over everything. Repeat one more time with the egg-soaked matzah, filling and sauce. Soak the last matzah in the egg mixture, and place on top. (Don't worry if you break a matzah -- it's all just going to get covered in sauce, then cut and served, anyway!)
Pour the rest of the egg mixture over everything, 'cause we don't waste anything in my kitchen! And pour the remaining sauce over the top of that.
Place the prepared mina onto a large baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of parmesan over the top, and bake for 5 more minutes until everything is bubbling and golden.
Remove from the oven and let the mina rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 6 pieces and serve warm.
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