Monday, April 6, 2009

Kosher for Passover Lasagna

In New York the Hasidim make a special (and expensive at $19 a box) matzo called: shmurah matzah.

These matzos are large and round and made by hand and follow a far stricter oversight. The wheat cannot come in contact with water at any time after it is harvested, so as to prevent any possible leavening to happen.

Years ago I came across a Sardinian Shepard's recipe for a lasagna made from a traditional Italian "bread" called carta musica in Italy and pani carasau in Sardinia. When I saw it in the picture I thought: "That looks like those matzoh from Brooklyn!" Many years later it has become a favorite at our Seder table.

The original recipe which was in Saveur magazine included lamb, this is problematic because in a kosher household you can't make a lamb lasagna with cheese, because you can't mix milk and meat. So I make a non-lamb version that allows for us to indulge in lots of lovely cheese.

First off you have to make sure you have a container to make it in. I use a traditional Spanish cazuela which you can get at D'Espana or the Broadway Panhandler here in NYC. Obviously you can use whatever you have that works, it's just a little tricky to find a container that is so large and round.

In my version of the dish I cook it once it is completed, but in the original recipe it's all assembled and then served. With cheese I think it's better warm and melted.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Make the tomato sauce.

Peel, crush and finely chop 6-10 garlic cloves and place in a medium bowel.

Peel and roughly chop 2-3 medium onions add to the garlic.

Peel and chop 1-2 carrots and toss them in with the garlic and onions.

Finely chop 1-2 stalks of celery and add to the bowl with the onions etc.

Pour about 1/3 of a cup of olive oil into a 4 quart heavy bottomed pot under a medium flame. When the oil is warm, but not smoking, add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery stir to incorporate, cook covered for about 10 minutes (Please note a fine tomato sauce can be made with just garlic, olive oil and tomatoes and seasoning. I'm adding all these aromatics to make it heartier, feel free to omit them if you want a simpler dish).

The aromatics shouldn't brown, just become soft and the onions translucent. Give a good stir and then add two 28 oz cans of your favorite tomatoes, I use crushed tomatoes, but if you put up some of your own from last summer by all means chop those up and add them. Take 4-6 branches of fresh thyme and add to the sauce. If you don't like the idea of having to fish these out later you can use just the leaves, I like the branches I think they imbue the sauce with a wonderful flavor. You can also use other herbs like rosemary. If you want to use fresh basil wait and add it at the end.

Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne and a pinch of sugar (optional), please continue to taste through out the process.

Turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer for an hour or so.

When the sauce has finished simmering taste again and adjust seasoning with more salt & pepper. Fish out the thyme. If you want, at this point add fresh basil if you didn't use thyme. Taste again.

With a ladle scoop out enough sauce to cover the bottom of your cooking dish, cover the sauce with a generous handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese, add a matzah and repeat the process Repeat for each of 6 layers.

Place in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, you want the cheese to be melted and the sauce to be hot.

While the lasagna is cooking, boil a quart of water with a tablespoon of vinegar in it (or lemon juice) and poach 6-8 eggs. Don't over cook! When the lasagna is ready take it out of the oven and place the poached eggs on top, breaking them just before serving so the yolks mix with the lasagna making it lovey and rich. Conversely you can add a poached egg to each portion, just in case someone at the table isn't down with the idea of having poached egg on their lasagna.

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