Mina is a rustic savory pie that is layered with either meat (usually lamb or beef) or cheese and vegetables like leeks, eggplant, spinach and, for the true carb-fiends, mashed potatoes. The matzo pieces are softened briefly in water or stock, rendering them pliable but still sturdy, akin to lasagna noodles. And the tops of the pies are brushed with an egg wash, leaving them with a shiny, lightly golden patina as they emerge, bubbling, from the oven. The word mina is Ladino (the indigenous Sephardic Jewish language) for “mine,” as in excavate—a perfect description for how one might approach eating such a densely packed strata.
Mina are a dream for cooks who like to play around with flavors and incorporate seasonal vegetables into their dishes. The layers need to include a fair amount of moisture (think: curd cheese whisked with milk, or chunky tomato sauce) so the pies do not turn out dry and brittle. And eggs help to bind things together in both the meat and dairy takes on mina. But as long as these golden rules are followed, pretty much anything goes. Toss in handfuls of chopped fresh parsley, mint, or dill, sauté up whatever vegetable looks good at the market and fold them into the filling, or deepen the sauce with warming spices. Whichever way you slice it, mina is a welcome addition to my and any Passover table. —Leah Koenig
- Serves 8
medium red potatoes (about 1 pound total), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
large leeks (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
medium shallots, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
baby spinach leaves (about 6 cups)
cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/2 teaspoons
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for serving
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring once or twice, until potatoes are softened but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside to cool to the touch.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Carefully pour off any excess fat, then add the spinach, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice; cook until spinach wilts and mixture is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Crack 4 of the eggs into the cooled sauce and stir to fully combine.
- Heat the oven to 350° F and grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Fill another shallow baking dish with warm water and dip in 3 sheets of matzo. Let the matzo soften for 2 to 3 minutes (no longer; you want it to be flexible but not mushy). Shake off the excess water and arrange the matzo sheets in the bottom of the baking dish. Break the third matzo, if necessary, to fit it into the dish. Cover with a layer of the potato slices (you might not use all of them), followed by approximately half of the tomato-lamb sauce. Repeat process with 3 more softened matzo sheets and the remaining tomato-lamb sauce.
- Soften the remaining 3 sheets of matzo and arrange on top. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush evenly and generously over the top of the matzo. Bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.