Several years ago I was invited down to a Passover demo at Kehila Kedosha Janina, a Romaniote synagogue (built in 1927 by Jews from Janina, Greece) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was warmly greeted by Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos (the synagogue’s museum director) who introduced me to the community. I was touched by how welcoming the members were, and through this event I gathered many contacts (who I later interviewed) for my Passover cookbook research.
Below is a recipe that was demonstrated by Koula, and adapted by me later on. It is not only delicious, but a dish that is great to serve with either a meat or dairy meal because it is parve.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8 / Makes Nine 3-Inch Squares
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1½ cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
Three 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach leaves, defrosted and well drained
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped fresh dill leaves
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 to 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons matzah meal
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
1½ to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups matzah meal
Measuring cups and spoons
Large chef’s or chopping knife and cutting board
Large skillet with cover
9-inch square baking pan
Large mixing bowl
Prepare the Filling:
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Add the chopped onions and mix well. Cook until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the defrosted spinach leaves and mix well to coat with the oil and onions. Cover with a lid and cook, over medium heat, until the spinach becomes very soft and the water has cooked off or been absorbed, about 30 minutes.
3. Throw in the chopped dill, parsley, salt, and pepper and mix well, and remove from heat. Pour spinach mixture into a large mixing bowl and cool until slightly warm or to room temperature.
4. Mix in the beaten eggs and matzah meal. Set aside to prepare the dough.
Prepare the Dough:
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.; Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with oil.
6. In separate large mixing bowl, pour in the oil, water, and salt and mix briefly. Slowly pour in the matzah meal and mix until a soft dough is formed. Using your hands, scoop up the dough and pat into a smooth ball. Divide dough into two even balls.
Assemble the Pie:
7. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, flatten one ball of dough evenly along the bottom f the pan, making sure to reach all of the corners (do not press dough up along the sides).
8. Pour the spinach filling over the bottom layer of dough and spread out evenly with a butter knife or rubber spatula.
9. To cover the filling with the remaining dough, sprinkle the dough evenly over the top like you would a fruit crumble, then dip your palms briefly in cold water and gently press down to make the top more compact.
10. Pierce the surface of the dough 5 or 6 times in several places with a fork or small knife to create air holes. Bake on middle rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and along the sides. Cool to room temperature before cutting into 6 rectangles or 9 squares for serving. (You can also try to flip the pie completely out of the pan by placing a large square platter over the top of the pan and carefully and quickly flipping it over so that the bottom crust becomes the top.)