(The Nosher) – Leave it to Sephardic Jews to make even a pedestrian dish — the ubiquitous matzah brei, a mash-up of fried matzah and egg – into something sublime.
In his landmark book “The Sephardic Kitchen,” Rabbi Robert Sternberg introduced many of us to the flavors and pleasures of Sephardic Jewish cuisine. Masa Tiganitas is a Passover recipe of the Greek Jews — tiganites is the Greek word for pancakes, and, according to Sephardic cook and author Jennifer Abadi, tiganitas is related to the word for “fried.” Masa Tiganitas is also a dish enjoyed by Italian Jews during Passover.
In Sternberg’s version, matzah squares are soaked in milk, dipped in a combination of egg and yogurt and then fried in oil. As opposed to matzah brei, or bumelos de masa, the matzah in Sternberg’s recipe is not crushed. They are left whole, dunked and fried before being sweetened with a drizzle of honey or arrope (a syrup made of grapes) and topped with a sprinkling of walnuts. Think fried matzah meets baklava. I am in love.
This recipe has been reprinted with permission from “The Sephardic Kitchen.”
4-6 pieces of matzah
Whole milk for soaking the matzah
4 large eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
Vegetable oil for sauteing
Arrope or honey
Chopped, lightly toasted walnuts
Place the whole matzah into a wide, deep, mixing bowl or a square baking pan that can accommodate them all without breaking them. Pour the milk over them to cover. Soak the matzah pieces in the milk until they soften enough so that they can be cut but are not so soft that they will disintegrate.
While the matzah pieces are soaking, beat the eggs in a mixing bowl together with the 1/4 cup yogurt. When the matzah pieces are soft enough, gently remove them, one at a time, and lay them on paper towels. Cut each matzah into four quarters. Stack the squares on top of one another on paper towels or on a plate.
Pour enough oil into a 12-inch skillet to come up the sides 1/4 inch. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is sizzling but not smoking.
Dip 1 square of matzah from each stack into the beaten egg. Allow the excess to drip back into the mixing bowl. Place the square in the skillet. A 12-inch skillet will hold 2-3 squares while they are frying.
Fry the tiganitas until golden brown on both sides. Keep the tiganitas warm in a 250-degree oven until all are ready.
Place the tiganitas onto serving plates. Serve with arrope or honey poured over the tiganitas and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Serves 4.