There is so much history and theology surrounding Passover, from plagues and persecution to sacrificial lambs and hopes for the return of a long-lost prophet. Truthfully, I’m nothing but a lowly shikse, who has had the pleasure of a bird’s eye view into her in-laws’ longstanding traditions, so I am not even going to attempt to give a true explanation, for fear that it would be woefully inadequate.
From what I have seen over the last ten years of being a part of a wonderfully close-knit and loving family (that means the world to me), is that this holiday/week-long observance of faith, history, and devotion to God seems to be one of the most important events on the Jewish calendar. And, from a food-nerd’s perspective, it mainly seems to be focused around NOT eating any leavened bread, and in particular, eating LOTS of matzo.
When I first started participating in my husband’s family’s Seder dinners, I didn’t quite get the second part of that. I was all, “How come you don’t just have an omelette for breakfast, instead of subbing matzo for a bagel? Why not just eat a salad for lunch, instead of pb&j on matzo? Can’t you just eat potatoes with your dinner, instead of replacing noodles with matzo kugel?” And, I’m sorry if this offends, but a cake made with matzo meal is just not the same…
I don’t know if anyone out there will disagree, but to me and my hubs, matzo just doesn’t hold a candle to actual bread products. And I think that right there, is the main thing about Passover. Giving up those deliciously satisfying bagels and cakes and cookies for an entire week, and subsisting on dry, flavorless crackers, is an act of devotion to God, and of respect to one’s ancestors. In a way, it’s kind of like Lent. I have a lot of respect for that. I cannot, however, show up at a family dinner bearing a dish that is not delicious. I’m sorry, I’m just not wired like that.
Like I had said, matzoh is extremely dry and has very little flavor. Imagine a saltine without the salt. It takes a lot to make it palatable enough that you’d want to eat a big ol’ hunk of it in casserole form.
I like to rely on copious amounts of veg and dairy products.
I don’t know anyone that doesn’t drool over hot spinach and artichoke dip, so this kugel is made in it’s image…
If you are bringing it to your Bubbe-in-law’s Seder, it can be made ahead! Just ask if you can warm it in her oven when you get to her house.
- 5 matzos, broken into small pieces
- 1½ cups half and half
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 egg
- 10 ounces thawed frozen chopped spinach, drained and squeezed of excess liquid
- 10 ounces thawed frozen artichoke hearts
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Soak the matzo in half and half for about an hour, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the matzos have softened.
- In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, and egg.
- Fold in the spinach and artichokes, and season with salt, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.
- Add in the softened matzo, discarding any excess liquid, and stir to combine.
- Pour into a well-greased, 9×13″ oven-safe baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden around the edges and nearly set in the middle.
- Top with freshly grated parmesan.
You will only need a little square of this side dish, because it is sooo super satisfying and filling…
…and so creamy-cheesy-delish you will forget that you are giving anything up!