Eating Jewish: Quajado for Passover
Passover cooking is certainly defined by the dietary restriction of abstaining from chametz, or leavened grain. We all know those people (perhaps you’re one of them) who actively count down the days until they can eat that coveted slice of pizza or bread at the end of the eight-day observance. Still, I see this as a chance to create and enjoy meals that focus on the wonderful vegetables out there for the picking.
Since vegetables are central to Sephardic cooking, it is the perfect place to find inspiration. Having made quajado (pronounced kwah-shah-doh) once before and absolutely loving it, I knew I wanted to share it with you. This simple combination of eggs, vegetables, and cheese, creates a signature dish of Sephardic cuisine that in which vegetables take center stage.
Quajado was originally prepared by cooking the mixture in a skillet over a fire and was known as a fritada. The dish was prepared this way until relatively recently, once it became common to have an oven in one's home. The baked version of the dish became known as quajado, meaning "coagulated" in Ladino. Quajado became so important to the culinary traditions of the Sephardic Jewish community that its preparation during the Spanish Inquisition was considered a sign that one was practicing Judaism, and could lead to imprisonment.
What makes a quajado different from a fritada is that it contains less egg and more vegetables and cheese. Vegetables that are frequently used in this dish include spinach, zucchini, eggplant, leek and tomato. The addition of soft cheese helps to impart creaminess, while the hard cheese provides saltiness. During Passover, soaked crumbled matzoh can be added as a substitute for breadcrumbs. However, I chose to leave this ingredient out so as to make this dish gluten-free.
I never liked fritadas growing up because I thought they were too dry and lacking in flavor, but I now realize that I was just eating the wrong dish! If you’ve ever felt the same way then quajado is definitely for you. The quajado comes out of the oven with a crisp golden crust, and an inside that’s light and overflowing with vegetables.
I used a combination of spinach, zucchini and onions to make this quajado, but feel free to use whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. The great thing about this recipe is that you can create an endless amount of combinations, each as delicious as the next. You can serve this dish along with a salad for a light supper, as a side dish, or even for breakfast. Since every bite is full of flavor, I can guarantee that there won’t be any leftovers.
Do you have any favorite Passover dishes that make vegetables front and center? Share them in the comments!
Adapted from Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and more for oiling the pan
1 medium onion, cut into thin semi-circles
3 cups baby spinach, finely chopped
1 ¼ cups grated zucchini, squeezed of excess moisture
1 cup semi-firm ricotta, goat cheese or a creamy feta cheese, broken into pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, Gruyere or any other firm cheese
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil a round 9-inch baking dish. You could also use a square 9-inch baking dish.
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and sauté until they are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, the cheeses, the chili flakes, the garlic powder, the salt and the pepper. Stir in the spinach, zucchini and onions.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake until the quajado is set and golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.