Ah, spring! Time for rebirth, renewal, celebration - and the dreaded chores of spring cleaning. Ironic, isn't? Just when longer days are luring us outdoors to play, there’s housework demanding to be done.
Each year at springtime, flat, unleavened bread called matzo appears in stores as Jews prepare to observe Passover. But non-Jews may not realize that modern-day spring cleaning has roots in the holiday, too, as a ritual that reaches back thousands of years.
Passover commemorates the Exodus. In their haste to escape enslavement in Egypt, Jews fled into the desert with bread that hadn't been allowed time to rise.
But it’s not enough to just buy and eat matzo during the week-long Passover observance.
Jews are commanded to remove from their homes any traces of leavened bread or grains, called chametz. To assure compliance, the family must clean everything with exhausting thoroughness. Granted, one of the recommended methods for disposing of chametz – burning it – is a little impractical these days, but Jews may also give away or sell the items to a non-Jew. (After the holiday, we can get them back. You wouldn't want to waste good food.)
Tradition is peculiar that way. We most often observe humanity’s milestones through the smallest of acts.
Sometimes that’s the simplest way we can pay homage – as we give up baguettes and brioche for a week – to our ancestors and what they endured.
(since bread crumbs are chametz, here’s a recipe using matzo)
- Eggs, beaten
- Matzos, crushed into crumbs
- Tomato sauce
- Ricotta cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Olive oil for frying
- Fresh basil leaves
Measurements don’t matter in this easy recipe you can increase for as many servings as you need.
Peel the eggplant and slice into rounds no more than one-half inch thick. Salt and stack them in a colander with a heavy plate on top to drain for an hour or so.
Pat slices dry, dip in beaten egg, coat with matzo crumbs, and fry in oil heated over medium flame; turn to brown on both sides.
In a greased casserole dish, put a bit of the sauce in the bottom. Layer the cooked eggplant slices, sauce, ricotta. Repeat the layers. Top with mozzarella and basil leaves. Any leftover matzo “crumbles” left in the pan, sprinkle on top.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350, uncover and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese browns. Serve immediately.