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A Thread That Binds: Intro to Sephardic Food

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 December 2016 at 04:43
It occurs to me, too, that this same technique could work with other nuts. Hazelnuts come immediately to mind. And the same approach using pistachios (if you're prepared to take out a second mortgage, that is) makes Halva.

Lots of room for experimentation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 December 2016 at 09:25
Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. With that in mind, we can add two more books to my Sephardic reference library---bringing the current total to nine.

The first falls into the “my bad” category. Back a number of years ago, when I was writing cookbook reviews professionally, I was sent a review copy of Sephardic Israeli Cuisine.. Somehow or other, when I started this project, I’d completely overlooked it. While searching for something else, I rediscovered it mixed in with my Mid-Eastern cookbooks

Because Israel had been in the forefront of the movement that declared all Jews who were not Ashkenazi to be Sephardic, the book is not, for my purposes, as useful as it could be. Many of the entries represent Jewish households that do not have Iberian roots. But there are some interesting insights provided. And it’s a fair introduction to the very idea of a unique Israeli cuisine.

Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic, Sheilah Kaufman, Hippocrene Books, New York, 2002.

On the other hand, Stella’s Sephardic Table is a book I’ve been looking forward to. Because it is not inexpensive, I had to wait awhile before ordering it. And then it took several weeks to arrive. But it was well worth the wait.

Some background: For most people, Rhodes is synonymous with Greece. But Rhodes was the crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean. So, while it’s cuisine is essentially Greek, it is hugely tempered by Ottoman/Turkish, Arabic, and other influences. Truly a cuisine of its own, with many dishes and combinations of ingredients found nowhere else. Add to this the vibrant Sephardic community that thrived there for several centuries (Rhodes was known as “the Little Jerusalem”), the Sephardim there developed their own cuisine, unique even within the framework of Rhodian cookery.

Many members of that community subsequently migrated to other shores. And what was left of it was destroyed by the Nazis.

Stella Cohen’s family had migrated from Rhodes to Zimbabwe long before the Holocaust. In her incredible book, she preserves the cuisine of the Rhodian Sephardim. Within its pages you can see the all the influences that make Sephardic foodways what they are; Iberian, and Ottoman, and North African, and Mediterranean, and, above all, the specialized approach to food that is the hallmark of Rhodes.

Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Award, it’s an oversized, almost coffee-table book, lavishly illustrated with photos and artwork, and has quickly become the centerpiece of my Sephardic collection.

Stella’s Sephardic Table: Jewish Family Recipes From The Island of Rhodes, Stella Cohen, photography by Marc Hoberman, The Gerald and Marc Hoberman Collection, Capetown, South Africa, 2012.
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“Soup,” says Joyce Goldstein, in her book, Sephardic Flavors, “was an everyday affair in the traditional Sephardic kitchen.” Indeed, not to take anything away from bread, a good case can be made that soup was the Sephardic staff of life. However, she goes on, “But because cooks usually relied on leftovers to fill the soup pot, recipes were rarely recorded.”

“Rarely” is one of those baggy words; you can put anything you want into it. Ms Goldstein, herself, includes eight soup recipes in her book. Among my references I’ve found more than three dozen soup recipes. And I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t discovered. Obviously, I’ve barely made a dent in them. But here are several we’ve tried and liked:

About a year ago I posted one such recipe, for Rosh Hashanah Soup This was long before I started this project. More often known as Seven Vegetable Soup, it was most often prepared as part of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) meal.

There are numerous variations of this traditional soup. What they all have in common is that they contain seven vegetables, and sometimes (not always) meat. When meat is used, it is, most often, brisket.
Here’s another version of this Sephardic classic:

(Sephardic Seven Vegetable Soup)

This take on Seven Vegetable Soup is less sweet than my original version. When not prepared as a celebration dish, it’s likely that the brisket would have been omitted, and cooking times adjusted accordingly.

½ cup dry fava beans
4-5 soup bones     
4 ½-5 lb brisket     
1 tbls salt
1 med onion, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
4 leeks, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
6 med zucchini, peeled & diced
1 lb carrots, peeled & diced
1 large turnip, peeled & diced     
1 sm pumpkin or 2 med yams, peeled, seeded and diced

Soak fava beans in 1 cup water overnight.

Place soup bones in a large pot. Lay brisket on top of bones. Cover with water. Add salt, onion, and drained fava beans. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook 2 hours over low heat.

Add the cilantro, leeks, celery, zucchini, carrots, turnip, and pumpkin. Cook 1 hour longer or until vegetables are very tender.

This soup is best made the day before it is served. Refrigerate the soup and meat separately, slice the meat while cold, then reheat.

Serve soup as a first course, and the meat as a second course.

(Lentil and Chickpea Soup)

Throughout North Africa, a soup of lentils and chickpeas is used to break the fasting each day of Ramadan. The Sephardim picked up on this, and serve Harira to break the fast of Yom Kipur. There are, literally, hundreds of variations of this soup, with each household having its own favorite.

What they have in common is that, in addition to other ingredients, they all contain lentils, chickpeas, onion, cilantro, cumin, and a hot sauce, such as harissa. The following is my own take on this soup, which is good whether you are breaking a fast or not.

1 ½ lbs chicken (3 breasts) cut in bite-sized pieces     
¼ cup olive oil          
2 onions, sliced          
2 stalks celery, diced small     
½ cup brown lentils
8-10 cups brown stock                                     
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped     
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbls turmeric     
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cumin     
1 tbls ground coriander
½ tbls ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper          
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp harissa, or to taste     
½ cup orzo

In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and celery until softened. Transfer to a bowl & reserve. Add the chicken, browning on all sides. Return vegetables to pot. Add lentils and 7 cups of stock. Simmer, partially covered, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine remaining stock with the tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, and spices. Add to the pot. Add the orzo and chickpeas and cook until another 15-20 minutes, until orzo is cooked and soup slightly thickened.

While I chose to use orzo as the thickening agent, there is a wide variety of thickening agents used, included flour, vermicelli, rice, and others.

(Sephardic Chicken Soup with Chickpea Meatballs)

Ghondi---under various spellings---is sort of a generic word referring to balls of ground meat or vegetables cooked in a broth. This version is, to the Sephardim, what matzoh ball soup is to the Ashkenazi Jews, and, to my mouth, tastes even better.

Chicken broth:     

10 cups water            
1 4-lb chicken cut up
2 onions, chopped            
2 carrots in pieces
3 celery stalks in pieces     
1 bunch parsley
1 turnip, in pieces            
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper            
1 tsp turmeric


1 lb ground chicken or beer
2 cups chickpea flour     
2 onions, minced
1 tsp cardamom          
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric          
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper          
¼ cup oil or melted chicken fat

Make the broth: Combine all ingredients in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 2 hours or until chicken pulls away from bones. Strain the broth, reserving the meat for another purpose, and discarding vegetables. Refrigerate the broth. Skim the fat before using.

Make the meatballs: Mix together all the ingredients and shape into balls the size of small limes.

Bring the broth to a simmer. Gently place each meatball into the broth. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Serve the meatballs hot in the soup, and/or with rice.

(Sephardic Libyan Soup)

This is another of those amorphous soups, found in many incarnations throughout Libya. Originating with the Bedouins, it became a favorite of all classes of the Libyan population, including, of course, the Sephardim of that country.

3 tbls olive oil          
1 lg onion, chopped fine
1 lb lamb, chopped or in small dice
7 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 tbls tomato puree                      
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric               
½ tsp chili powder     
Salt to taste     
4 cups water or stock (approx)
1 tbls dried mint or parsley     
Squeeze lemon juice (optional)
Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and fry onion for a few minutes, until soft. Add the lamb, chickpeas, tomato puree, spices and salt, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Cover the mixture with water and simmer over medium heat, 30-45 minutes, or until lamb is cooked. Add extra water if required. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

When the dish is ready, stir in the dried mint (or sub parsley). Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.
(Rhodian Leek Soup)

As mentioned above, the cuisine of Rhodes is special, representing an amalgam of all the influences of the eastern Med, along with local ingredients. Add the Sephardic influences, and you wind up with a truly unique food world.
     Leeks are an iconic ingredient in Sephardic cooking, and this is a good example of how they use them within the context of a local culinary viewpoint.

4 leeks     
4 lg potatoes, peeled & diced
½ lb mushrooms, sliced     
¼ cup vegetable oil
8 cups chicken broth     
1 egg
2 tbls lemon juice

Wash leeks to remove sand. Discard roots and tough outer leaves. Cut remaining parts into 1-inch slices and place in a large bowl of cold water. Change water several times. Drain.

In a large saucepan, saute leeks, potatoes, and mushrooms in oil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

In a small bowl, beat egg and lemon juice. Remove soup from heat. Whisk quickly into the soup.

Serve immediately.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2016 at 09:30
Hello, Brook, and thanks for all of these postings!

I finally had time over the weekend (and this morning) to catch up on this thread, and I am flat-out amazed at the research contained within it. This has truly become a labour of love, I believe, with some tasty rewards, as well. I started a list of "must try" recipes as I was reading, and finally gave up, because every one that I encountered looked to be something I would like to try, one day. One of the first that I intend to try is the SHORBA LIBIYA, but the other that immediately caught my eye was the QUAJADO DE TOMATE. But in all honesty, there are many, many of them that belong on my list.

One thing that I noticed was that all of the recipes (well, with the possible and understandable exception of the stuffed dates) appear to me to be inherently nutritious, well-balanced and very healthy. Even the desserts are for the most part natural and - within their genre - wholesome. This is of course a trend on home-cooking, but appears to be even more so with cooking that is influenced by the Middle East and North Africa.

Excellent work Brook - I commend you for your incredible effort; but even more, I thank you for sharing it.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2016 at 17:15
The Shorba Libiya would be a good choice, Ron.

I have never seen a 7 oz can of chickpeas. I used a half-pint of my own home-canned ones. But otherwise you could merely use half a standard (14/15 oz) can, or start with dried chickpeas and cook them yourself.

I would think, too, that if lamb isn't readily available (or, more realistically, affordable) venison would work well with that soup too. Or, for that matter, so, too, would chicken.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 December 2016 at 05:30
Since beginning this project we’ve prepared 34 Sephardic dishes. Only one of them was not to our taste. That’s a heck of a track record; and merely supports my original contention that Sephardic cuisine is the thread that binds all of our favorite foodways---those of North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

The following meal includes the dish we didn’t care for---a salad of cucumbers and lemon. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with it, per se. It just wasn’t the sort of thing that appeals to us. But it does demonstrate the Sephardic penchant for sweet & sour dishes, with the accent heavily on the sour.


A Moroccan-style tagine, this dish shows the distinctly Moorish influence of cooking meat with fruit. Typically, the Sephardim would have used the Turkish prunes (as I did), because they are slightly more sour. If you can’t find them, no problem. Regular prunes work just as well.
     If you don’t have a tajine, just use a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid

1-2 tbls olive oil
2 tbls blanched almonds
2 red onions, chopped fine
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Thumb-sized piece of gingerroot, peeled and chopped
Pinch saffron threads, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
1 lb lamb, cubed
12 pitted prunes, soaked for one hour
6 apricots, soaked for one hour
3-4 strips orange peel (or zest of one orange)*
1-2 tbls dark honey
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped

*I used an old-style zester that cuts the zest into strings, rather than grating it.

Heat the oil in the bowl of a tagine, stir in the almonds, and cook until they turn golden. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until they begin to color. Stir in the ginger, saffron, cinnamon, and coriander seeds. Toss in the lamb, making sure it is coated with the onions and spices, and sauté for a couple of minutes.

Pour in enough water (or stock---I used lamb) to just cover the meat and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover the tajine, and simmer for about an hour, until the meat is tender. Add the prunes, apricots, and orange peel. Cover again and simmer an additional 15-20 minutes. Stir in the honey, season with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer a further 10 minutes. Make sure there is enough liquid in the tajine. You should have a broth that is slightly syrupy, but not dry.

Stir in some of the cilantro. Sprinkle the balance of it over the dish just before serving.

(Sephardic Baked Bulgur)

Although my source didn’t say so, this is probably an Ottoman-influenced dish. For more than half their existence, the Ottoman’s were wheat-centric; something that’s true of all cultures which originated in the mountains of central Asia.
     As written the recipe makes a lot. So, unless you’re feeding a crowd, you might want to cut it in half

1 lb 2 oz (half kilo) bulgur, course preferred
2-3 onions, finely chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tbls table seasoning (see below)
Salt & Pepper to taste
4-5 tbls olive oil
4 ½ oz cooked peas

Preheat oven to 375F. Put the bulgur, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in an ovenproof dish with a lid. Stir in enough olive oil to coat the bulgur grains, then pour in enough water to cover. Cover and bake 50 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and stir in the cooked peas just before serving.


Most cultures have at least one iconic seasoning mix. Tabel (Four-Spice Mix) is to Tunisia as Ras el Hanout is to Morocco. They use it widely throughout the country, to flavor everything from eggs to meat to fruit.
     The classic Tabel is mixed in a percentage ratio of 50-25-10-15. To save you the bother, I’ve done the math.

10 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
5 tsp caraway seed, toasted and ground
2 tsp seeded, broken up dried chilies, toasted and ground
3 tsp dry garlic, ground (or sub garlic granules)

Combine all ingredients well. Store in an airtight container. If stored in a cool, dark place, Tabel will retain its flavor for several months.

(Sephardic Cucumber and Lemon Salad)

This is the salad referred to above. Neither Friend Wife nor myself found biting directly into raw lemon pieces appealing. But I can see how this would appeal to Sephardic tastes. Using the juice of the lemons as part of the dressing, however, retains the flavor profile while making the dish more palatable.
     I’m not a fan of English cucumbers, so make this with standard cukes instead.

2 lemons
½ tsp salt
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, sliced very thin
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
3 tbls extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed

Peel and section the lemons, removing the seeds and white pitch. Coarsely dice the sections. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the salt.

In a serving dish, layer the cucumbers, then the onion, and finally the lemon pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pepper, and oregano. Spoon over the dish and serve.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 December 2016 at 02:13
I wish to thank Brook, ( &  Ron )  for his profoundly exemplary research and amazingly fascinating historical traditional récipes ..  A truely astounding job.

Thank you for posting.

Toledo, 55 kilometres from the Madrid Capital in the exact centre of Spain, is a gold mine of ancient Sephardic gastronomy .. Once the Capital of Spain as well, under Moorish Rule,  it houses several restaurants specialising in Sephardic epicurism .. 

The employing of seasonal fruit with meat, is still quite common in traditional récipes.  The " reineta" a sour acidy Apple,  a splotched pale Green, matte large irregular shaped Apple, with pale  Brown splotches is used for stuffings of game birds and poultry .. This is also quite common in Apple producing regions such as Asturias and Galicia in northwestern Spain.

Thank you once again ..  Sephardic renovation has become quite popular on the top notch restaurant scene as well especially in southern Spain,  Andalusia ..

Have  a healthy, successful and wonderful 2017 ..
Gourmet´s Choice - Time Out In Spain ...

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Salads (note the plural) are an integral part of every Sephardic meal, particularly celebratory meals. But they can really push the definition of salad.

In the Western culinary tradition, dishes using cooked vegetables are generally referred to as vegetable dishes. Those using raw vegetables are called salads.

While that distinction has gotten blurry, it’s one that never existed in the Sephardic and Arabic world. Salads, when you look at them as a class, are any vegetable served as a side dish. Sometimes they are an assemblage of different vegetables, which is how we think of salads. But more often, they feature just one veggie, flavored in various ways. They can be hot, cold, or room temperature; the vegetables can be cooked, raw, or a combination; and they utilize vegetables and vegetable parts we barely consider. For example, rather than waste them, Sephardic housewives save their parsley stems, chop them, toss with a dressing, and serve as a salad.

Thinking of that I had to laugh, the other day, when I heard yet another celebrity chef declare that we eat cilantro stems, but discard parsley stems because they are inedible.

While salads are served as single-course dishes, as we normally do, they are more often part of a larger spread. In North Africa, for instance, a meal often consists of a huge mound of couscous, surrounded by numerous---as many as a dozen---different salads. Similarly, in Greece and Turkey, multiple salads are found on every Mezze table.

While there are similarities in ingredients used, many Sephardic salads reflect the countries where they eventually settled. As such, they’re not too different from those served by their neighbors, and many Sephardic recipe collections identify them that way. That is, we may find a listing for a “Turkish” salad, or a “Moroccan inspired” one. I choose to record them merely as Sephardic. But, because salads, more than anything else, are a reflection of Sephardic wandering, I will include the country of origin.

It’s in salad dressings that the Sephardic penchant for sour flavors really comes to the fore. Where we might make a dressing with the oil and acid on a two or even three to one ratio, Sephardic dressings are often equal amounts or oil and acid, or even reverse the ratio. So, if you make any of these, watch those ratios carefully, and adjust to your own tastes.

While these few, obviously, barely touch on the variety of salads, they do provide a glimpse of the various ingredients used by the Sephardim.


This one, in addition to being very tasty, reflects the definitional issue of salads. I have, in my files, several similar recipes, all of which are named “marinated mushrooms.” None of those others even hinted at them being salads. Country of origin is Turkey.

1 lb button mushrooms, thickly sliced
4 tbls olive oil              
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 tbls parsley, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
Juice of ½ lemon           
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper, or more to taste                 
Harissa to taste (optional)

Sauté the mushrooms in the oil over medium heat until liquid evaporates and mushrooms turn golden, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, and thyme and cook 2-3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt, pepper, and harissa if using.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

(Sephardic Fava Bean Salad)

Here is one of those salads in which the acid overshadows the oil. For western tastes it is likely too sour (we found it such). So you might want to cut the lemon juice back to 2 tablespoons, or even just 1 ½. Fresh fava beans are hen’s teeth this time of year. But frozen work just as well, and are more readily available. Country of origin is Morocco.

8 oz (1 ½ cups) shelled and peeled fava beans
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil     
1 tbls sweet paprika
1 ½ tsp ground cumin     
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup water     
3 tbls lemon juice
10 cilantro sprigs, chopped fine     
¾ tsp salt
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Note: If using fresh favas, string the pods and reserve 3-4 of them, cut in ½-inch slices.

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil, paprika, cumin, and garlic. Cook until the mixture begins to foam, 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, pods if using, and water. Cook, stirring, until the beans are tender but not soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and salt. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the beans to a serving dish and allow to cool. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve at room temperature.

This salad lasts several days in an airtight container in fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.

(Sephardic Beet Salad)

Pickled root vegetable salads are very typical of the eastern Mediterranean. Virtually every Lebanese meal, for instance, is accompanied by pickled turnips, which are also found throughout Turkey. Beet salad is just a variation of that staple. This recipe also is a map of Sephardic movement. Its country of origin is Greece, but is often identified as being Turkish. However, Greek and Turkish Jews say it originated in Spain.

1/2 cup red wine or Sherry Vinegar
2 tbls olive oil     
2 tsp sugar     
1 garlic clove, minced     
1/3 cup onion, sliced thin     
2 lbs cooked beet sliced      
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives, halved lengthwise

Mix the vinegar, oil, sugar and garlic well.

Put the onion, beets, and olives in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss the salad several times.

Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 8.

(Sephardic Savory Carrot Salad)

Carrots are iconic to the Mediterranean culinary world. Other than the ubiquitous carrot & raisin salad, though, we rarely think of them as salad material. Just the opposite is the case in North Africa and countries of the eastern Mediterranean, and there are, literally, dozens of variations on the them. Country of origin for this recipe is specifically Morocco. But I have another one, from Tunisia, that is virtually indistinguishable from it.

2 lbs carrots, peeled & trimmed
3 whole garlic cloves
1 tsp salt

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbls cider vinegar
1 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp Turkish red pepper flakes or 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp honey or super-fine sugar
2 tsp orange blossom water
½ tsp salt
2 tsp harissa, or to taste (optional)

1 tbls finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Using a sharp knife or mandolin, cut the carrots into matchsticks or very thin slices. Bring a pan of lightly salted water to boil and add the carrots and garlic. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are just tender, about ten minutes. Drain in a colander, discard the garlic, and transfer carrots to a bowl.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Pour over carrots while they are still warm, and toss to coat the carrots evenly. Let sit for at least an hour, so carrots can absorb the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a wide, shallow serving dish and garnish with cilantro.

(Sephardic Spinach Salad)

Spinach is a wonderfully versatile green that lends itself to all sorts of preparations. Which explains its popularity through most of the world. Its use as a salad ingredient is, however, particularly common to the Mid-East, as is this example. Here, again, you might want to adjust the acid content. Country of origin is Syria.

2 lbs fresh spinach
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup cider vinegar or lemon juice
½ tsp salt
Dash pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbls toasted pine nuts

Wash spinach well. Tear into bite-sized pieces. Drain in colander.

Combine spinach and scallions in a large bowl. Chill, covered, until serving time.

Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and cumin. Just before serving, pour dressing over spinach and scallions. Toss well. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 January 2017 at 12:38
Excellent, Brook - all of these salads look great ~
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Knowing your tastes, Ron, it's likely that you can use the oil/acid ingredients just the way they're stated.

Here's another salad, a bit more complex than the others. But it's really good. This one comes from Rhodes, and you can see the various culinary influences of Rhodian cuisine in it. Note the number/weight of the eggplants. Typically, in the eastern Med, much smaller fruits than we are used to are the norm.

(Sephardic Eggplant, Pepper, & Tomato Salad)

3-4 small eggplants (2 ¼ lb total)     
1 tbls coarse salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice     
1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper cut in wide strips
1 large ripe tomato, thickly sliced
For the dressing:     
¼ cup fresh lemon juice     
3 tbls white wine vinegar
¼ cup cold water     
1 tsp sugar
3 garlic cloves, grated     
1 ½ tsp sea salt
Black pepper

Vegetable oil for frying     
1 tbls roughly chopped parsley

Cut stems off eggplants. Peel in stripes. Cut into slices about ½ inch thick. Dissolve the salt in 5 pints water in a large bowl, and add the lemon juice. Immerse the eggplant slices and cover with a weighted plate to keep them submerged. Soak for 45 minutes. Drain, rinse, and dry on paper towels.
Whisk all dressing ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer to a shallow serving dish.

Heat enough oil for shallow frying in a large skillet. Working in batches, fry the eggplant, 3-5 minutes per side, until tender and slightly golden. Drain on paper towels and press additional towels on top to soak up excess oil. Immediately immerse the eggplant slices in the dressing to soak up the flavors.

Fry the pepper in the same pan, followed by the tomato slices and arrange on top of the eggplant. Drizzle some of the dressing over the cooked veggies so they are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate 1 hour at room temperature. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Can be kept in the fridge, then brought back to room temperature for serving.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 January 2017 at 15:31
Brook - I thought you might find this interesting ~

I was cruising around in my "I need to try this" file of recipes, and found this, from Tori Avey. I tucked it away sometime last summer, long before your Sephardic project, and I had forgotten all about it!

Sephardic Tomato-Garlic Fish

From Tori Avey:

Quote This fish recipe is my take on a Sephardic-style fish preparation that has been in my husband’s family for generations.... This recipe is super easy to make. After defrosting your fish (if using frozen fillets), it only takes about 30 minutes to prep and cook. The sauce is mildly spicy and slightly sweet, filled with a wonderful garlicky flavor. While 20-ish minutes might seem like a long time to simmer fish fillets, the bed of herbs below helps to keep them away from direct heat. This means the fish can slowly simmer and soak up the rich flavor of the sauce. The fillets may separate a bit while cooking, depending on how thin they’re cut....

I like to serve the fish over cauliflower could also serve it over regular couscous or rice if you’re so inclined. I must say that the cauliflower couscous is really delicious, and it’s kosher for Passover too, which makes it super versatile.


4 mild, flaky white fish fillets
1.5 cups hot water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar or 1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
2 large roasted red bell peppers, peeled and sliced
2 handfuls fresh cilantro or parsley
12 whole garlic cloves
Cauliflower couscous for serving - optional

If your fish is frozen, thaw it in cold water for 15-30 minutes or in the refrigerator overnight. Rinse your fish fillets with cool water and pat dry. In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together hot water, tomato paste, paprika, sugar or honey, cayenne and 3/4 tsp salt.

In a large saute pan, spread out the cilantro or parsley, roasted bell pepper slices, and garlic cloves to make an even "bed" for the fish fillets.

Place the fish fillets on top of the bed of herbs, peppers and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly with the red pepper flakes.

Pour the seasoned tomato paste liquid over the top of the fillets, coating each fillet with sauce. Turn on heat and bring the sauce to a medium simmer.

Reduce heat to medium low, cover the saute pan, venting slightly, and let the fish simmer for about 15 minutes, basting every 3-4 minutes with sauce, till the fish is opaque and flaky.

Remove the lid from the pan and turn up the heat to a higher simmer. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for about 5-7 more minutes, continuing to baste the fillets, till the sauce thickens a bit and the largest garlic cloves are soft.

Serve fillets over cauliflower couscous or your favorite starch, topped with sauce, garlic cloves and sliced peppers. We usually serve it with a light spinach salad or sauteed greens on the side.
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Fish in red sauces made of either peppers, tomato, or both, are indemic to the Sephardim; with numerous variations on the theme.

The addition of tomato paste in Tori's recipe likely makes it of Turkish origins.

Here's another version:

(Sephardic Fish with Red Pepper Sauce)

2 lbs firm white fish filets     
Salt & Pepper
3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded & chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced     
½-3/4 cup water
1 tbls sweet paprika     
1 tsp ground cumin (optional)
¼ cup chopped cilantro     
Olive oil

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; cover, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

In food processor or mortar, combine the peppers, garlic and ½ cup water and process or mash to make a spoonable sauce, adding more water as needed. Should be about 1 ½ cups pepper puree. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Stir in the cilantro.

Place the fish filets in a single layer in a large sauté pan and pour the pepper sauce over them. Drizzle with olive oil. Place the pan over low heat, cover, and cook gently until filets test done, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the filets and sauce to a platter and serve at once.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 January 2017 at 10:23
Originally posted by Brook Brook wrote:

The addition of tomato paste in Tori's recipe likely makes it of Turkish origins.

I was thinking the exact same thing, brook - thanks to your Sephardic and Ottoman primers, it's pretty easy to see a lot of connections that would otherwise go un-noticed.
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I’ve fallen behind in posting our exploration of Sephardic foods, but certainly haven’t stopped preparing it. Rather than running menus, the way I’m going to play catch up is to present recipes with a point. This time we’ll look at a few variations on themes, to demonstrate how there is both a similarity and a difference in how Sephardim in different locations interpret what is otherwise the same dish.

Stuffed vegetables are very popular among the Sephardim. Peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, even eggplant is filled with meat or vegetable mixtures and cooked. Sometimes, as in the following case, a good deal of processing is done to the stuffed vegetable.

Potato croquettes are sometimes made by using left-over mashed potatoes. But, more often, they are a planned dish---often served as a mezze---started from scratch. That’s the case with these two.

The first version originated in Morocco. With slight variations it is found throughout the Maghreb.

(Moroccan Meat-Filled Potato Croquettes)

3 lbs potatoes     
1 med onion, chopped
3 tbls + 1 cup oil, divided     
1 lb ground chuck
¾ tsp salt, divided     
Pepper to taste
Dash ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup chopped parsley     
Juice of 1 lemon (optional)
4 eggs, divided     
Matzo meal

Boil potatoes in jackets until very tender. Cool under cold running water and remove skins.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare filling. Sauté onion in 3 tablespoons oil until translucent. Add meat and sauté until browned and clumps are broken up. Mix in ¼ tsp salt, the pepper, allspice, cinnamon and parsley. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and mix well. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mash potatoes and mix with 2 eggs and ½ tsp salt until of dough-like consistency. Pinch off balls about 3 inches in diameter. Flatten between hands into circular shapes. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in center of circle. Fold edges over filling so not filling remains visible. Repeat with remainder of potato mixture and filling.

Beat remaining egg. Dip each pastelle in egg and then in matzo meal.

In large frying pan, heat 1 cup oil. Place pastelles carefully in sizzling oil Do not crowd. Fry until golden on both sides, turning carefully. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Using the same technique, this version, from Rhodes, has a filling with a completely different flavor profile. Not surprising, because of the uniqueness of Rhodian cuisine. The original recipe specifies beef, but we made it with venison instead. Lamb would also work, or, even chicken.

Rhodian Stuffed Potato Croquettes)

For filling:     
3 tbls olive oil     
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
1 lb 2 oz chopped veal (or substitute beef, lamb, or venison)     
1/4 cup hot chicken stock
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped fine     
2 tbls pine nuts
3 tbls parsley, minced     
1 tsp sea salt
Pinch white pepper

For potatoes:     
2 ¼ lb potatoes     
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp sea salt     
White pepper
¼ cup breadcrumbs or matzoh meal

For breading:     
1 cup all-purpose flour     
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups breadcrumbs or matzoh meal

Oil for deep frying

Make the filling: Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add meat, assuring it covers bottom of pan. Cook 2-3 minutes so meat seals before stirring. Break up meat with a fork and cook until it is colored, about 10 minutes. Pour in stock and cook, uncovered, until reduced. Transfer to a bowl, allow to cool, and stir in the eggs, pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper.

Put potatoes in a pan with enough water to just cover. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until fully tender, 30-40 minutes. Drain. Peel while still hot, toss in pan to dry any residual moisture, and pass through a ricer. Mix well with the beaten egg, salt, pepper, and flour or matzoh meal.

Shape croquettes: With moist hands, break off part of the potato mixture about the size of an egg, and shape into a ball. Hold the ball in the cup of your left hand and use your right thumb to flatten the potato so it takes the shape of your cupped palm. Put a heaped teaspoon of the meat filling in the center of the potatoes and press the edges together to seal over the filling, then roll between your hands to shape into a smooth oval.

Using a 3-stage station, bread the croquettes in the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs or matzoh meal.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep pan and heat over high heat. Fry the croquettes in batches for about 4 minutes, turning once, until golden brown all over. Drain.

Serve immediately or keep warm in an oven on low heat.

Note that the two potato doughs are slightly different. When we made them, the Rhodian version was a little on the moist side, and was more difficult to work with. If you run into that problem, just add a bit more matzo meal.

As with the Ottomans, Sephards love meatballs. You might think this a natural progression, being as how the Ottoman Empire became their homeland. But such is not the case. Ground meat formed into balls or small patties are found among the Sephardim in all of their adopted countries. Nor do they confine themselves just to beef. Virtually every protein allowed by the Kashruth laws is cooked that way. There are, literally, hundreds of variations.

This first example also comes from Morocco. Note the French title. That’s because it’s a family recipe from people who migrated from Algeria to Morocco, so shows influences from both countries:

(Moroccan Meatballs in Cinnamon-Onion Sauce)

4 onions               
1 lb ground beef
2 slices crustless white bread, soaked in warm water, squeezed dry
1 egg, lightly beaten     
1 tbls Ras el Hanout
1 tsp salt     
¼ tsp pepper
2/3 cup water     
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbls vegetable oil (optional)

Grate 1 of the onions. Slice remaining onions into ¼-inch slices.

In a large bowl, combine the grated onion, beef, bread, egg, Ras el Hanout, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Shape 1 rounded tablespoon into a ball about 1 ¼ inches in diameter, wetting hands frequently to prevent sticking. Repeat until all meat is used.

In a large saucepan, bring he water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs, cover with the sliced onions, and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Decrease the heat to medium. Cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the centers, 20-25 minutes. Add the oil for a richer sauce and serve hot or at room temperature.

This next example is a Sephardic take on a classic Turkish dish. Among other things, is shows their penchant for both leeks and sweet & sour dishes:

(Turkish Leeks & Meatballs in Sweet & Sour Sauce)

Leeks & meatballs:     
2 lbs leeks     
1 lb ground chuck or lamb
½ tsp salt     
1 egg
¼ cup matzo meal     
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch allspice     
2 tbls vegetable oil

8-oz tomato sauce     
1 cup water
2 tbls brown sugar     
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp dried mint     
½ cup chopped celery
2 tbls tamarind paste (or apricot preserves)

Wash leeks well. Trim roots and tough outer leaves. Cut in half lengthwise then into 1-inch chunks. Place in a bowl of cold water, changing water several times. Drain.

Combine ground meat with salt, egg, matzo meal, cinnamon and allspice. Form into 1-inch balls. Sauté meatballs in oil until well browned. Turn off heat. Leaving meatballs in skillet, add leeks.

In a saucepan, combine tomato sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, mint, celery, and tamarind. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes.

Pour heated sauce over leeks and meatballs. Cook, covered, over medium heat 45 minutes or until leeks are very tender.

*Alternatives: Apricot preserves or half apricot butter half prune butter. We’ve made it both ways, and much prefer the tamarind version.

To show the versatility of Sephardic “meatballs,” here’s a version using fish. This is a Pied Noir recipe (note the French title) from Algeria:

(Sephardic Fish Balls in Tomato Sauce)

2 lbs bones fish filets               
5 garlic cloves, minced
10 springs cilantro, chopped fine     
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt     
¼ tsp pepper
3 cups water     
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and      
3 garlic cloves, minced coarsely chopped
5 sprigs cilantro, minced     
¾ tsp salt
2 tbls capers, drained     
3 tbls evoo

Prepare dumplings: In a food processor, combine the fish, garlic, cilantro, egg, salt and pepper, and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a steady simmer. Wet your hands to prevent sticking. Using 1 rounded tablespoon fashion the ground fish into tapered dumplings about 2 inches long and 1 ¼ inch diameter. Drop gently into the simmering water. Continue in this manner, wetting your hands in between forming each one, until all the fish mixture is used.

Cover the quenelles with the tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and salt. Increase heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens somewhat, 15-20 minutes. Five minutes before serving time, add the capers and olive oil.

Transfer the quenelles and the sauce to a shallow bowl. Serve hot.
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