Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

All We Are Saying is Give Chickpeas a Chance


When Danielle Renov’s cookbook “Peas Love & Carrots” was published in May 2020, it was a very big deal in the kosher food universe. You might have heard of her. She’s that Instagram blogger with 100,000 really, really devoted followers.

The book is a labor of love. It has literally hundreds of recipes, stunning photographs and a wealth of information. The recipes ooze with personality and creativity and they reveal the layers of Danielle’s Moroccan and Ashkenazi heritage.

The book encapsulates the aesthetic of the modern kosher kitchen: homemade challah, Mediterranean dips, Asian and Mexican flavors, reimagined roasts, healthy ingredients, comfort food and so much more. She gives the reader the ability to imagine serving these mouthwatering foods to their own friends and family.

Rachel and I had just started our Sephardic Spice Girls odyssey a few months earlier. I’m not ashamed to admit that when I saw the “Peas Love & Carrots” cookbook, I thought “Wow! She covered everything! What recipes are left to write about!?!”

Of course, we’ve managed to write a few articles and lots of our own recipes since then.

We are still inspired by Danielle. She’s energetic in her cooking, enthusiastic about life, authentic with her followers and wholeheartedly spiritual. In other words, she’s an aishet chayil (woman of valor).

Read on for Rachel’s adventure with her in Jerusalem.

—Sharon

I’ve been following “Peas Love & Carrots” on Instagram for years now. And I’m happy to admit that I’m a Danielle Renov groupie. So, when I was in Jerusalem this summer, I decided to send her an Instagram message.

Rachel and Danielle at the market in Jerusalem

Imagine my surprise when she wrote “Welcome to Jerusalem!” and invited me to the shuk (the Machane Yehuda Market) on Thursday morning. She sent me instructions on how to get to her favorite spice shop.

I arrived at the shuk bright and early. I wandered through the narrow mazes of stalls filled with brightly colored, ripened summer produce, piles of dried fruits, nuts and sunflower seeds, heavenly fresh baked pita and challah and cakes and burekas, cheeses and herrings and lots of fried foods like Moroccan cigars and Syrian kibbeh.

I found the shop with its barrels overflowing with fragrant spices. I waited and waited. While I was waiting, I did what any normal woman would do. I started to shop. I loaded up on some sort of nut spice mix and paprika.

Then I decided that maybe I’d better call Danielle. “I’m here!” I said.

“No, you’re not. I’m here. Where are you?” she said.

Of course, I was at the wrong store. She was literally across the way. When I got there, she gave me a big hug and she was just so cute. She asked me if I would mind running errands with her.

We traipsed around in the heat and humidity. We talked and we shopped. We purchased bread rolls for a sandwich post she was working on. We went to several different vegetable stalls looking for lettuce not grown in Israel, as it was a shmitta year (shmitta is a biblical injunction that every seven years the land of Eretz Yisrael is supposed to lay fallow).

I told her about the Sephardic Educational Center — the Ottoman-era building in the Old City, the vibrant programs held there and the exciting new museum in the works.

The conversation flowed so easily that it felt like we were old friends. In real life, she is exactly like she is on Instagram. She talks a mile a minute. She always has a smile on her face. And she’s a super hard-working mama.

She kindly directed me to the correct spice shop and we said good bye. The owner of her spice source was very sweet and friendly. He told me that he freshly grinds all the spices and herbs. I bought the most incredibly aromatic cardamom, earthy, herby za’atar, the most vibrantly reddest paprika and rich, flavorful, freshly ground coffee.

Recently, Sharon and I were inspired by the “Peas Love & Carrots” cookbook to make our own version of Danielle’s recipe, “Girl’s’ Favorite Moroccan Stewed Chickpeas.” She writes that she started making the dish because her husband and sons don’t like fish. Moroccan fish is a staple of her Friday night dinner. She didn’t want them to miss out on the best part of the dish — the soft, saffron stewed chickpeas. Funnily enough, it became a favorite with her daughters.

It’s so easy to make, but has that wonderful “mom’s been stirring the pot for ages” taste.

We love this dish as a side for any meal. It’s so easy to make, but has that wonderful “mom’s been stirring the pot for ages” taste. Vegan-friendly, inexpensive and super healthy. Best of all, the flavors are rich, intense, tomatoey with just the right amount of heat from the dried Guajillo Mexican peppers. The chickpeas are sublime.

—Rachel

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

3 teaspoons saffron
3 cups boiling water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 Mexican dried chiles, such as Guajillo
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro

  • In a medium bowl, using the back of a spoon, crush the saffron until it starts to crumble.
  • Add boiling water to bowl and set aside.
  • Warm oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and dried chili, cook until garlic becomes golden.
  • Add paprika, salt and pepper, stir and add the drained chickpeas and stir.
  • Add saffron water, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and cilantro.
  • Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for one hour.

    Optional:
  • Add slightly sautéed chopped carrots or potato wedges.
  • Use dried chickpeas.

Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gomperts have been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food.

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