Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


I was born in Casablanca, Morocco. Fearing rising anti-Semitism, my family moved to Los Angeles in 1973. I was 8 years old and I didn’t know any English; we spoke Spanish and French at home. I started school at Beverly Vista and graduated from Beverly Hills High School. My closest friends were a mini United Nations: Mary from Hong Kong; Patty from Singapore; Judy, whose father’s family escaped from Nazi Germany when he was a young boy and whose mother was from a Jewish family in Oklahoma;  and my Sephardic Spice Girl partner, Sharon Gomperts, whose parents made aliyah from Iraq in the 1950s and who was born in Israel and grew up in Australia. We were all immigrants whose families came to the United States for a better life. We were lucky enough to find it and one another.

Being married to immigration attorney Neil Sheff, I am privileged to hear some incredible stories of the great sacrifices that immigrants make to pursue the American dream. Leaving home and all that is familiar, learning a new language and navigating a different culture, confronting hardships and seeking new opportunities, working hard and creating success stories. 

These stories never cease to amaze me and remind me how much I truly love America. The Fourth of July has always been a special day for me and my family: from the earliest celebrations with my family and my uncles, aunts and cousins at Rancho Park or Marina del Rey, where we ate hot dogs and hamburgers, accompanied by a good, old Moroccan couscous salad; to the more typical American cookouts my family has now.

Our wish for this Fourth of July is that we all unite in celebrating America, the great. To show gratitude for the safe haven and prosperity that America has provided for so many. And for all the opportunity and goodness and kindness that we know is in the future of this wonderful nation. We had so much fun creating this  flavorful East-meets-West barbecue lineup (pictured). Our melting pot marries the best customs of our new land with the culinary traditions of our beloved grandmothers. The chicken wings were marinated in silan (date honey), ketchup and orange juice. The broccoli was roasted with paprika, turmeric, sumac and salt. The golden beet salad is a fresh combination of cool mint, grassy parsley and sweet purple onion with a piquant dressing of lemon and olive oil.

The beef kebabs are toothsome and flavorful with a healthy dose of fresh herbs (cilantro, mint and parsley) and powerful antioxidant spices (cumin, coriander and paprika). This clever recipe for fish kebabs guarantees a satisfyingly dreamy, creamy texture.


2 pounds fleshy white fish (such as snapper, halibut or whitefish)
1 small onion
1/2 cup Italian parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for lubricating hands)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
16-20 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 2 hours to prevent burning)

  1. Pulse fish in food processor, set aside.

  2. In food processor, finely chop onions and parsley, then combine with fish.

  3. Add olive oil, salt and pepper to fish mixture.

  4. Rub hands with oil and form long oval balls, pierce with skewers, one per skewer, then set on tray.

  5. Place kebabs on clean, oiled and extremely hot grill. Don’t move them (they’ll fall apart) but when they have formed a crust, turn skewers using tongs.

  6. Carefully remove skewers when both sides are grilled. If a skewer catches fire, let it burn down and remove it before serving.

  7. Serve with schug or chermoula sauce.

Makes 16-20 kebabs.


1 small onion
2 small garlic cloves
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup of cold water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. In food processor, chop onion and garlic. In large bowl, combine chopped onions and garlic with beef.

  2. In food processor, add water and finely chop herbs and add to beef mixture.

  3. Add all spices to beef mixture and combine well with clean hands. Refrigerate beef mixture for one hour.

  4. Remove from refrigerator and mix well. Form kebabs into torpedo shapes, long or short (your choice) or round patties the size of your palm.

  5. Pierce with skewers, one per skewer (metal skewers are preferable because these kebabs tend to be heavy). 

  6. On clean, oiled and extremely hot grill, place skewers and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.

  7. Serve with harissa sauce or tahini.

Makes 16-20 kebabs.

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