Onion Pissaladiere

Au Revoir— Recipes for a Farewell Party

When Neil and I found out that Rabbi Bouskila would be returning to Los Angeles for the bar mitzvah of close family friends, we knew this was our opportunity to throw a Farewell (until we see you soon) Party. 

Onion Pissaladiere

If you’ve read our column over the years, you’ll know that the Sephardic Educational Center is important for both Sharon and I. I met my husband Neil at an SEC party and many of our friendships and our children’s friendships have been through the SEC. Neil was the founder of the Young Adult Movement, co-founder of the Sephardic Film Festival and has been the President for over 10 years. He works closely with our International Director, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila. 

Of course, I have known Danny since we were teenagers and his family sat right behind mine at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel. He and his wife Peni, his daughter Shira and son Ilan are like family. 

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Israel Consul General Israel Bashar and Neil Sheff, Sephardic Educational Center president

A few years ago, their son Ilan decided to follow in his father’s footsteps (veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War) and his grandfather’s footsteps (fought in the 1948 War of Independence). He joined a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces. While he was a soldier, he met and married Kayla. On October 7th, Rabbi Bouskila, Peni and newlyweds Ilan and Kayla were staying at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel, along with our good friend Mona and her children, Ariella, Aron and Eliana (Neil was Mona’s counselor on her SEC Israel teen trip, Rabbi Bouskila was director on Hamsa for all three of her children). 

They all stood in the stairway of the hotel waiting out the sirens. Soon after, Kayla learned the devastating news that several of her army friends had been killed in the initial attacks. Ilan was immediately called back to his unit to serve in Gaza and Kayla was called to serve in the North. 

Rabbi Bouskila and Peni stayed in Israel, overseeing the important charity work of the SEC’s Rica Emquies Israel Relief Fund (named after my mother z’l). I wasn’t surprised when Rabbi and Peni announced that they would be making Aliyah. 

When Neil and I found out that Rabbi Bouskila would be returning to Los Angeles for the bar mitzvah of close family friends, we knew this was our opportunity to throw a Farewell (until we see you soon) Party. 

I got to work planning the party. It would have to be indoors, since the weather is so chilly. We wouldn’t have room to seat all our guests, so it would have to be a cocktail party with finger foods and small bites. 

As I was planning the menu, I knew my life would be much easier if I served a mix of homemade specialties and ready-made foods. It’s the most sage advice I can impart — your to-do list isn’t as overwhelming and your guests will still feel spoiled and indulged. More advice — make a list, make several lists, a schedule for shopping and a schedule for as much prep ahead. And place your Amazon paper goods order far in advance, so you’re not on tenterhooks, like I was at 6 o’clock. 

Most importantly, let your friends help and have somebody to help with the dishes (we had an angel named Alma)!

I really wanted the table to be lavish and spectacular. I started with lots of flowers in bud vases and used wooden boxes to create height and drama. There were long tapered candles in cut glass candelabra to add a magical glow. Our friend Esther helped me arrange the charcuterie, which featured dried salamis, cured meats, smoked turkey and grilled sausages as well as olives, roasted nuts, tiny gherkins and crudités. There was an abundant bread basket and crostini and crackers to dip into my homemade hummus and homemade babaganoush, and I made delicious bruschetta with fresh basil. There were pissalidiere, small tarts made of puff pastry topped with caramelized onion, anchovy and black olive. I made our Fresh Farro salad (from last week’s Jewish Journal). I made Rabbi Bouskila’s favorite dish — a Moroccan tortilla, a cake-like savory potato omelette. Sharon made her famous candied pastrami lavash. She chopped up a fresh tuna and avocado poke served with fried wontons and she garnished salmon sashimi with a soy, citrus dressing and lots of crispy fried onions. Our dear friend Jazmin Duek made the most exquisitely perfect and tasty phyllo triangles — some filled with eggplant and others with spinach. Our friend Shira made her incredible Asian inspired Green salad with chunks of fresh smoked salmon and lots of fresh dill. Esther and I made the store bought stuffed grape leaves extra fancy and gourmet by boiling them in a fresh lemon broth. We baked frozen mushroom kibbe and vegetarian cigars which were delicious (and no one could tell the difference from home made). There was a soup station stocked with cups and a curry tinged butternut squash broth.

The dessert station featured fresh fruit sent to my house by our friend Yael. The desserts were made by our super talented friend, home baker Mickey Kahtan (@mickeybakes). A baklava cake, a coconut cake, a pear tarte tatin, crispy biscotti and date cookies. 

We had a well-stocked bar with an Ouzo Lemonade as our signature cocktail and towards the end of the evening I served fresh mint tea in my collection of little Moroccan tea glasses. 

Throughout the night, my friends Mona, Shira, Esther and Sharon helped me replenish and keep things tidy. The evening was warm and lovely and delicious and everyone had an incredible time. I think because it was all done with love and there was friendship in spades. 


Onion Pissaladiere

1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced in food processor
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Puff pastry squares
1 can good quality anchovies
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
Capers, for garnish

1. Warm olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, thyme, salt, pepper and the whole garlic clove and cook a few minutes.
2. Reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes, until onions are soft and browned, stirring every 10 minutes.
3. After 20 minutes, remove garlic, finely chop it and return it to pan. Add balsamic vinegar.
4. Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit
5. Cut each puff pastry squares into four smaller pieces. Place pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and use a fork to pierce holes in the centers, so pastry doesn’t puff in center.
6. Bake 8-10 minutes, then remove from oven.
7. Spread cooled caramelized onions onto each square, leaving a border all around. Add an anchovy, an olive and capers.
8. Bake 10-15 minutes until edges are puffed and golden.
9. Best served straight from the oven.

Candied Pastrami Pizza

Candied Pastrami Pizza

1/2 cup avocado oil, divided
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 lb sliced pastrami
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1 package lavash flatbread

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a frying pan, warm half the oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and fry for 5 minutes, then add sugar. Lower the heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are soft and slightly browned. Set aside.
3. Arrange pastrami in slightly overlapping layers on two parchment paper lined baking sheets. Drizzle oil over the pastrami, then sprinkle the brown sugar all over.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly crisp and caramelized.

1. In a small bowl, combine the mustard and mayonnaise.
2. Cut lavash into rectangles. Spread a thin layer of mustard sauce on each lavash. Top with onions and hot pastrami.
3. Serve immediately.

Quick Stuffed Grape Leaves

Quick Stuffed Grape Leaves

1 4lb can stuffed grape leaves
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Place 4 slices of lemon on the bottom of a round or oval ovenproof dish.
3. Carefully place the grape leaves in a circular design on top of the lemon slices. Continue layering until all the grape leaves are used.
4. Drizzle the lemon juice, olive oil and the liquid from the can on top of the grape leaves, then top with the remaining lemon slices.
5. Sprinkle with salt.
6. Cover and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.
7. Serve hot or warm.

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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