Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


Narrow streets choked with cars. Loud honking and thumping, exotic music. Littered sidewalks teeming with people of every age and ethnicity. Shady money-changing operations, Yemenite bakeries, tiny makolets with owners and friends sitting on cheap plastic chairs, barbershops with posters of Wella hair models on the walls, and little hole-in-the-wall stalls selling gold chains. And the intoxicating aroma of charcoal grills and barbecued meat.

These are the sights, sounds and scents of the HaTikvah Quarter in Tel Aviv, the location of Avazi, the Gomperts family’s favorite shipudiya, or skewer house. The food is so delicious that the restaurant is the family’s first and last stop on every trip to Israel.

The Sheff family is enamored with the grilled delights of Tzidkiyahu, the oldest steakhouse in the Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

What both these places have in common are tables crowded with a multitude of little plates with salatim, olives, pickles, spicy sauces, fresh-baked laffa (Iraqi pita) and creamy hummus to accompany their juicy, grilled meat and chicken skewers. Just really good, mouthwatering Israeli mangal (barbecue).

In honor of Father’s Day, we offer our recipe for Harissa Pargiyot. Pargiyot are boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Their higher fat content makes them the perfect cut of chicken for the grill. We marinate the thighs in harissa, turmeric and lemon juice to guarantee a tender, spicy, smoky mouthful of goodness.


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup harissa
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Place chicken thighs in a large Ziploc bag.

  2. Combine remaining ingredients in blender and puree until mixture is smooth.

  3. Add marinade to bag with chicken and refrigerate at least 1 to 2 hours.

  4. When ready to grill, remove thighs from bag, wipe off excess marinade and thread thighs on skewers.

  5. Grill directly over hot coals, turning thighs every few minutes until lightly charred on the outside and thoroughly cooked inside, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Makes 3-4 servings.

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Father’s Day Grilling: Spicy Harissa Pargiyot