Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Dreamy Herb Frittata

Gaga for Ajjah—Dreamy Herb Frittata


The flight to Sydney, Australia departs LAX at 10pm. You cross the Pacific Ocean and the international dateline. So while the flight is only 15 hours, you lose a whole day. You land in bright, sunny Sydney at 6am two days later. To get to my grandparents house in Rose Bay, you pass through the industrial inner city of Sydney. You will pass by Sydney Girls, my old high school, and Fox Studios Australia. Past that are the grand, stately houses that border the green expanse of Centennial Park, where you will see people walking, jogging and riding horses. You will drive past Westfield Shopping Center in Bondi Junction and down Old South Head Road. 

You will drive through the charming shops of Rose Bay and turn onto Bayview Hill Street. Perched on the steep hill behind you are the sprawling brown stone buildings and castle-like turrets of the Kincoppal-Rose Bay Sacred Heart Convent, a private girls boarding school (think of the grandeur and scale of Hogwarts). In front of you is the most breathtaking view of the iconic Sydney Harbor, framed by the grey Harbor Bridge and the gleaming white sails of the Opera House. (The view is so incredible that there’s always a steady stream of tourists taking photos.)

You will climb a few stairs and before you know it, you’ll be sitting at a long dining room table. There will be aunts and uncles and lots of adorable cousins dressed in their navy and grey school uniforms. It’s a whirlwind of conversation and laughter and at the center are my grandparents. My grandfather sits at the head of the table and my grandmother sits at his side, pouring cardamom tea from her floral Royal Doulton teapot. This is Australia, so there is a jar of Vegemite (a dark, salty yeast spread that is very popular with the natives), Vita Weat crackers and biscuits (cookies). But the rest of the food belies the Babylonian background of my family. My grandmother’s home baked cheese sambusak (feta and mozzarella cheese filled yeasty dough pockets) and j’radak (ultra thin crisp crackers) studded with caraway seeds. There is a large platter of romaine lettuce, khiar(cucumber), tomato, peppers and radish and bowls of my grandmother’s slightly sweet and spicy, curried turshi (pickled cauliflower, green beans and carrots). There is bread and cheese and jam and olives. 

But the showstopper is her ajjah, a mouthwatering herby green omelette. She would caramelize the onion, sauté the leeks, chop Italian parsley and cilantro and Roma tomatoes. She would whisk the eggs and fry it all till the edges were crispy brown and irresistible. 

I wish I could go back and enjoy one more breakfast at their table. I can’t, of course. But whenever my family gathers for brunch here in Los Angeles, I also serve ajjah. True confession, I cheat by adding half a teaspoon of sugar to make my onions super delicious. I love to add chopped baby spinach and finely chopped raw broccoli. That’s the magic of this dish — you can literally add any vegetable that you have in the fridge and it will still be delicious.

– Sharon

Fridays are my big cooking day. I head to the kosher market for my fish and chicken and lots of fresh produce. I always, always grab bunches of cilantro and Italian parsley, dill and basil. Fresh herbs are an important component of Moroccan cuisine. Herbs are chopped to make all the mezze salads, added to tagines and fish and are simmered as a bouquet for broth.

Herbs brighten every dish and add so much nutritional value. They are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate. They are high in dietary fiber and naturally low in calories, fat and sodium.

If you’ve recently made any resolutions for a healthier lifestyle, adding fresh herbs to your diet is a no brainer.

You’ve probably made a frittata at some point, even if you called it an omelet. But adding fresh herbs really gives your omelet a wonderful twist.

You’ve probably made a frittata at some point, even if you called it an omelet. But adding fresh herbs really gives your omelet a wonderful twist.

While it’s most obviously a breakfast food, Neil and I will sometimes have frittata for dinner on Saturday nights in the summer, when Shabbat ends really late. We will cook one up with lots of parsley and feta cheese and eat it with a salad. Or just with some toast and jam.

If there are any leftovers, frittata is fabulous served cold in a pita or fresh baguette with some Dijon mustard.

A flexible foolproof recipe for a healthy comfort food!

—Rachel

Herb Frittata

10 eggs
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, divided into 3 portions
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
10 oz mushrooms, finely sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped Roma or cherry tomatoes, chopped and drained of liquid
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 teaspoon freshly grated turmeric or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet (or oven safe skillet) over medium heat, then add two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Add leeks and sauté until translucent and slightly golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Heat two tablespoons of olive oil, then add mushrooms and sauté for two minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until mushrooms begin to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. 
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, turmeric, salt and pepper till light and fluffy, then add the leeks, mushrooms and tomatoes and stir in gently. 
  • Warm two more tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and when the skillet is hot, pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 3 minutes, until the edges begin to puff up and are a golden brown.
  • Add the herbs on top and lightly press into the omelet.
  • Transfer the skillet into the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the center of the omelet is set.
  • Remove from oven and enjoy!
  • Notes: 
  • For a fluffier, creamier omelet add 1/3 cup of plain unsweetened oat or almond milk or full fat milk. 
  • If adding cheese, we suggest feta, goat, Gouda or shredded cheddar. Add in with the herbs. 

Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food. Website sephardicspicegirls.com/full-recipes

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