Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Meet The Nosher—Cookbook Author Shannon Sarna

Imagine our surprise when Shannon Sarna from The Nosher noticed our little Instagram account back in May 2020: We were so impressed that someone with such a noteworthy public profile liked our food! She generously featured some of our recipes on her Instagram account @Jewishfood (part of the 70 Faces Media Group). And we started to stay in touch with her. 

Through the magic of Zoom, we’ve become virtual friends. We’ve found out that she’s a lovely mom who lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and three young kids, two rescue puppies and a little bunny named S’mores.

You can just feel the joy Shannon gets from talking about her bubbe’s food. She’s definitely an honorary Spice Girl!

We’re definitely on the same page as her — she’s passionate about sharing her love of food and good recipes and spreading the history of Jewish food traditions. You can just feel the joy Shannon gets from talking about her bubbe’s food! She’s the kind of person that you could just spend hours with — cooking in the kitchen or just schmoozing about cookbooks and kids and life over a good cup of coffee. 

She’s definitely an honorary Spice Girl!

—Rachel

The big news is that Countryman Press recently published Shannon’s follow up to her popular first cookbook, “Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels and More.” Titled “Modern Jewish Comfort Food,” her new book is a beautiful volume filled with the classics of the Jewish kitchen.

The nine chapters of the book cover the spectrum from Soups to Sweets, with everything crave worthy in between. Stuffed vegetables. Kugel. Shakshuka. Schnitzel. Meatballs. Dumplings. Pastries. Latkes. While the classic recipes are enshrined, each recipe is updated and explained and simplified. Classic chicken soup is there but so is Yemenite Chicken Soup and Greek Lemon and Orzo Soup. There’s Classic Schnitzel, Passover-Friendly Schnitzel, Zucchini Schnitzel and Fish Schnitzel Sandwiches. She offers user friendly options like “Make it in a Slow Cooker,” “Topping Variations,” “Turn Kreplach Dough into Noodles” and “Make it Cheesy!” 

The wealth of information, gorgeous food styling and step-by-step photographs will make this book a much loved resource in your kitchen. 

When Rachel and I found out that Shannon’s book tour was bringing her to the West Coast, we immediately reached out to her. We are so thrilled to be hosting her for a deliciously fun evening at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. We’re excited to hear her hosting tips and best baking techniques. 

Together we will be demonstrating how to make gravlax (sounds fancy but quite simple), cheese sambusak (hard to make but so worth it) and an apple tahini crumble (super easy and a great way to use  fruit). We hope you can join us. (Register at BethJacob.org/Sarna)

This week we share with you Shannon’s recipe for Israeli Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Cookies. Her recipe calls for Nutella but we could easily see making these with a rich date spread as well. 

—Sharon

These “swirl” cookies may look similar to rugelach, a classic Eastern European cookie that is also shaped like a swirl, but the dough—and its origin—is different. sometimes called Israeli café cookies, they are a home treat that many Israeli bakers make weekly.

These “swirl” cookies may look similar to rugelach, a classic Eastern European cookie that is also shaped like a swirl, but the dough—and its origin — is different. Sometimes called Israeli café cookies, they are a home treat that many Israeli bakers make weekly.

These sweets are the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea or coffee. They are also the perfect treat to throw together at the last minute for guests because the dough only needs to chill for 20 minutes, and the shaping is simple, which makes the task of whipping these up almost easier than opening a box of brownie mix.

—Shannon Sarna

Israeli Swirl Cookies Photo by Doug Schneider

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Cookies

Makes two dozen cookies
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks +2 tablespoon)
unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup full fat sour cream
1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, such as
Nutella, for spreading
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

  • Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl
  • Using a handheld mixer and a separate medium bowl or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the sour cream and beat until combined.
  • Add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Unwrap the dough and divide into two equal pieces.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle, around 8 x 14. Spread the chocolate hazelnut spread evenly across one rectangle.
  • Working from the longer end, firmly roll up the dough (not too loosely, as you might for cinnamon rolls or Babka.) As you roll up the dough, create more of a square shaped log, not perfectly round. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
  • Place each roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut indentations spaced 1 inch apart (not cutting all the way through the cookies, just through the top.) This step will make it easier after the rolls are baked to cut them into pieces.
  • Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, until slightly golden. You can rotate the baking sheets halfway through for more even baking.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Sprinkle all over with powdered sugar. Slice through each slit to separate into cookies.

Upcoming events:

A Thanksgiving Challah Bake, Monday, Nov. 21 7:30 p.m. at Kahal Joseph Congregation.Register at Kahal.Joseph.org

A Delicious Evening with Shannon Sarna, Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Beth Jacob Congregation. Register at BethJacob.org/Sarna


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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