Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Sabich board

Modern Moods Meet Middle Eastern Food — A Sabich Board to Remember

This Sabich board couldn’t be easier to throw together

When my grandmother found herself in Israel in the early 1950s, she needed to work smart to feed her young children. In Iraq, she had been the indulged and adored daughter of a very wealthy family. She wore chic European fashions and stunning jewels. Daily life included an extended family of uncles and aunts and cousins for lively company. There was lots of household help for the cooking and baking and cleaning.

Upon arrival in Israel, my grandparents, my 7-year-old mother and her four younger brothers lived in an abandoned British Army barracks in a ma’abarah, an Israeli immigrant absorption camp, where they subsisted on rations.

As soon as my grandfather established himself as the headmaster of a school and they had a home, my grandmother got to work. The Israeli government allotted one egg a week per person, so she bought laying hens. Only powdered milk was available, so she got a goat, ensuring that her children could drink fresh milk. And she planted a garden. Her garden yielded such an abundance of butternut squash that she asked my grandfather if she could sell them. He discouraged her, worried that it would reflect poorly on his dignity as the headmaster of the local school.

I imagine that is when she began frying thin pieces of butternut squash and serving it as part of her Iraqi breakfast on Shabbat mornings.

I remember those breakfasts from my childhood in snapshots. The bethi mel shabbath, the browned eggs cooked overnight. The fried eggplant. Her amazing turmeric and curry salty and sweet turshi (pickled cauliflower, green beans, carrots and red peppers). Chuth’ra, the Arabic word for raw greens (basil, tarragon and Italian parsley) and jewel-like red radishes, served alongside the meal as a palate cleanser. Briny olives. Creamy hummus. Nutty tehina. Roasted zucchini. Fluffy, chewy Iraqi laffa (imagine a twist between focaccia and lavish bread). And always, always her deliciously sweet, caramelized fried butternut.

—Sharon

Sabich Frishman

On our recent visit to Tel Aviv, Neil and I were fortunate enough to stay at the Setai Hotel, with its magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea.

As part of the breakfast buffet, there was a sabich bar with all the traditional fixings. Behind the counter, an old woman was slicing the brown eggs and slathering amba (a spicy Iraqi pickled mango sauce) and hummus onto the laffa so the diners could make their own sabich sandwiches.

My daughter Rebekah did an internship with children in Israel this summer. She was obsessed with the sabich at Sabich Frishman (on the corner of Dizengoff and Frishman in Tel Aviv).

—Rachel

This sabich board couldn’t be easier to throw together. Get some fresh pita, dips (hummus, tehinamatbucha), olives and pickles, fresh herbs like basil, crunchy radishes. Boil some eggs over low heat for a few hours. Roast some veggies. Arrange everything on a board. 

This sabich board couldn’t be easier to throw together. Get some fresh pita, dips (hummus, tehina, matbucha), olives and pickles, fresh herbs like basil, crunchy radishes. Boil some eggs over low heat for a few hours. Roast some veggies. Arrange everything on a board. Serve with Israeli salad and amba for an amazing, healthy, delicious vegetarian lunch.

B’te’avon!

– Rachel and Sharon

Roasted Eggplant Recipe

2 medium eggplants, sliced into 1/4-inch
thick round pieces
Kosher salt
Avocado oil

  • Place eggplant in a colander and sprinkle kosher salt over eggplant.
  • Allow to drain for at least an hour or overnight, if possible.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Arrange parchment paper on a baking sheet and grease with a little oil.
  • Pat eggplant with paper towel and lay on the baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with oil.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Flip eggplant and bake for 5-10 minutes.
    Store in refrigerator in a tightly sealed container up to five days.

Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe

1 medium butternut squash, cut into 1/8 inch slices
Avocado oil
Kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Arrange parchment paper on a baking sheet and grease with a slight amount of avocado oil.
  • Arrange butternut on the baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and fork tender.

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. 

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