Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


Someone once said that rice is the food equivalent of khaki pants—it goes with anything.

Anthropologists are divided over whether the popular Asian rice we consume today originated in China or India. Archaeologists working in East and Southeast Asia argue that the cultivation of rice began along the Yangtze River and spread from there to Korea and Japan. Of course, archeologists in India propose that rice farming began in the Ganges River valleys and the Indus Valley.

One of the oldest domesticated crops in the world, rice is also the most commonly consumed food staple, especially in Asia and Africa.

All we know, as Sephardic Spice Girls is that rice plays an important part in our cooking rituals and family traditions.

Rachel’s Turn: For the first year of my marriage, I never made rice because Neil‘s mother made the most perfect Sephardic rice, a red rice that is similar to Spanish rice. I was too intimidated. I would literally wait for Neil to come home from work to make rice for dinner.

One day, upset with my lack of confidence in my cooking abilities, I decided that I would just start making the rice on my own. In the beginning, it was very hit or miss and sometimes it would come out like glue. But I finally got the hang of it.

The husband really likes his rice “uno por uno” which literally means that each rice grain is one by one. The secret to my technique is to use a fork to fluff the rice and to always use Mahatma brand rice.

Nowadays for my family, there simply cannot be a Shabbat dinner without rice. Even if I’m serving potatoes, there just has to be rice.

Over the years, my children’s friends grew to know and love my red rice. And they still ask me for my rice when they come over.

When my kids each went off to college, they would desperately miss my red rice. When my son Sammy was a freshman at Syracuse University, I spent many hours walking him through the recipe, step by step.

Sharon’s Turn: As it is in so many cuisines, rice is one of the most indispensable ingredients in the Iraqi kitchen. It’s served white with stews, in a comforting chicken, tomato and rice soup called shorba and as a casing over ground beef or ground chicken or ground fish for “rice kooba”. And of course, in “T’bit”, the Shabbat chicken and rice dish that is prized in every Iraqi household and has become very popular on Israeli restaurant menus. Friday night dinners at my grandmother’s home always featured “pilau b’jij,” (rice with chicken) a rice steamed in a chicken and tomato broth that is adorned with sautéed onions, raisins and slivered almonds.

One of my earliest memories is of my father complaining that there was no rice for dinner. My mother, modern cook and home scientist that she is, replied in Hebrew: “David, you don’t need rice! There’s bread and potatoes on the table. You don’t need carbohydrates with carbohydrates and carbohydrates.”

To be honest, my family’s favorite dinner is a roast chicken dripping with juices that they happily spoon over white rice, accompanied by crispy roasted potatoes and creamy sweet potatoes.

My mother taught me to cook rice by measuring two fingers of water above the rice, adding olive oil and kosher salt, boiling away the water, tightly covering the pot and steaming. I thought she was passing on an ancient Iraqi technique, until I saw it in Readers Digest. The mushy comfort of Jasmine rice will forever remind me of my grandmother, but I always cook the long grain aromatic and flavorful Basmati rice which is incomparable for light and fluffy rice.

Yellow Rice

3 cups Basmati Rice

4 cups water

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons chicken consommé powder


  1. Place rice in a large pot and rinse three times.

  2. Cover with water and soak for 30 minutes.

  3. Place pot over high flame and season with olive oil and spices.

  4. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.

  5. When small holes form in the rice and all the water has been absorbed, lower heat all the way.

  6. Cover with a layer of paper towel and a tight fitting lid.

  7. Leave to steam for 20-30 minutes.

  8. Fluff before serving.


Fruit and Nut Garnish

1 onion, finely sliced

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup raisins or cranberries

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Fry onions till golden brown, then set aside.

  2. Fry cranberries and almonds.

  3. Serve over rice.

Red Rice

1 cup long grain rice (white, mahatma)

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp oil

2 cups water

1 small can tomato sauce

  1. Rinse the rice and drain.

  2. Simmer the oil and tomato sauce in a pot that has a lid.

  3. When sauce starts to bubble, add the water and salt, and rice.

  4. Bring to a boil again, lower heat to simmer, stir, cover.

  5. Cook for approx. 20 min.

  6. You should check it after 10 min., give it a stir and cover.

🤞 Don’t miss the Latest Recipes!

Rice Is Nice With Everything