Over the years, whenever I wanted to make Alexandra happy, I would make roasted potatoes.
Perhaps over the years of reading our column in the Jewish Journal, you’ve noticed the photo credit of Alexandra Gomperts?
Well, that’s Sharon’s daughter! She’s been alongside us Sephardic Spice Girls for the past three years, becoming our official food photographer at the age of 15. Well, I should say 15 going on 30.
We learned fast to back off and let her take the lead. We would wait for her to come home from school so she could photograph our food.
It would take her a quick minute to lay everything out and get the money shot.
One of the most talented photographers I know, she has an eye for capturing the essence of what Sharon and I do. She is quick to tell us to take things out of the frame and she knows how to create pleasing arrangements.
When we were teens, the latest craze was sushi. Teenagers in this day and age have ever more sophisticated palates and are exposed to so many cultures. Alexandra is no exception — she loves ikura and boutargue, a good sourdough with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, an iced matcha and a hot chai.
She is our taste tester and is the first to tell us what needs more acid, what needs more spice. If it’s too sweet or not salty enough.
I love walking into Sharon’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and finding Alexandra making potatoes for her friends and cousins.
The one ingredient that will always brings a smile to her face — the lowly potato. I love walking into Sharon’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and finding Alexandra making potatoes for her friends and cousins.
I have a lot of love for all of Sharon’s children, but Alexandra has captured my heart.
I am in awe of her talent and maturity. She’s simply one of the coolest teenagers I know.
I hope that being part of the Sephardic Spice Girls project has been a valuable experience.
That she will keep cooking and experimenting. I can’t wait to see all her accomplishments. I will miss you Alexandra but I’m so excited for your future. Congratulations!
When our second daughter was born, Alan and I named her Alexandra Malka in memory of Alan’s paternal grandmother Queenie. She was adored and spoiled by her husband Grandpa Arthur and her three sons. She lived in a mansion filled with antiques. (I will never wear it—but I still have her mink stole. I love using her navy blue evening clutch and I take great pleasure in displaying her exquisite needlepoint creations.) She had a household staff and when her little bell tinkled, one of her uniformed staff would rush to see what she needed.
After a few months of looking after our very demanding and imperious newborn, I became quite cross with Alan. “How could you let me name her after your grandmother?” I asked.
When Alexandra was a year old, I had a serious conversation with her. I told her that she should disregard whatever Grandma Queenie had told her in Heaven about tinkling bells and attentive household help. It helped a little.
When Alexandra was five years old, we flew to Israel to celebrate the bar mitzvah of Alon, the son of my cousin and party planner extraordinaire Daniella Clifford Wolf (@eventsbyella). One of the great pleasures of spending Pesach in Israel is the incredible variety of kosher food and many restaurants.
Unfortunately, Alexandra developed pneumonia soon after landing, which made her very tired and she was completely uninterested in food. Every time we went to a restaurant, Ariel, Gabriella and Shevy happily tried different foods. Alexandra only wanted potatoes. French fries, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, hash browns and home fries. Only potatoes. That love for potatoes followed us back to Los Angeles. Soon after, we started calling her the “papas queen,” a reference to the Spanish word for potatoes.
Over the years, whenever I wanted to make Alexandra happy, I would make roasted potatoes. I would preheat the oven to 400°F, sprinkle olive oil on a baking sheet, place potato and sweet potato wedges in rows, sprinkle them with garlic powder, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake until the potatoes and sweet potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.
Over the years, Alexandra would sit on a stool at the kitchen counter and help me in the kitchen. She would peel and chop vegetables, make salad dressings and marinate steaks and prepare sauces for my chicken dishes. Of course, she took over the potato roasting and hers are super crispy and out of this world good.
This week, she graduated from Shalhevet High School and soon enough, she will go to the MTVA Seminary in Jerusalem. Rachel and I will miss our photographer. Alan and I will miss the girl that we also call “the best hugger in the business.” But we are so excited for Alexandra’s next adventure.
Alexandra’s Skillet Potatoes
1/4 cup avocado or vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, cut in thin slices
1 purple onion, cut in thin slices
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, in 1-inch dice
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a large ovenproof skillet, warm oil over medium heat.
Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add the potatoes, sprinkle the spices, salt and pepper over the potatoes, then sauté for 5 minutes.
Place skillet in the oven for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are golden 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