Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Stuffed Artichokes for Sukkot — The Sephardic Spice Girls Way

Stuffed Artichokes for Sukkot — The Sephardic Spice Girls Way

This year we will celebrate Sukkot with our wonderful friends and family here in Los Angeles. We will bring the flavors of the Shuk into the kitchen.

My son Ariel called me from Jerusalem this week. He told me that he and his wife Rachel had booked a Sukkot meal at the Sephardic House Hotel. The memories came flooding back. Memories of the luncheon celebrating his bar mitzvah after the Torah reading at the Kotel HaMa’aravi, the Western Wall. Memories of my brother and sister-in-law’s gorgeous sunset wedding reception in the exquisitely tiled Spanish Courtyard. And memories of the sumptuous Israeli style breakfasts and lunches enjoyed in the Sukkah there. 

Stepping into the Jerusalem stone of the Sephardic Educational Center Campus in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is like stepping back into history. The vaulted ceilings, the Persian rugs, the Spanish tile, the stone courtyards and the views of the Old City evoke the mood of a bygone era. 

The original section of the building was built in the early years of the 19th century and it served the Spanioli Jews as a place of study, with hundreds of students at the Sephardic Talmud Torah and the prestigious Yeshiva Tiferet Yerushalayim. And reflective of the harsh conditions of life in the Old City, the courtyard level was a place of refuge for widows and orphans. Towards the end of the 19th century, one wing of the building served as the official residence of the Rishon Le’Zion, the Chief Rabbi of Israel. 

Nowadays, the place bustles with Rabbinical Programs, teens from the Hamsa Israel Trip, people coming for Sephardic lectures and it is the official Old City residence for the soldiers of the IDF and the Israeli Police. 

Best of all, are the luxurious guest rooms of the Sephardic House Hotel. For me, the vaulted ceilinged rooms with their tiled floors and plush Persian rugs, Persimmon colored cushions and Arabesque furnishings evoke a peaceful, serene feeling of coming home. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to my inherited Levantine dreams.

SUKKOT IS OUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR TO BE IN ISRAEL. WE LOVE THE JOYFUL, FESTIVE FEELING IN THE STREETS.

Sukkot is our favorite time of the year to be in Israel. We love the joyful, festive feeling in the streets. We love running into friends on Ben Yehuda Street. We love the serendipity of sitting for breakfast in a Sukkah on Jaffa Street and seeing our table expand as my cousins who just happen to be walking by decide to join us. We love the Machne Yehuda Shuk and all the eclectic stands filled with ruby red pomegranates, abundant produce, salty herring, creamy cheeses, fresh baked bread, burekas and rugelach, halvah and tehina, barrels overflowing with intense, earthy spices.

This year we will celebrate Sukkot with our wonderful friends and family here in Los Angeles. We will bring the flavors of the Shuk into the kitchen. My daughter Alexandra will bake fresh challah and my daughters Gabriella and Elisheva will be chopping fresh salads with me. We will indulge with fresh baked apple cake and pavlova drizzled with Silan and topped with halvah and glistening pomegranate.

We will make Stuffed Artichokes, a very middle eastern dish for dinner in the Sukkah. An ode to the all the Jewish women who cooked in the Old City for centuries and a labor of love for my family, especially my Dad and my brother’s father in law Elie, both lovers of anything with ground beef and tomatoes. 

Moroccan Stuffed Artichokes are traditionally served for Passover and other festive meals. First they are fried and then simmered in a lemony, saffron sauce. Rachel makes them like that and they are absolutely incredibly delicious. But here we have modified the recipe, to make it simpler and healthier. We took out the frying step. We replaced the traditional matzo meal with potato starch in the meat stuffing. We added lots of garlic and onion and an Iraqi twist to the spice profile. We simmered our stuffed artichokes in a flavorful sweet and sour lemony tomato broth. 

We hope you give our recipe a try for one of your Sukkot meals!

Chag Sameach! Mo’adim l’Simchah!

Stuffed Artichokes

2 14ounce bags of artichoke hearts

Meatball stuffing

2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Salt and pepper

Tomato Broth

1/3 cup avocado oil
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic
1 lemon, washed and quartered
1 cup water
1 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Let artichokes thaw on paper towel, then lay artichokes on a baking sheet. 
  2. In a large bowl, add the meat, parsley, eggs, potato starch and spices and gently combine ingredients.
  3. Roll meat mixture into 3 inch balls and place inside the artichoke hearts, making sure that the meat filling forms a 1 inch dome over the artichoke.
  4. Over medium heat, warm the oil in a large frying pan, then sauté the onion until it is golden. Add the celery and garlic and sauté for two minutes.
  5. Lightly squeeze the lemon into the sauce and place rinds inside sauce, then add water, chopped tomatoes, sugar and spices and stir well. 
  6. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Pour all the sauce into a deep ovenproof dish, then place the stuffed artichoke hearts into the sauce, making sure not to submerge the meat in the sauce.
  8. Heat oven to 350°F and bake for one hour.

Makes approximately 18-20 artichoke hearts. Suitable for freezing.


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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