Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

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Thankful for Our Blessings: The Best Sides of Thanksgiving

While everyone knows that the turkey is the star of the show, every Thanksgiving feast relies on the best supporting actors—delicious side dishes.By


The boundless Pacific Ocean filled the horizon beyond the big glass doors. The sun was setting and the sky was perfectly gray and purple and streaked with red. The fireplace crackled with a blazing fire. The table was set. The kitchen smelled heavenly. And all our friends were lolling about the cavernous living room, sipping cocktails.

Our good friends Neil and Rachel had celebrated their marriage the night before and my uncle and aunt had graciously opened their Malibu home to host a special Thanksgiving Sheva Brachot.

We served a couple of roasted birds, gravy and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans and sweet potatoes, roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, a mushroom stuffing and a cornbread stuffing. But the groom was scandalized when my mother brought out a huge platter of her saffron rice garnished with caramelized onions, slivered almonds and dried cranberries (it all was eaten).

Exactly thirty years later, Neil (jokingly) shudders at the memory. And Rachel and I still laugh about it. 

— Sharon

Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday for me. My family emigrated from Morocco in October and we were invited to celebrate our beautiful first Thanksgiving. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since my BFF and Sephardic Spice sister Sharon hosted our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. Since then Neil and I have hosted our family and friends every year. Even though we are deeply rooted in our Sephardic food traditions, this holiday is All-American. Over the years I’ve worked hard to perfect the parve sides (because let’s face it, everything tastes better with butter!). I use Miyoko’s cultured vegan butter for my biscuits and pie crust. I poach garlic in olive oil and whip it up with my mashed potatoes. My gravy is laden with chestnuts. Instead of sugar, I use white honey, orange rind and orange juice in my cranberry sauce. The cooking load has gotten lighter now that my son is a chef and now that my daughter is older and loves to bake. It’s so meaningful to be surrounded by family and dear friends and I am so grateful for everything that Neil and I have built together. And of course, you’ll never find rice on my Thanksgiving table.

WHILE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT THE TURKEY IS THE STAR OF THE SHOW, EVERY THANKSGIVING FEAST RELIES ON THE BEST SUPPORTING ACTORS—DELICIOUS SIDE DISHES. 

While everyone knows that the turkey is the star of the show, every Thanksgiving feast relies on the best supporting actors—delicious side dishes. Our Sephardic spiced recipes are inspired by the abundance of fall produce like kabocha and delicata squash, heirloom carrots and crispy green beans.

The festive salad features thinly sliced delicata squash roasted with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Place it over a bed of mixed baby greens and purple onion, then garnish with delicate persimmon, ruby red pomegranate and candied pecans. Dress with a lightly sweetened balsamic vinaigrette just before serving.

The heirloom carrots are drizzled with a good oil, sprinkled with Ras el Hanout, a spice mix common in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, then roasted at 400°F.The green beans are sautéed with olive oil and minced garlic and the chestnuts are thrown in at the last minute. To achieve the ultimate crunchy topping, Rachel used a mandoline to thinly slice the leeks, fried them until they were golden and drained them in a single layer on a brown paper bag.

RACHEL’S NUTTY KABOCHA SQUASH RECIPE IS SO GOOD THAT WE GUARANTEE THAT YOU’LL MAKE IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN. 

Legend has it that Portuguese explorers brought Kabocha squash from the Americas to Japan, where it acquired the name Kabocha and why it is sometimes referred to as Japanese pumpkin. While the skin is either a dark green or bright orangey-red, Kabocha has a delicately sweet, earthy flavor with hints of chestnut. Rachel’s Nutty Kabocha Squash recipe is so good that we guarantee that you’ll make it over and over again. 

Wishing you a happy, healthy and very festive Thanksgiving! 

Rachel’s Nutty Kabocha Squash Recipe

1 kabocha squash, about 2 1/2-3 pounds
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup avocado or expeller-pressed
safflower oil
1/4 cup currants
1/3 cup pistachios or slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Pinch of salt

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Wash the exterior of the squash thoroughly, pierce it a few times with a fork, then place on a microwave-safe dish.
  • Microwave the squash for 4 to 6 minutes. Squash will be ready when the sharp tip of a knife goes in easily.
  • Allow squash to cool for a few minutes, then cut the squash into ½ inch thick slices.
  • Arrange the slices of squash on a baking sheet, then toss with olive oil and salt.
  • Roast until the squash is caramelized, about 20 minutes.
  • Switch oven to broiler setting and roast for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • In a shallow frying pan, warm oil over medium heat and fry the currants for a few minutes until they are puffed up. Remove currants from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
  • In the samepan, gently brown the nuts.
  • In a small bowl, toss the currants, nuts and chopped parsley, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  • Arrange the hot Kabocha pieces on a serving platter and sprinkle with fruit and nut mixture.

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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