Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Thankful For Our Friendsgiving


It’s a Friday afternoon. I have a ruptured disc in my spine and I’ve been standing on my feet for two days straight. The G-d Squad is catering the kiddush lunch for the bar mitzvah of our dear friend’s son. (Rachel and I belong to a G-d Squad — a lifelong group of friends that are ready to help each other whenever a friend is needed.)

A beautiful blue-eyed, platinum blonde sweeps into the large hall at Mogen David Congregation on Pico Boulevard. She is holding a large tray filled with one hundred little cups perfectly filled with luscious chocolate mousse. Each cup has a perfectly tiny little spoon, with all the spoons perfectly lined up in the same direction.

“Hi, I’m Robyn,” she says in her honeyed South African accent. “These need to be refrigerated.”

“Oh wow! You made them? They look delicious!” I exclaim. “Are you going to put raspberries on top?”

“Of course!” she replies sarcastically. “And I’m going to shave some chocolate over each one as well.”

Well, I thought to myself, I guess it was kind of a stupid question and I guess I’m not going to be friends with her.

First impressions aside, Robyn and I ended up becoming close friends and ten years later, we still laugh about that first meeting.

Robyn happens to be the extraordinarily talented and capable executive director of Beth Jacob Congregation. And Rachel and I get to work with her on fun projects, like next week’s cooking demonstration with cookbook author Shannon Sarna (signup at bethjacob.org/Shannon Sarna).

Recently, she asked if we’d like to cook a Friendsgiving for the seniors at Beth Jacob’s Golden Age Academy.

I hesitated. Rachel immediately said yes!

Early on a Sunday morning, we schlepped to the kitchen at Beth Jacob and started cooking a turkey lunch.

Early on a Sunday morning, we schlepped to the kitchen at Beth Jacob and started cooking a turkey lunch.

We prepped the turkey using a very simple recipe. It includes onion wedges, celery sticks, garlic cloves, the juice of two oranges squeezed over the turkey, a generous dollop of avocado oil and a sprinkling of sweet paprika.

We made the most incredibly mouthwatering stuffing with roasted cremini mushrooms, roasted chestnuts, sautéed onions and celery, toasted sourdough challah and a clear vegetable stock.

We roasted butternut squash with a light sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon. We made mounds of mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans with sliced almonds.

Rachel made a cranberry sauce with fresh orange juice, orange zest and chopped orange. She used a white wine and a flour roux to make a divinely rich gravy. She made her mother in law’s sweet potato recipe, the one her children much prefer to the marshmallow topped version. She chopped rounds of sweet potato, placed them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with avocado oil and put a generous teaspoon of brown sugar on each one, then roasted at the magic temperature of 400°F. When the sweet potatoes were fork tender, she removed them from the oven and placed pecans on each one and baked them for five minutes longer.

Robyn ordered fabulous cornbread, pecan pies and pumpkin pies from Schwartz Bakery. The tables were set with a festive Fall flair. We hung out with our friend Dr Jason Kboudi of Beverly Hills Complete Dentistry, who was giving a special presentation on the unique dental needs of seniors. And we waited for our guests to arrive.

Adele and Marvin Goldsmith
Photo: John Solano Studios By Renata

Rachel and I were so amazed that all the seniors recognized us from the Jewish Journal. “You’re the Spicy Girls!” and “We love your stories!” they told us.

Thankfully, they loved our food. Truthfully, we were so grateful to have the opportunity to meet and cook for these wonderful people. We told Robyn to sign us up to cook anytime.

—Sharon

Rachel’s Creamy Pumpkin souffle

Crisp topping
1/3 cup coconut oil or avocado oil
2 cups crushed lotus cookies or graham crackers
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Pumpkin filling
1 29 oz can pumpkin puree
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar or coconut sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice or cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extracts
1 pinch salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Place all the dry crisp topping ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • In a small pot, over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add to the topping ingredients. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the canned pumpkin and eggs.
  • Mix in maple syrup, sugar, pumpkin spice and vanilla extract.
  • Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Then pour the pumpkin filling into the dish
  • Evenly spread the topping mixture over the pumpkin filling. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTES
We crushed the lotus cookies in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin.
This recipe can be halved and baked in an 8×8 baking dish.


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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.