Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


Nestled among rocky inlets on the French Riviera is a beach enclave with bright blue waters, white sand and 20 kosher restaurants and cafes.

You’ve probably never heard of Juan les-Pins (pronounced Juwan le’Pan), a small town that boasts two synagogues, gourmet kosher markets and patisseries offering the finest French delicacies. Bordered by glitzy, ritzy Cannes, the playground of Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs, and the medieval charms of old Antibes, Juan les-Pins is a popular summer vacation destination of French Jews.

Two summers ago, more than 150 friends and family joined us in the south of France for the wedding of my son Ariel and his beautiful bride, Rachel. The chuppah overlooked the beach in Cannes. The celebration featured an amazing band and talented singers, lots of dancing and a very lively traditional North African henna ceremony. The food was deliciously, classically French pate de fois gras, roast lamb and Provençal fish.

We all stayed in the same hotel in Juan les-Pins and it felt like a fancy summer camp: meeting for breakfasts in the morning, swimming in the warm Mediterranean waters and walking the old cobblestone streets.

It’s the memory of the fabulous Tunisian tuna sandwich that Rachel and I shared in Juan les-Pins that we wanted to describe to our readers.

Imagine a crusty demi baguette smeared with rusty red harissa, layered with flakes of tuna, slices of egg and potato, salty black olives and bright yellow preserved lemons, then topped with diced red onions, cherry tomatoes and crispy green cucumber slices. Every crunchy mouthful excites the taste buds with its perfect combination of spicy, sweet, salty and umami flavor.

Who is thinking about the nutritional benefits of so much protein, fiber, vitamins and probiotics in one sandwich when it’s so darn delicious? You’ll need both hands to eat this overstuffed tuna sandwich.


2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
4 rolls or demi baguettes
1/2 cup harissa
1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or oil-cured black olives
2 5-ounce cans tuna in oil
2 hardboiled eggs, sliced
1⁄2 small red onion, diced
1⁄2 cup preserved lemon, chopped

  1. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  2. Olive oil

  3. Peel and boil potatoes. When tender, slice thinly and salt them.

  4. Split baguettes horizontally.

  5. Spread harissa atop lower slices of each baguette, then arrange on top layers of sliced potatoes, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, tuna and hardboiled egg. Top with red onion and preserved lemon.

  6. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle the top of each sandwich with bit of harissa mixed with olive oil.

  7. Cut sandwiches in half to serve.

Serves 4.

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