Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Perfect Brisket

The Bracha of A Sweet New Year

Some of my most precious memories are of the days in preschool when my toddlers learnt the beautiful minhagimassociated with Rosh Hashana. They would come home with projects festooned with apples and pomegranates, bees and shofars. 

They would come home singing “Dip the apples in the honey, make a bracha loud and clear. L’shana tova u’metuka.Have a happy, sweet new year!”

My children are grown up now — my son is married, my youngest is a freshman at Shalhevet — and only a few of those adorable projects are saved (note to preschool teachers: anything with child’s photo is always treasured). But the imperative to create beautiful, lasting memories for my children and my nephews and nieces is strong. 

Thankfully, the framework of the Rosh Hashana simanim make it easy to create a memorable table. There is the novelty of the round challah, the crispy apples, the ruby red jewels of pomegranate, the creamy sweetness of a fresh date, the impressive snakelike length of the lubia (extra long green beans) and the soft bites of squash. There is pride in reciting the tongue-twisting Yehi Ratzons, our supplications to our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, for a sweet new year, that our good deeds be proclaimed in our favor and that we may be full of mitzvot. 

—Sharon

Perfect Brisket

Brisket is so Jewish that even we Sephardim love it!

We present our Sephardic Spice Girls take on an old classic. Perfect for your Rosh Hashana table or for a meal in the Sukkah.

Our version is slightly more exotic — Silan and sumac add a depth, as well as sweet and sour notes. 

Our version is slightly more exotic — Silan and sumac add a depth, as well as sweet and sour notes. 

The technique is easy — no searing, just roast the meat low and slow. And those potatoes!! Dare we say they are even tastier than the meat!?!

– Sharon

Sweet and Sour Sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons silan (date honey)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground sumac
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl to create a smooth sauce.

1 3-4 lb brisket
3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
10 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and chopped in quarters
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 red onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken broth or water

  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Place brisket in a large oven-proof baking dish.
  • Drizzle oil over the brisket.
  • Arrange potatoes around the brisket and sprinkle with kosher salt.
  • Add onions, celery and garlic on top of the potatoes, then pour chicken broth over the vegetables.
  • Spoon the sauce over the brisket.
  • Cover tightly and roast in the oven, about 3 hours until fork tender.
  • Remove baking dish from oven and let cool.
  • Remove meat from the dish and carve into thin slices.
  • Pour juices over the meat, cover tightly and return to oven to reheat 30 to 40 minutes before serving.
Chraime

Chraine

By now you know how much we love our Friday night Moroccan fish. It’s a must on our tables. 

Since returning from my trip to Israel this summer, I’ve started making chraime, a spicy fish stew that originated in Libya. The name chraime comes from the arabic word “hot” and is traditionally eaten by Jews on erev Shabbat, Rosh Hashana and Passover. Super popular in Israel, chraime is served at the humblest beyti (home cooking) restaurants as well as the the hippest, high-end establishments. 

The best thing about this Sephardic fish dish is that while the ingredient list is short, it packs incredible flavor. This recipe works with any firm white fish or salmon. The flavor is mild, but you can go really spicy by adding fresh jalapeños. Or just serve with harissa on the side. 

Chraime utilizes a very simple cooking technique called poaching, ensuring a tender fish. We make a flavorful, very well-seasoned broth in a deep skillet and place the fish in the liquid. The broth barely reaches the top of the fillets and the sauce simmers until the the fish is firm and opaque. 

It’s just perfect for dipping with your Rosh Hashana challah. 

—Rachel

2 pounds white flesh fish fillets, cut into
2-inch-wide pieces, skin on
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground caraway seeds
10 garlic cloves, 3 cloves finely chopped,
7 left whole
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black or white pepper
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 – 4 dry peppers
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 lemon, juiced or 1 preserved lemon,
chopped

  • Clean fish and pat dry, then set aside.
  • In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add all the spices and the chopped garlic. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until spices are fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste and dry peppers and continue to sauté for a minute or two.
  • Add the boiling water and stir well to thin out the tomato paste.
  • Add the lemon juice or preserved lemon, cover tightly and simmer sauce over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Place fish in a single layer in the skillet. Spoon a generous amount of sauce over each piece of fish and give the skillet a little shake.
  • Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Tips
  • If sauce is too thick, add a little water.
  • For extra spice, add 1/2 jalapeno pepper or 1 teaspoon chili flakes.
  • Sauce can be prepared several days ahead and reheated.
  • Cook fish the day you are serving for freshest flavor.
  • Sauce is also suitable for cooking fish balls.
  • Leftover fish can be served at room temperature with salads and dips for an easy lunch option.

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. 

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