Sephardic Safron Meatballs

The Comfort of Sephardic Saffron Meatballs

For Sephardic Jews, meatballs are rarely eaten with pasta. More often meatballs co-star with vegetables like potatoes, peas, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans and okra.

For the extended Yaakovy family, Friday, October 6th was a joyful celebration of the festival of Simchat Torah at Kibbutz K’far Azza. At the end of the dinner, mother Sigal Yaakovy begged her daughter not to drive back to her apartment in Beersheva, but Meitar was determined to have a good night’s sleep in her own bed. She had tickets for the Bruno Mars concert that Saturday night.

The next morning, the sirens sounded. Sigal, her husband Ronen, her elderly mother Tamar and her youngest son Iftach crowded into their safe room. Last week, Sigal and Meitar came to Los Angeles to tell their story at a beautiful event in honor of The Chesed Fund.

My friends and I parked at the corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. The bright lights and elegant store windows all dressed up for the holiday season were so jarring to me, a reminder of a world where the war in Israel is not the topmost concern. But the minute we stepped into the stunning Luxury Kitchen showroom, we could feel the unity and purpose in the room.

Shhhhhh, don’t tell my husband but I did some shopping. I mean I had to support the cause and my good friends—Dina Moses of Rodan & Fields, Samantha Wannon of Juno Jewels @juno.jewels and Sivan Kobi from @Sivanskitchen. Of course, a percentage of sales went to support The Chesed Fund.

Sherry Gvili is the owner of Luxury Kitchen, an exclusive Sub Zero, Wolf and Cove retail showroom located in the heart of West Hollywood. The showroom is a beautiful space with over 90 artfully displayed appliances.

After the Oct. 7th massacre, Sherry opened her home in Herzliya to a family from Kibbutz Kfar Azza. Sherry and her daughter started interviewing the survivors that were living in their house and the house next door. Ricki, a mother of four has lived at the Kibbutz for over 40 years. Her eldest daughter, Shakhar, lost her husband, Avi, in the attack, when he left the bomb shelter to get his weapon from the Kibbutz Defense headquarters. Shakhar received a heartbreaking call from Avi’s friend: “He says he loves you!” Jordan Bahat, a film editor, created a 17 minute video of the survivors testimony.

Sherry has visited Kibbutz Kfar Azza three times in the last month. It has become her mission to raise awareness of the devastation and to raise funds for the rebuilding of the Kibbutz.

Sherry has visited Kibbutz Kfar Azza three times in the last month. It has become her mission to raise awareness of the devastation and to raise funds for the rebuilding of the Kibbutz. With the help of her friends and volunteers, she has already raised $50,000 of a $360,000 goal.

All the women at Luxury Kitchen were spellbound as Meitar told the story of her family on that fateful Saturday. When the Hamas terrorists stormed their home, they knew that the family was in the safe room. Ronen and Iftach, 21, were holding the door as hard as they could. The terrorists shot through the door and miraculously, the bullets flew between the two men, missing them both. The terrorists realized that someone was holding the door, so they shot at the door handle, badly injuring Iftach’s hand.

All the while, Sigal’s mother Tamar, 83, was reading Tehillim. Meitar is frantic, on a conference call with her elder brother Guy, who is in Sri Lanka and her family, besieged in their home. Eventually the phone went dead.

The next morning, Meitar drove to the Kibbutz with her uncle, who was telling her that her family must have been killed.

Suddenly, Meitar receives a phone call from the police, patching in her parents. She and her uncle screamed and cried, hardly believing the miracle!

Sigal and most of her fellow kibbutznikim are living at Kibbutz Shefayim, where they have erected a replica of their pub. But she is adamant that she will return to the Kibbutz as soon as she is able.


When we heard about Tamar, the Moroccan grandmother reading Tehillim throughout that horrific day, Sharon and I decided that we would have to share one of the most Sephardic dishes — Saffron Meatballs with artichoke and Swiss chard.

Meatballs are just quintessential comfort food. The food that makes you think of home. Certainly a food that my maman would cook regularly.

I’ve never ordered meatballs at a restaurant. Spaghetti and meatballs might be on the menu, but they’re not a pairing that would appeal to me.

For Sephardic Jews, meatballs are rarely eaten with pasta. More often meatballs co-star with vegetables like potatoes, peas, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans and okra. Sautéed onion, celery and garlic are always a must. The meatballs simmer in a rich tomato broth or a lemony egg sauce.

Meatballs are magical. A little bit of ground beef is mixed with onion and parsley, egg and breadcrumbs and formed into balls, then simmered with inexpensive and healthy vegetables, transforming the meatballs into a delicious, hearty and nutritious meal.

This recipe for Saffron Meatballs sounds incredibly sophisticated, but it is so simple to make. The broth is so rich with the flavor—the sautéed onion, turmeric and saffron water are full of umami depth and then there is the citrusy brightness of the fresh lemon juice.

The meatballs melt in your mouth and the artichoke and Swiss chard make the dish special, adding color and texture.

Sharon and I often cook together, then take home the fruits of our labor for our families to enjoy. This time we actually sat down and ate the meatballs. We really enjoyed this dish.

I don’t eat bread these days, but the sauce was so good, I had to mop it up with pita. I promise you, it was totally worth it!


Any purchase made by readers of the Jewish Journal at Luxury Kitchen will result in a donation of 2% to Kibbutz Kfar Azza.


1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely grated
1/2 bunch Italian parsley.
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together until combined.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll meat mixture into small one and a half inch meatballs. Set aside.

1 pinch saffron
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp chicken consommé powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 lemon, juiced
2 1/2 cups water
16 oz frozen artichoke bottoms, defrosted
1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed, drained and chopped into ribbons
Salt and pepper

Steep saffron in the cup of hot water. Set aside.
Over medium high heat, warm 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the celery and garlic and continue to sauté, about 5 minutes.
Add the turmeric and chicken consommé powder and stir into the onions and celery.
Stir the vegetables to the edges of the skillet and add remaining oil and gently sauté the meatballs, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, water and saffron water into the skillet. Bring the liquid to a slow boil.
Add the artichokes and cover the skillet.
Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
Add the Swiss chard simmer for additional 10-15 minutes.
Pairs perfectly with rice.

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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